So . . . Forrester and Shop.org came out with their predictions about e-commerce growth for this year. According to an AP story appearing in the NY Times:
Online spending is expected to rise a robust 17 percent this year, despite a sluggish economy that has bruised many brick-based retailers, according to an annual survey to be released Tuesday.
Retail sales online, excluding travel purchases, are set to grow to $204 billion in 2008 from $174.5 billion last year, fueled by sales of apparel, computers and autos, according to a survey conducted by Internet analysis firm Forrester Research for Shop.org, the online arm of the National Retail Federation trade group. That projection is below the 21 percent increase seen in the prior year, but industry officials attribute it to the maturing of the business, not the sluggish economy.
Seventeen percent growth is good and the overall number is a big number, $200 billion (10x of online ad spending), but this is hardly the rocket it was once expected to be. The “half full” spin is: this is good in a bad economy, the “bright spot in retailing” as the article labeled it. Perhaps.
But it’s also a flattening line, compared with the growth of Internet-influenced offline shopping and spending. E-commerce has very few brands (putting aside online sites for major traditional retailers). There’s Amazon, eBay and basically nobody else. (Some geeks might argue New Egg).
Shopping sites are largely “generic” and undifferentiated. True e-tailers with a few exceptions are interchanable and thus vulnerable. And “e-commerce” for major retailers is increasingly about “buy (soon to be reserve) online, pick up in store.”