January 29, 2016, 11:10 AM

Online sales will reach $523 billion by 2020 in the U.S.

Forrester says the number of consumers browsing and buying online will hit 270 million by 2020, driven largely by activity on mobile devices.

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Online sales in the United States are expected to reach $523 billion in the next five years, up 56% from $335 billion in 2015, and mobile devices are expected to be a key driver in that growth, Forrester Research Inc. says.

A new report from Forrester, titled “U.S. Cross-Channel Retail Forecast, 2015 To 2020,” predicts online sales will grow by an average annual rate of 9.32% over the next five years.

More importantly for retailers, however, is the expected increase in the number of shoppers browsing and buying on their smartphones and tablets in the coming years. Forrester projects an additional 26 million shoppers will be both browsing and buying from retail sites by the end of this decade, reaching 270 million, as bigger smartphones and faster wireless networks make it easier for consumers to use the Internet to shop on their phones. Forrester says 244 million consumers browsed or bought online in 2015.

“Screen sizes for mobile phones have gradually increased in size and wireless networks are better than before, which has made web browsing easier than ever,” report author and Forrester principal analyst Sucharita Mulpuru writes. “Additionally, consumers are more accustomed to using their phones everywhere and shopping is a byproduct of that ubiquity.”

Mobile is more than a driver for online purchases, however.

Forrester’s data projects that mobile devices influenced more than $1 trillion in total purchases in 2015 between online and offline transactions. Forrester doesn’t offer any projections for how much in total purchases mobile is expected to influence by 2020.

“We expect the speed and availability of mobile networks to continue to grow rapidly, which should significantly catalyze how much people use their phones to shop and how quickly they can retrieve information,” Mulpuru writes.

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