Despite entering a more mature phase in its evolution, online retail in both the US and Western Europe remains poised for a robust period of double-digit growth over the next five years, according to two new forecasts by Forrester Research Inc.

US online retail will grow at a 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years to reach nearly $249 billion by 2014. Online retail within the largest European Union nations in Western Europe will grow at an 11% CAGR over the same period, hitting €114 billion by 2014. 

“Much of the overall retail sector’s growth in both the US and the EU over the next five years will come from the Internet,” said Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. “To maximize that growth, eBusiness professionals will have to help enable a multichannel strategy that responds to consumers increased desire to hop between the offline and online worlds and their increasing mobile and social behaviors. The retail innovators over the next five years will demonstrate customer enablement across all touchpoints, not just via a PC-based Web browser.”

Despite consumers increasing use of the Web to research products before purchasing, most retailers fall short on offering a seamless cross-channel experience. According to Forrester’s data, while 82% of US online consumers are satisfied with buying experiences that began and ended in a store, satisfaction drops to 61% for consumers who began their research online and purchased in a store.

The Forrester online retail forecasts for the US and the EU include business-to-consumer sales excluding auto, travel, and prescription drugs.

US Online Retail Forecast, 2009-2014

  • In the US, Web shopping will account for 8 percent of total retail sales by 2014.
  • Three product categories dominate online retail: apparel, footwear, and accessories; consumer electronics; and consumer hardware, software, and peripherals. Together, those categories represent more than 40% of total online retail sales in the US.
  • By 2014, 53% of total retail sales in the US will be influenced by eCommerce as consumers increasingly use the Internet to research products before purchasing.

Western European Online Retail Forecast, 2009-2014

  • Increased online tenure, improved access, and greater promotion by retailers will drive the number of online shoppers in Europe from 141 million in 2009 to 190 million by 2014. The average spend per online shopper will rise from €483 in 2009 to €601 in 2014.
  • Books, event tickets, and clothing are the top three categories purchased online in the majority of Western Europe.
  • Among the three largest EU markets, online retail will grow at a 10 % CAGR over the next five years in the UK; 9% in Germany; and 13% in France.

“There is a clear divide between the countries of Northern and Southern Europe regarding online retail adoption,” said Forrester Research Vice President and Research Director Patti Freeman Evans. “While nearly half of UK residents regularly make a purchase online, a mere 10% of online Spaniards and 11% of online Italians do so today. Still, with compound annual growth rates approaching 20% in markets like Spain, emerging European eCommerce markets are poised for a vigorous period of growth.”