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Economic Crisis Impacts U.S. eRetail Sales

ComScore released its Q3 2008 retail e-commerce report, which showed that online spending grew 6 percent in Q3 2008 versus the same period last year, a slowdown compared to the year-over-year growth rates of 12 percent in Q1 and 13 percent in Q2 2008.

Total U.S. online retail sales (excluding travel) were approximately $30 billion in the third quarter of 2008.

ComScore surveyed more than 1,000 consumers in October 2008 to gather attitudes on the economy. The study revealed that the majority of consumers are fearful of the future, with 82 percent stating they are more afraid about the economic future than ever before.

Additionally, only a quarter (26 percent) of respondents said they believe the economy will be better a year from now.

Consumer economic pressures continue to have a significant impact on retail spending, which is evident in the slowing growth rates in the online channel. However, in a tight economy, the Internet remains a critical sales and media channel for retailers for three reasons.

First, it is a more cost-effective medium than traditional media. Second, despite the slowdown, e-commerce growth rates still exceed those at retail. And third, online marketing campaigns have been proven to not only grow a retailer's e-commerce sales but to also have the ability to drive increased traffic into retail stores.

And, with so many consumers expected to be especially cost-conscious this holiday season, it is important for retailers to reach them at the initial point of the purchase funnel -- when many product research and price comparisons are being conducted online.

A review of monthly retail e-commerce growth rates helps to further depict the slowdown in the U.S. retail economy. So far this year, retail e-commerce growth rates have fallen from levels of 18 to 20 percent observed during Q4 of 2007 to a growth rate of only 6 percent in Q3 2008.

Since April, comScore says they have recorded five consecutive months of declining growth rates. September's 5 percent growth rate is the lowest recorded by comScore since it began tracking e-commerce sales in 2001.

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