by Dan Rafter
Smart retailers know that they can’t fight it: Consumers love shopping online. Savvy retailers, then, are focusing on a combination of brick-and-mortar and online strategies to remain relevant these days. Just look at Walmart, which, of course, focuses on its stores, but also boasts a robust online platform that allows consumers to order just about anything over the Web.
Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba recently proved just how powerful online sales have become. Since 2009, the company has celebrated a fake holiday called Singles’ Day, a sort of anti-Valentine’s Day created by young, single Chinese consumers. Alibaba each year encourages single consumers — not that the site will turn away romantically engaged buyers, too — to buy from the e-commerce site as a way to celebrate Singles’ Day.
This Singles’ Day, Nov. 11, Alibaba retailers sold $17.8 billion worth of gross merchandise volume, according to the company. That is an increase of more than 32 percent from 2015. And in 2013? Alibaba recorded just $5.14 billion in gross merchandise volume.
So, yes, singles have proven very profitable for Alibaba.
And this is just one example of the growth of online retailing. Research company Forrester predicts that online sales in the United States alone will hit $523 billion a year in 2020. That’s up from $335 billion in 2015, according to Forrester Research.
Forrester, in a new report, says that online sales will increase by an average annual rate of 9.32 percent during the next five years. At the same time, the number of online shoppers will rise, too. Forrester says that an additional 26 million shoppers will browse and buy from online retail sites by 2020. That will bring the total number of online shoppers to an impressive 270 million.
Forrester credits larger smartphones and faster wireless networks for this increase.
And what about for the holiday season? Research firm eMarketer predicts that online holiday sales will rise to $94.71 billion during the holiday season. This is significant. If it happens, e-commerce would claim more than 10 percent of all holiday sales for the first time.