The retail market is still recovering from the recession, but online there are more than glimmers of hope. Mostly because successful retailers are investing in the space, focusing on making consumers happier and bringing in higher earnings. According to comScore, retail ecommerce hit $29.1 billion this holiday season. That’s up 4% since last year. Also important is the fact that consumers are happier with their experiences shopping online — and are likely to spend even more money in the space next year. 

Online sales, excluding travel, had been growing roughly 20% to 25% annually for most of the aughts, before
slowing to a 6% gain in 2008, according to comScore. Investment firm Credit Suisse released a
report this week predicting ecommerce sales will rise almost 10% in 2010 to $144 billion after ending 2009 with an estimated 1.1% gain.

And according to ForeSee Results’
recent E-Retail Satisfaction Index, customer satisfaction with ecommerce
shopping this season rose 7% to 79 out of 100, the highest since the
survey began in 2001. Last year, only two sites received excellent
satisfaction ratings from the survey, while 11 received that response
this time, including Amazon, Netflix, Apple and Newegg.com.

Not surprisingly, the lowest performers online — like Circuit City and Neiman Marcus, are currently having financial troubles beyond their online shopping endeavors.

But in general, ecommerce business is close to booming. According to the Internet Retailer Online Retail Index, the 25 top ecommerce stocks advanced 91.4% over the course of 2009. That’s compared to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which gained 18.8%, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, which was up 23.5% for 2009.

According to ForeSee, a satisfied online shopper is 73% more likely to purchase online and
38% more likely to purchase offline— behaviors that translate directly
to the bottom line for struggling retailers. That means that anything that helps improve consumer experience, from quick response rates to free shipping and online help centers, are efforts woth investing in.

Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester, tells The Chicago Tribune:

“I know this is an overused phrase, but it really is a perfect storm. People want to
find the cheapest products. Most households have broadband, and there
are a lot more devices with access to the Web.”