December 2010: Online Holiday Sales Forecast: Optimism Is in the Air

US online holiday season sales will reach $38.5 billion (excluding travel) in 2010, up 14.3% over 2009, according to eMarketer. This will be the second straight year of double-digit growth after online sales plunged 7.9% during the 2008 holiday season.

Growth forecasts of total retail sales (the vast majority of which are in-store) from several research firms are in the range of 2% to 3.5%, making this the best holiday season for retailers since 2006. Consumers will open their wallets a little more this year, but they will also remain value-driven and highly price-conscious.

The same bargain-hunting attitude adopted during the past two holiday seasons is likely to define shopping behavior again this year. Consumers will go online to find coupons, compare prices on shopping engines and research items, even if they plan to buy them in-store.

Retailers have also been ramping up in-store and mobile promotions well in advance of the holidays. This, coupled with strong online holiday sales, will push annual ecommerce sales to $162.4 billion for full-year 2010, up 12.7% over 2009, according to eMarketer. Online holiday sales will represent 23.7% of online retail sales in 2010, underlining the importance that November and December have on retailers’ annual ecommerce sales.

Online retailers who understand the mind-set of holiday shoppers will be rewarded. For many, the holiday shopping season is about generating a lot of sales. But it can also be a fertile time to acquire new customers and solidify relationships with existing ones. Holiday shoppers often have to buy gifts outside their comfort zone. They visit retailers that are new to them, giving merchants a chance to turn a first-time visitor into a repeat customer. They also make buying decisions about products they know little or nothing about. Online retailers with product-selection guides, easy return policies, and friendly and accessible customer service representatives put shoppers at ease and turn them into lifelong customers.

To find out more about eMarketer’s digital marketing and the new report “Online Holiday Sales Forecast: Optimism Is in the Air,” visit eMarketer.