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More than half of European retail sales will be touched by digital over the coming five years: Forrester

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More than half of European retail sales over the next five years will touch digital channels, a new report suggests. UK sales, predicts the Forrester study, will be most affected as internet retailing – particularly via mobile devices – becomes central to the way we buy.

Forrester’s European Cross-Channel Retail Sales Forecast, 2015 To 2020 forecasts that 53% of European sales will be affected by a digital channel.

The study suggests the value of cross-channel retail sales in Europe will reach €704bn (£498bn) by 2020, up from €457bn (£323bn) this year, a new study suggests. It defines such purchases as those that consumers begin using a digital channel, but do not complete online.

It says that when these cross-channel sales are combined with online sales they will reach €947bn (£670bn) – or 53% of European retail sales.

The shift, it says, will be more felt in Northern than Southern European countries, while the UK will have the largest proportion of web-impacted sales by 2020.

The study is based on a recent study of more than 13,000 shoppers in seven European countries, and finds that online traffic from mobile devices is fast moving towards the 50% tipping point for retailers in Europe. In-store web-connected kiosks and tablet-enabled store assistants are also encouraging web-influenced research in-store before a purchase.

“eBusiness leaders must consider their digital assets as part of the whole customer-lifecycle, rather than simply channel by channel,” said report author Michelle Beeson in a blog. “Digital touchpoints have a significant influence beyond online sales. In fact, by 2020, Forrester forecasts that digital will influence 53% of total retail sales in EU-7, or €947 billion, including a combination of online sales and offline sales influenced by online research.”

Twenty-one percent of European online adults regularly research products online, even though 26% do not regularly buy online. Online research sources have surpassed magazines, TV, and even physical stores for product discovery.

By 2020, the study found, five key categories will have more than half of total sales coming from cross-channel sales: garden and home improvement, beauty and cosmetics, jewelry and watches, footwear, and clothing.

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