Online holiday shopping is expected to grow by 27 percent

The e-commerce sector will again be the fastest-growing retail sector this holiday season with a sales growth of 27 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005 and sales reaching $27.3 billion, according to survey from a management consulting and market research firm. A persisting job market and income gains combined with lower prices in key online merchandise categories including consumer electronics and apparel will contribute to this growth.

Research recently conducted by Columbus, Ohio-based Retail Forward indicates that most primary household shoppers will use online shopping sites as part of their holiday gift shopping and two-thirds of these online holiday shoppers plan to buy at least some gifts online this year.

Despite tremendous improvements in the online shopping experience during the past few years, two-thirds of online shoppers report having been frustrated by their online shopping experiences in the past six months, according to the survey. Retail Forward reports that what frustrates online shoppers most is pop-up ads, messages or forms, slow-loading pages, and being forced to register prior to making a purchase.

“The stakes are high for online retailers that do not remove these frustrations,” said Mary Brett Whitfield, Retail Forward senior vice president. “A shopper’s most likely response to any of these frustrations is to leave a site and shop somewhere else for the same or similar item. Furthermore, for nearly one-third of shoppers such an experience is reason enough to stop shopping a site altogether.”

To make matters worse, Retail Forward’s survey finds that only 11 percent of shoppers complain to the company when frustrated by any of these things. Shoppers are more than twice as likely to complain to friends, family members or coworkers.