$133 billion is the number that you should burn into the marketing side of your brain. $133 billion is the amount of e-commerce sales predicted by eMarketer.com for 2009. Is $133 billion in online retail sales a good number or a bad number? One way to look at this is to compare it to the US GDP. In 2004, the US GDP was $11.75 trillion. So if we take e-commerce sales as a percentage of GDP, we see that it represents about 1%.
From the standpoint of GDP, people are comfortable shopping online. However, if we look at the e-commerce sales number from last year, we see that it is down from $133.6 billion or 0.4%. Keep in mind that we are in a severe recession. Given the down economy, a drop of only 0.4% in e-commerce sales is simply amazing.
What can we expect in the next 4 years? According to eMarketer, we can expect to see double digit increases in online sales until 2012 where this sales channel will mature. Until then, though, people will continue to buy online. “Follow the hungry crowd,” as the late Gary Halbert would say.
My advice is to think creatively about how you can use online marketing to show your target customer your value. Consider forming alliances with complementary businesses and create a bigger offer. This may negate the pricing pressure that you may face because you will offer more value for your customer’s dollar.
Also think about working with your competitors to recycle customers. What I mean is to make a deal with your competitor to place your banner on their exit survey pages. Many times, customers simply want to try something new. If you give your business a chance to be seen as they are leaving one paid site, you will increase your traffic.
Remember that the seeds of great fortunes are planted during economic downturns. The key is to market smarter and to test everything.