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Leading up to Holiday 2008, firms were predicting double digit growth online — despite the economy. Now we’re on the other side of holiday, and actual results are pointing in all directions. Why the confusion? Which numbers can we trust? Let’s examine the findings.

Shop.org / Forrester 2008 Holiday Recap — Positive
According to an online survey, 53 of 84 anonymous respondents reported year over year growth between Nov 1 and Dec 24. In addition, 34 of 84 respondents reported double-digit growth in this period. Data was self-reported using the online survey tool, Zoomerang. In survey conditions like these, no one is put on the spot. Winners are more apt to reveal; losers, more apt to conceal. This can skew results.

SaaS Vendors Holiday 2008 Results — Spectacular
Demandware reported its clients worldwide saw 30% YOY growth online at holiday; and Venda reported its clients saw 39.7% YOY growth. What accounts for these numbers? Well demand for affordable SaaS options is up sharply; and these two vendors have a strong international presence. Much of the growth may be attributed to good old fashioned site redesigns that accompany any move to a new platform; or expansion into new markets. Another reason for growth may be the consistent availability of sites running SaaS platforms, capturing traffic from bigger retailers like Walmart, Costco, Staples, Sears, Amazon, and Saks that struggled to stay up.

Payment Processors Report 2008 Holiday Season Online is Slightly Off
comScore reports ecommerce spend across the US and UK between Nov 1 and Dec 24 was down 3% from the same period in 2007, still better than macro-economic data from MasterCard that measured across all retail channels. It’s important to note that there were 32 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2007 — and only 27 shopping days (or 16% fewer) in 2008. Even Chase Paymentech reported a 4.5% decline in online sales during this period. Had there been more shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we may have seen a modest bump.

Bottom Line
In looking at the various methods of measurement, each tells us something. Shop.org and SaaS results demonstrate you can’t paint all companies with a broad brush. Some retailers did remarkably well online in spite of the economy. Results from payment processors show that results were relatively flat, but still ahead of retail overall. In summary, all data indicates that ecommerce should remain a top area of focus, promising better returns in the year ahead.