Tech Industry

Study: Online holiday sales merry, but not very

Researcher says U.S. shoppers will fork out $13.2 billion online this season, but year-over-year increases are slipping.

Shoppers in the United States will spend about $13.2 billion online this holiday season, but growth in e-commerce is slowing, according to a new Forrester Research report.

The figure represents a 20 percent increase over last year's total, but that's less than 2003's 31 percent increase over the previous year.

Movement toward a decline in year-over-year growth started to become apparent in the second quarter, when, according to the research group, sales hit $31 billion, about $2 billion less than revenues in the first quarter. Forrester expects that "the books will close on a fairly weak third quarter as well."

As online shopping becomes more mainstream, its growth will begin to mimic that of offline shopping, which has been tepid lately. Several projections have indicated that retail sales in the third quarter will be weak. In all probability, "retailers will scale back online promotions, such as free shipping, and will promote large in-store discounts as a way to drive customers to stores," Forrester senior analyst Carrie Johnson said in a release.

"As a result, the benefits of in-store shopping may outweigh the convenience of shopping online this year," she observed. In an August study by Forrester, which focused on North America, 82 percent of online shoppers surveyed indicated that they preferred to shop at brick-and-mortar stores. About 63 percent said it's immaterial whether a store is online or offline.

Forrester defines the holiday season as the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.