The lingering recession has accelerated the rise of a new breed of independent consumers who meticulously research big-ticket items as well as everyday purchases online.
These consumers honed their Internet research skills during the 2008 holiday shopping season when, in search of savings and memorable gifts, they deftly moved between sites and tried different shopping tactics to secure the best possible values.
These trends, according to research provided by eMarketer, have led to a slowdown in domestic e-commerce activity.
After years of double-digit growth rates, U.S. retail e-commerce sales (excluding travel) grew by only 4.6 percent in 2008. Continued recessionary pressure will cause online sales to contract by 0.4 percent in 2009, according to eMarketer.
But the news isn't wholly negative. In a broader sense, the current economic upheaval has weakened traditional retailers, putting consumers' wallets up for grabs. Online retailers that can fill the void through superior customer service, rich product information and greater shopping conveniences have a chance to win new customers for life.