After generating $231 billion in sales for U.S. retailers last year, e-commerce is expected to increase 13% to $262 billion this year, according to technology and market research firm Forrester. The growth of ecommerce, which already accounts for about 8% of total retail sales in the U.S., is expected to outpace sales growth at bricks-and-mortar stores during the next five years, reaching $370 billion in sales by 2017.
By that time, ecommerce is expected to account for 10 percent of all retail sales in the U.S.
Forrester cites two factors driving the growth: the proliferating use of smartphones and tablets, which are boosting the amount of time consumers spend online, and traditional retailers’ increased investments in their online sales divisions. Large retailers, says Forrester, are building out omnichannel retail experiences, allowing store associates to “save a sale” by ordering out-of-stock merchandise through online backends, and letting online shoppers pick up goods in-store.
Very little of ecommerce’s growth can be attributed to new shoppers, as only 4 million people are expected to shop online for the first time in 2013, says Forrester. Rather, growth is coming from existing online shoppers who are spending more time and money — and in a wider variety of categories — online. Typically, early shoppers begin with “low-consideration” goods like MP3s and movies, moving up the ladder to “high-touch, high-consideration” items like furniture and appliances over time.