June 2011: Ecommerce Sales on Track for Healthy Growth

In 2010, US retail ecommerce sales (excluding travel) rebounded from the recession, posting 14.8% growth, compared with only 1.6% growth in 2009. In 2011, online sales will reach $188 billion, although growth will moderate to 13.7%, resuming a prerecession trend of slower growth that signals a maturing sales channel.

“Even with the tapering growth rates projected, online sales are expected to rise by over $100 billion from 2010 to 2015,” said Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer principal analyst and author of the report, “US Retail Ecommerce Forecast: Growth Opportunities in a Maturing Channel.” “Three major developments will spur this growth: mobile commerce, social commerce and daily deal sites.”

For 2011, eMarketer has broken out online sales by quarter to show how annual growth of 13.7% is achieved. Assuming the economy continues to recover, unleashing pent-up consumer demand, ecommerce will grow at an increasing annual rate until Q4 when sales growth slows due to comparison with a very strong online holiday shopping season in Q4 2010.

US Retail Ecommerce Sales, Q1-Q4 2011

Retail ecommerce sales are growing much faster than overall US retail sales, according to eMarketer’s estimates and figures from the US Department of Commerce, and ecommerce sales continued to post growth throughout the recession.

“When compared with total retail sales it is obvious that ecommerce is producing superior results,” said Grau.

This means that, while the overwhelming majority of all US retail sales still happen in stores, ecommerce is grabbing a steadily larger share of the pie. In 2010, online sales accounted for 5.8% of total retail sales (excluding automobile, gasoline station and fuel dealers), up from 3.7% in 2005.

US Retail Ecommerce Sales as a Percent of Total Retail Sales, 2005-2010

In addition, these low percentages mask the fact that online penetration rates vary widely by product category. For example, auto parts are rarely bought online, but computer hardware and software had online penetration above 50% in 2010, according to Forrester Research.

To find out more about eMarketer’s coverage of online video usage and the report “US Retail Ecommerce Forecast: Growth Opportunities in a Maturing Channel,” visit eMarketer.