Forrester Research, predicting an 8 percent increase in online retail sales this holiday season compared with the recession-devastated so-called holiday season of 2008, says E-Commerce sites should brace for traffic surges. The reason? Their offline counterparts will be frustrating shoppers with product unavailability because of cautionary inventory reductions. In its "Online Holiday Retail Forecast," Forrester said E-Commerce players "internalized lessons from last year's holiday season" and are "focusing on margins as opposed to chasing sales" this time around. These new strategies will include maintaining leaner inventories as a means of more closely aligning purchasing to demand "to prevent last year's unbridled discounting."
But online sellers must be ready to deliver when consumers encounter empty shelves at local stores where managers, burned badly last year, failed to order enough stock for this year. The researchers found that E-Commerce sites are cranking up "engagement strategies" to slow shopping cart abandonment, will send alerts about new products or stock levels, and will offer early access to new products or promotions. Forrester paints a more conservative picture than the double-digit holiday forecast recently offered (for itself) by Amazon.com. But we figure Forrester's 8 percent figure is reasonable for the online retail industry as a whole.