US retail e-commerce growth is beginning to slow down

According to the latest data just in from eMarketer – US online retail is maturing rapidly. One result of that is, for the first time, e-commerce sales growth will drop below 20% next year. But more than ever, consumers are using the Web as a product research tool, regardless of whether a purchase takes place on a Web site or in a store. Apparel, home furnishings and major appliances are heavily researched online, although the majority of the sales are made offline.

Retailers who effectively build bridges between their stores and Web sites stand to be the big winners in the research-online/buy-in-store era, according to eMarketer’s report “US Retail E-Commerce: Entering the Multi-Channel Era.”

This maturing Internet sales channel, coupled with an anticipated slowdown in the US economy, is expected to produce lower year-over-year e-commerce sales gains. Rising consumer debt, high fuel prices and a cooling housing market are expected to dampen total retail spending this year.

eMarketer expects online retail sales to grow 21% to $131 billion this year. Over the next four years, sales will increase at a 17% compound annual growth rate.  

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Increased spending by existing online buyers, rather than new buyers coming online, is now the main driver of retail e-commerce sales growth. This year, 117 million people, or two-thirds of Internet users, will make at least one purchase online, with the average buyer spending $1,123.

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A maturing e-commerce channel means retailers must make the most of the customers they already have–that is, convert more shoppers into buyers.

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