Practical Ecommerce

Chart of the Week: Online Holiday Shopping 1999-2009

The online shopping experience has changed dramatically over the past ten years. I know. In 1999, as a radio reporter in Silicon Valley, I was given an assignment: Conduct your Christmas shopping online, using a pre-determined list of items. A fellow reporter was given the same list, understanding that all of his purchases would be made at brick and mortar retail outlets. It was a race. He easily won.

There were a number of factors that limited my ability to shop online effectively: I was slowed by a dial-up connection, the number of retailers which offered online sales was limited, and the checkout process was inefficient and time-consuming. Consumers, at that time, were also less-knowledgeable about how to find what they were looking for. Google, for example, was not a household word and Amazon was a new and unproven business known primarily for online book sales.

In 1999, fourth quarter ecommerce sales accounted for 0.64 percent of the total retail sales in the United States. In the fourth quarter of 2008, ecommerce sales accounted for 3.4 percent of total sales. According to the latest statistics released by the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, ecommerce sales in the third quarter of this year accounted for 3.7 percent of total sales.

Forrester Research predicts ecommerce sales for the 2009 holiday season will reach $44.7 billion.

A further breakdown of ecommerce sales in billons of dollars is seen in our Chart of the Week.

Kevin Patrick Allen

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  1. Robert Farago November 19, 2009 Reply

    Yes, well , the Nielsen ratings people have some bad news:

    Online sales are up relative to 1999, 2008 and the last quarter of 2009, but you’re cherry-picking. Nielsen reckons they’re still down some 10 percent since ’07 levels. And shoppers are spending less money.

    It seems e-commerce has hit the wall. The question is, why? I reckon it’s because the web experience blows. Websites are shotguns in a precision rifle world. In any case, complacency ain’t gonna reverse this trend.

  2. Alex Mulin November 24, 2009 Reply

    I think on-line sales in Q4 2009 won’t be higher. Despite of all positive announcements that the downturn is over and everything starts growing people tend to think twice (or more) before they spend a single dime. But what I do agree with is that on-line sales do better than "off-line". Economy is not that good as in 2007.