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Holiday spending delivers Q4 gifts to e-Commerce sellers

The 2011 holiday shopping season blur, though hectic, was a welcome event for e-commerce sellers and online retailers. Recording increases from 14 percent on Free Shipping Day to 26 percent on Black Friday, online sellers generated sales from $500 million on Thanksgiving to almost $3 billion during the entire week of Christmas. These results continue the wonderful annual growth trend for e-commerce. For example, in 2009, online sales equaled $129 billion, increasing to $143 billion in 2010, with a projected increase in 2011 to $197 billion. Plus, Forester Research predicts that sales volume will increase to an amazing $279 billion by 2015.

Cyber Monday alone accounted for $1.25 billion in online sales. Between Cyber Monday and Dec. 15, over $10.5 billion in online sales padded the coffers of e-sellers. Mobile-generated sales contributed to these impressive numbers, doubling from $3 to $6 billion in 2011. During this holiday season, mobile user sales amounted to 13.8 percent of total seasonal online sales.

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E-sellers and fulfillment services, once caught up in the whirlwind of 2011 holiday spending, are now recovering with smiles. The critical “marriage” of online sellers and fulfillment services apparently worked wonderfully this holiday season. Always crucial to customer satisfaction, the holiday tsunami of consumer spending could have uncovered important “weak spots” in any e-sellers’ team chemistry. But, e-sellers did not suffer this fate. “Shopping and shipping” formed a fabulous team in 2011.

Even during the deep recession, holiday online sales continued to increase over the past few years. For example, 2010 generated $43.4 billion in sales during the 4th quarter as compared to $39 billion in 2009. With 4th quarter 2011 total sales still being calculated, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 3rd quarter sales exceeded $48 billion dollars. With the e-commerce holiday season frenzy just ended, retailers and fulfillment services will welcome the final results.

Founded in 1936, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) confirmed that the 2011 holiday shopping season made e-retailers very happy. Once considered merely an “annoyance” by brick and mortar retailers, e-sellers are now influential players in the general consumer market.

Offering excellent pricing, superior fulfillment services and heightened security for sensitive consumer information, e-retailers, enjoying double-digit growth from year to year, are more than making their voices heard. Their string of success is predicted to continue in coming years.

You can be confident that you’ve “made it,” when an industry creates a buzzword for your influence. For example, a new term, apparently coined by brick and mortar book sellers, “show-rooming,” is now part of our lexicon. The buzzword refers to consumers who shop and browse physical retail stores to see, feel and touch products they want, and then go to their laptops to order the same products from e-retailers for a lower price.

If you believe that the success of e-commerce is highly dependent on the quality of the fulfillment services retailers use, you are correct. Attractive product pricing may garner some first-time orders, but fulfillment services that fill and ship those orders efficiently will generate future orders. This holiday season is proof that e-sellers are here to stay. Only time will tell how business owners and brick and mortar retailers respond.

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