(Story updated to add that Yahoo is demanding licensing fees from social-networking firm Facebook for use of its patented technologies.)
BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- A retailing trend that appears irreversible, at this point, is consumers' increasing preference for buying goods and services online.
And the pace is likely to quicken given consumers' growing use of mobile devices such as phones and tablets, as they make comparison shopping, and the whole shopping experience, much easier since it can be done from virtually anywhere that tends to prompt impulse purchases.
In addition, retailers are becoming more aggressive online marketers by offering loyalty programs that offer perks such as free shipping, the use of online media such as Facebook, and by the use of "flash" sales or online discounting via email to lure buyers to their Web site. The technology and market research firm Forrester Research said consumers spent $202 billion online buying retail goods in 2011, and projects that will grow by 12% to $226 billion this year and by 45% from that, to $327 billion, by 2016, according to a projection it released Feb. 27. And by 2016, e-retail will account for 9% of total retail sales, up from 7% in both 2012 and 2011, Forrester said. This tidal shift in habits by consumers is attracting more online advertisers, so online companies with the largest user base are likely to capture an increasing portion of that revenue that may have gone to other, more traditional media, which will serve as an additional catalyst to even faster growth for them. And note that retailing bellwether Wal-Mart (WMT) said last week that it reached an agreement to raise its stake in the Chinese e-commerce firm Yihaodian to roughly 51% in order to tap China's world-leading, fast-growing consumer online marketplace. That helped prompt S&P Capital IQ equity analyst Scott Kessler to screen his firm's stock data base for companies with "consumer-facing" technologies that are likely to play roles in the growth of online retailing and that S&P analysts are "bullish on." Here are nine highly rated, "consumer-facing" technology stocks cited by S&P Capital IQ analysts ranked in inverse order of "buy" ratings from Wall Street investment analysts: