New E-tail Index Indicates Post-Holiday Momentum

According to a new Internet retail index established by the National Retail Federation (NRF), Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR) and Greenfield Online, Internet spending by North American consumers reached $2.8 billion (US$) in January.

The new NRF/Forrester Research Index revealed that online spending for the month totaled more than half of what consumers spent during the booming holiday season, providing more fuel for projections that consumers will continue their Internet shopping habits year-round.

Nearly 14,000 online consumers’ shopping habits were analyzed to arrive at the figures. The index reports that the average online consumer spent $202.59 in January, primarily on airline ticket, computer hardware and book purchases.

“We’ve worked closely with Forrester Research to ensure that the index’s methodology yields the most accurate picture of consumer online spending,” NRF Vice President Scott Silverman said.

Survey Says…

The NRF/Forrester Research Index is based on 5,000 responses to an online panel by Greenfield Online, a Wilton, Connecticut-based full-service marketing research provider.

The survey is conducted during the first 10 business days of each month. It is weighted to Forrester Research’s Benchmark Panel, which surveyed nearly 90,000 members of a consumer mail panel from November to February.

Travel Still King

The survey showed that airline ticket purchases remain the most popular on the Web, accounting for an estimated $318 million in January. Hotel reservations and car rentals totaled $164 million and $101 million respectively, revealing that the online travel sector accounted for nearly 21 percent of all Internet purchases.

Computer hardware and book purchases both came in at $224 million, while computer software products racked up $187 million in sales. Apparel spending reached nearly $182 million, while sales of toys and video games, music, health/beauty products, and consumer electronics rounded out the top 10.

Other Yardsticks

NRF spokeswoman Pamela Rucker said that the index methodology was designed to give a general idea of online consumer sales. The U.S. Commerce Department is scheduled to release its own e-commerce-dedicated index this Friday, and will likely draw upon extensive resources to produce a more detailed picture.

Still, the NRF/Forrester index will likely be the yardstick by which others are measured. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research is one of the most respected and quoted e-commerce research firms, and the NRF is the world’s largest retail trade organization, with members across the U.S and in 50 countries worldwide.

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