Europe To Lead Online Holiday Shopping in 2002

The forecast for 2002 holiday online shopping is promising — especially in Europe. With European online holiday sales expected to top US$15.77 billion, the continent will be the number one region for global online sales in the fourth quarter of 2002, according to research firm GartnerG2.

More than 185 million Europeans are Internet users, compared with 183 million Americans. In fact, European Internet users account for 32 percent of the world’s total.

Integration Fuels Gains

According to Gill Mander, a business analyst at GartnerG2, gains in Europe are being fueled by companies’ integration of their mail order and Web presences. As a result, Europeans are using multiple channels, browsing printed catalogs and then ordering online. “We’re seeing this happen more and more, especially in the clothing and toy merchandise industries,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

In addition, because more and more people are connecting to the Internet, they are gaining Internet experience. “As soon as this happens, that’s when they start becoming Internet buyers,” according to Michael Cruz, a senior analyst at GartnerG2.

Flawless Execution Required

With the 2002 holiday season dawning, online retailers should prepare for a fourth-quarter online shopping onslaught in spite of the global recession, Cruz told the E-Commerce Times. “Markets are still maturing, so specific attention is on flawless execution for return customers. Retailers need to go where the market is: Europe is a huge online opportunity this year, and retailers need to be prepared to serve those markets like never before.”

Because electronic commerce is a small part of total retail sales, according to GartnerG2 analysts, e-commerce growth is less a function of retail ups and downs, and more a function of users’ level of Internet experience and the maturity of Internet retailers.

2002 Likely To Top 2001

Even though different research firms have different methodologies for predicting online sales for the holiday season, the common theme is that sales will be better this year than last year. “E-retailers can position themselves early with strategic sales and online promotions,” said Lisa Strand, director and chief analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings.

The most significant predictive factor for this year’s online holiday sales, according to a recent Pew Internet & American Life study, is that more people say they have saved time and money by purchasing goods online, and fewer are expressing complaint or worry about potential hassles.

In addition, people generally spend more money in the fourth quarter because of the holiday season — and this year, more of them will spend that money online.

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