April 5, 2012, 4:10 PM

Online shoppers will boost spending 15% this year

EMarketer increases its e-commerce growth forecast for 2012.

Thad Rueter

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

EMarketer today increased its e-commerce growth forecast for 2012, and now projects that U.S. online shoppers will spend $224.2 billion this year, up 15.4% from $194.3 billion in 2011. The research firm previously projected that sales would increase 11.3% from 2011, to $209.3 billion from $188.1 billion.

The rosier view of e-commerce came about because of several factors, says an eMarketer spokesman. Those include “stronger-than-expected figures reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce for e-commerce sales in 2011, particularly in Q4, as well as multiple reports suggesting that consumer optimism, homebuilding and the number of people willing to buy goods online is growing, while unemployment is declining slightly,” he says.

In February, the U.S. Department of Commerce said that U.S. e-commerce sales last year totaled $194.3 billion, up 16.1% from $167.3 billion in 2010. Seasonally adjusted online retail spending for the fourth quarter of 2011 hit $51.4 billion, up 15.5% from $44.5 billion for the same period in 2010. The unemployment rate in February was 8.3%, unchanged from January and down from 9.0% in February 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Also today, eMarketer reported that:

•Online sales in the United States of apparel and accessories will increase 19.7% in 2012, to $40.90 billion. The research firm projects a higher growth rate for apparel than for any of the other nine product categories it breaks out in its e-commerce forecast.

• Online sales of books, music and videos will increase 18%, to $20.35 billion.

• Online sales of computers and consumer electronics will increase 15.9%, to $48.60 billion.

"Retailers continue to increase the scale of their e-commerce operations, particularly by investing in online sales platforms that display products and convert shoppers more effectively,” says Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer principal analyst. “Apparel sales have benefitted more than any other category. Apparel has become an online success due largely to easy and free returns, innovative visualization tools and the presence of customer reviews."

At the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012, William Lynch Jr., CEO of Barnes & Noble, will deliver a keynote address entitled “How the web has become the engine that drives retailing.” 

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