March 13, 2013, 10:09 AM

U.S. e-commerce to grow 13% in 2013

Forrester says U.S. web shoppers will spend $262 billion in 2013.

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E-commerce spending in the United States will hit approximately $262 billion this year, up 13.4% from $231 billion last year, according to a new projection from Forrester Research Inc. In 2017, online spending will reach $370 billion, which represents a nearly 10% compound annual growth rate from 2012.

The spending projections do not include travel but do include such items as groceries, video games and movie tickets. In 2017, U.S. e-commerce will account for 10% of all U.S. retail sales, Forrester says. That compares with 8% in both 2012 and 2013.

Meanwhile, in the 17 countries that generally make up what’s considered Western Europe, e-commerce spending will hit 128 billion euros (US$165.5 billion) this year, up 14.3% from 112 billion euros (US$114 billion) in 2012. In 2017, e-commerce spending will reach 191 billion euros (US$247.1 billion), a compound annual growth rate of about 11%.

Last month, the U.S. Commerce Department said that U.S. e-commerce sales totaled $225.5 billion last year, up 15.8% from $194.7 billion in 2011. On a non-adjusted basis—that is, excluding sales in categories not commonly bought online—Internet Retailer estimates that e-commerce accounted for 7.6% of total retail sales during the year, up from 6.8% a year earlier. Commerce Department estimates are based on a quarterly survey of more than 11,000 U.S. merchants.

Total retail sales, which include e-commerce sales, reached $4.4 trillion in 2012, the Commerce Department said.

Also last month, web measurement firm comScore Inc. says online shoppers in the United States spent $186.2 billion in 2012, up 15% from 2011. ComScore bases its spending figures on online purchase data from its panel of about 1 million U.S. online shoppers.

Forrester says it bases its figures on such sources as its proprietary consumer and executive research, public financial documents and by analyzing web traffic.

In the United States, e-commerce spending growth will stem from such factors as larger retail chains investing more in what is increasingly called “omnichannel” efforts—tying together stores with the web and mobile—along with more consumers using smartphones and tablets, and what the report calls “increased comfort with web shopping.”

“Online retail’s growth will outpace that of physical retail stores,” says the report, written by Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester’s vice president and principal analyst for e-business. “As a result, stores will continue to lose wallet share to web retailers.”

That said, e-commerce growth rates will shrink through 2017 as the market matures and the total spending base becomes larger, she says.

The report adds that only 4 million U.S. consumers will start shopping online this year, meaning that existing web consumers will drive most of the spending growth. As consumers become more experienced buying online, Forrester says, they typically move from buying relatively small and inexpensive items such as music CDs and books to pricey, more involved purchases, such as furniture and appliances.

In Europe, mobile commerce and similar investment from retail chains also are leading to more online spending, Forrester says. “With many European countries still struggling to claw their way out of recession, online sales will represent a key growth area for many European retailers and manufacturers,” says the report, written by analysts Martin Gill and Zia Daniell Wigder. “Shoppers will continue to turn to the web to both research and buy products.”

The reports says that rate of e-commerce growth, however, will soon begin to slow in Northern Europe because many consumers already shop on the web. Growth rates will remain in the double-digits in such southern countries as Spain and Italy; Spain’s compound annual growth rate through 2017 will stand at 18%.

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