Online retail sales are expected to grow 17 per cent a year through 2008 as the Internet takes on a bigger role in consumer decision-making, according to a study released on Tuesday.
Jupiter Research said its forecasts call for US online retail sales to hit $65 billion in 2004 and grow to more than $117 billion by 2008.
"Though still a relatively small component of overall US retail sales, five per cent by 2008, the influence of online retail goes far beyond the confines of the Web," Jupiter said.
"Consumers continue to research purchases online before buying in store. In fact, Jupiter Research's forecast projects that by 2008, nearly 30 per cent of offline retail purchases will be influenced by research performed online."
The survey comes as analysts and merchants tally up online holiday sales and totals for 2003.
Another research firm, comScore Media Metrix, estimated that fourth-quarter 2003 online retail sales in the US totaled $17.21 billion, up 30 per cent from the same period in 2002.
The Internet shopping portal Bizrate.com estimated that sales in the fourth quarter rose 22 per cent from a year ago to $18.38 billion and that total consumer spending online for the year reached $55.93 billion, a 25 per cent increase over 2002.
Surveys on online spending vary greatly, with differing definitions of the holiday season and online purchases. Government figures, for example, exclude travel bookings and some other services online. Forrester Research last year predicted e-commerce sales of as much as $100 billion in 2003.