November 1, 2004, 12:00 AM

Online holiday sales to rise 19% this year to $22 billion, Jupiter says

Boosted by an increase in the number of online shoppers and their tendency to buy a wider variety of products, online holiday sales this year will rise 19%, to $21.6 billion from $18.5 billion a year ago, Jupiter Research reports.

Boosted by the ongoing increase in the number of online shoppers and their tendency to buy a wider variety of products, online holiday sales this year will rise 19%, to $21.6 billion from $18.5 billion a year ago, Jupiter Research projects.

Jupiter attributes the rise mostly to the continued growth in the number of online holiday buyers. It projects that 86 million U.S. residents will make holiday purchases online this year, up 18% from 70 million last year.

In addition, Jupiter estimates that online holiday spending per buyer will rise 2% this year over last year. And it projects that shoppers will buy a wider variety of goods online this year. “While the usual list of top-selling categories-toys, books and apparel-still dominates consumers` planned purchases this year, consumers say they will buy a wider variety of items online this year than in years past,” Jupiter says.

Jupiter analyst Patti Freeman Evans, noting that more than half of online holiday shoppers will use the web to find gift ideas and lower prices, advises retailers to e-mail shoppers with alerts about new prices and products.

She adds that free shipping remains the top offer to get shoppers to buy early. But as the season winds down, she adds, “online holiday shoppers say that messages on reliable delivery, in stock reassurance (or limited supplies), complimentary upgrade to overnight shipping rather than full free shipping will resonate."

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