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In a report released last week, analyst firm GartnerG2 estimated that worldwide online sales for the final quarter of 2002 would total $38.2bn (£24.4bn), a 48.4% increase on the same period last year.
For the first time, Europeans will spend more money online than any other region, the report predicted, with revenue reaching $15.77bn. North America, meanwhile, will be the number two region with revenue at $15.66bn, it said.
Gains in Europe are being fuelled by companies integrating their mail order and Internet presences, according to Gill Mander, business analyst at GartnerG2.
"Europeans are using multiple channels, browsing printed catalogues and then ordering online," she said. "We are seeing this happen more, especially in the clothing and toy industries."
E-commerce still forms a relatively small part of total retail sales, so online sales growth relates more to the experience of users and maturity of e-retailers than peaks and troughs in the overall retail industry, said Michael Cruz, senior analyst at GartnerG2.
"Retailers should prepare for a fourth quarter online shopping onslaught, in spite of the global recession," he said. "Markets are still maturing, so specific attention is on flawless execution for return customers."