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Reversing the Online Shopping Plateau

Posted on 5.15.2007

It's true that online shopping is more accepted than in the past. More people shop online than ever before and that number is growing. But that same growth is slowing. According to a May 2007 eMarketer report "US Retail E-Commerce: Entering the Multi-Channel Era," 139 million people, or 78.5 percent of Internet users ages 14 and older will shop online this year. By 2011 that number will reach 80 percent. That may sound like good news to online merchants, but compare the numbers:

  • From 2006-2011 new online shoppers will increase at a three percent compound rate.
  • Between 2003-2005 new online shoppers increased by eight percent.

So what accounts for the drop in online shopping growth?

"More so than ever, consumers are using the Web as a product research tool, regardless of whether a purchase takes place on a Web site or in a store," said Jeffery Grau, eMarketer Senior Analyst and author of the report.

Most industry experts would agree that, as a shopping tool, the Web is most widely used to research products and services. Many times, a consumer will do their homework then visit an actual store to complete the purchase.

"Big multi-channel retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy still trail the likes of Amazon, Netflix and L.L. Bean in customer satisfaction surveys, but they are closing the gap," said Grau. "In fact, traditional retailers have already proven they can win on price in the large and cutthroat online consumer electronics category."

For many website owners, this should come as a warning. You're probably not a giant retailer like Wal-Mart, Target or Best Buy. You're also probably not a giant online retailer like Amazon, Netflix ro L.L. Bean. You may be an online electronics retailer. In any case, you need to be aware of customer habits of online shopping and browsing. The real question is: How do you get consumers to do more than just browse or research and get them to actually buy online - from your website?

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