Only a few days ago, eMarketer ran an article (Online Sales Up) based on a study that showed US online retail sales on average were up 11% in Q1 2009.
Looking forward, however, the projection for online sales in 2009 does not appear so rosy.
After years of unbroken growth, eMarketer forecasts that continued recessionary pressure will cause online sales to actually contract in 2009—by 0.4%.
“eMarketer forecasts that online sales will be virtually flat in 2009,” says Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report, E-Commerce in a Recession: The Impact on Consumers and Retailers. “Assuming the economy will begin to recover in 2010, however, retailers will see a return to sales growth and hit full stride again in 2011.”
eMarketer projects that from 2011 to 2013 online sales will rebound to double-digit growth.
In the meantime, even in the trough of the economy, there are opportunities for online retailers.
“The current economic upheaval has weakened many traditional retailers, putting consumers’ wallets up for grabs,” says Mr. Grau. “Online retailers that can fill the void with superior customer service, rich product information and greater shopping conveniences have a chance to win new customers for life.”
In addition, even as consumers are reining in spending, they are increasingly researching purchases online.
“There is nothing new about consumers using the Internet to help them make purchase decisions on big-ticket items such as cars and computers,” says Mr. Grau. “But a new breed of consumers is extending their research to everyday products.”
These information-hungry shoppers go online to find out whether a toy is safe, a shampoo is unscented or a diaper manufacturer is environmentally responsible.
In other words, the way consumers shop is changing, and smart online retailers will take advantage their new behavior—and information needs.
“The new online consumer is independent and less likely to trust recommendations of a salesperson or be swayed by the emotional appeal of a TV ad,” says Mr. Grau.
For more on how a weakening economy could spell opportunity for online retailers, check out the new eMarketer report, E-Commerce in a Recession: The Impact on Consumers and Retailers (available only to Total Access Subscribers).