Christmas shopping is is going to be bigger than ever this year online with over £13.8 billion to be spent by the UK's 27 million e-shoppers during the festive season, according to Forrester Research.
Compared with 2006 data from the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) this is up 42% on last Christmas.
So what is contributing to this huge uplift in spend online? Shoppers are migrating online to find more choice, convenience and better prices.
But more than that, the internet is all about independence, immediacy, modernity, attitude; it's where many people now feel most comfortable. Some 61% of UK homes are now connected to the internet, 15.2 million households, according to National Statistics, and with 84% of online households in the UK using a broadband connection, shopping online has never been quicker and easier. And as well as sales going up, consumers' confidence in shopping online is also rising.
According to the latest IMRG Customer Service Index by eDigitalResearch and ipoints, confidence in web site security rose two percentage points in the past quarter to 75.6%.
CEO of SecureTrading, Gerald Kitchen, said, "Growth is set to continue as consumers become more comfortable with the security aspects of trading and purchasing online.
“It was not long ago that consumers were uncomfortable with even purchasing low ticket value items like a CD. Today, we are seeing consumers purchasing items costing thousands of pounds".
The IMRG Customer Service Index also revealed that customer delivery satisfaction had risen to 80.2%.
The demographic profile of the web is changing from the young male dominated scenario of recent years and this is feeding into the sales growth online.
A change in the profile of online shoppers (increase in women aged 18-34 and both men and women aged 50+) retailers are seeing buying patterns altering on their sites and in some cases are opening new departments and product areas to capitalise on these new customers, especially in the run up to Christmas.
Managing Director of IMRG Member Pixmania.co.uk, Ulric Jérome said, "We have seen sales growth among the older generation of 'silver surfers' and women.
“They now see the value of technology and have more disposable income than previous generations, meaning technology products are becoming a part of the DNA of their lifestyle. They now embrace technology and understand the ease-of-use and convenience of online shopping better than ever."
Another IMRG Member, Amazon.co.uk, have launched four new stores on their UK platform this year and look to capitalise with a broad product range offering in the run-up to Christmas.
Brian McBride, Managing Director for Amazon.co.uk said: "The proliferation of broadband in UK homes is certainly allowing a greater proportion of the UK public the opportunity to shop online.
“This means that every age group, across both sexes, is now well represented in the share of internet retailing spend. Whilst there are certain areas that have seen accelerated growth, like the so-called 'Silver Surfers', there will be a continued strong increase in internet retail spend across all groups of the UK adult population for a good time to come.
He added, “This promises to be our biggest Christmas on record and we look forward to serving millions of customers with an incredible product selection, at customary low prices and with a delivery option to suit every shopper."
The strength of the female purchasing power is no better illustrated than at Play.com, where their influence is being felt in the all-important top selling albums for Christmas.
Are Christmas sales online heading for another record amount? With more people online, greater choice and availability and even more parcels being delivered than ever before it certainly looks that way.
Royal Mail's Head of Multi-channel Retail Marketing, Val Walker, said, "Royal Mail is geared up to deliver a record breaking online Christmas and expects to handle more than 100 million gifts and presents ordered on the internet during the festive period.
“Royal Mail has responded to the needs of the online shopping community, both shoppers and retailers, with the introduction of a new service which improves the delivery experience.
She added “'Royal Mail Tracked' enables retailers to provide their customers with a tracking number when the goods ordered are dispatched so that they can track the progress of their delivery themselves.
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