NEW YORK: Online retail sales in the US are set to record double-digit growth during the next five years, taking the market to a value of $370bn, a forecast has suggested.

Forrester, the insights group, predicted that US ecommerce sales, excluding auctions, are set to hit $262bn this year, a 13% improvement on an annual basis.

More specifically, it stated that three sectors will take more than a third of returns. Apparel and accessories should be the most valuable, on $40bn, followed by consumer electronics and computer hardware.

While the web yields just 8% of US retail sales today, this total is "weighed down" by the fact online purchases of grocery goods like food and beverages, one of the biggest retail categories, remain modest.

If excluding grocery from the analysis, the internet's share rises to 11%, according to Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester analyst.

This figure may well increase going forward, as ecommerce is set to enjoy average annual growth of 9% per year from 2012-17, thus reaching $370bn by the end of this period.

Mulpuru said: "This growth will be abetted by traditional stores' investments in web businesses to support a multichannel strategy, the blistering pace of mobile device adoption, and the fact that consumers are more comfortable with purchasing online."

She also estimated that 200,000 people work in salaried web retail roles at present, not including fulfilment and call centre staff. This equates to over 25% of the 750,000 specialist retail executives.

Turning to Europe, Forrester stated that internet retail would be worth €191bn by 2017, measured against €112bn in 2012, equivalent to a compound annual growth rate of 11%.

Southern markets like Italy and Spain are likely to be the main drivers of this expansion, not least because it can offer convenience, value and choice to increasingly cash-strapped shoppers.

In Northern Europe, by contrast, the ecommerce segment is already more mature, meaning the pace of growth will be lower in nations like Germany and the UK.

Martin Gill, another Forrester analyst, said vendors must "become more aggressive in developing strategies to secure growth, identifying new sources of competitive advantage and differentiation as they optimize their businesses to serve increasingly web-savvy shoppers in a very crowded market."

Data sourced from Forrester; additional content by Warc staff