No great surprise there, but the drivers behind the trend might make Chasers pause:
“After a somewhat slow start to the year, in which seasonality tempered online sales, the rising tide of offline sales lifted online boats this quarter to exceed expectations,” [Forrester analyst Carrie A.] Johnson said in a copy of the report obtained by the E-Commerce Times. “Q1 represented the first real quarter in which online retail felt the impact of the same seasonality trends as its more mature offline counterparts. … This trend continued in Q2, when strong offline consumer spending — despite rising gas prices and interest rates — had a ripple effect on online sales.”
To put it another way, consumers generally ignored high-and-rising costs to run their cars, and shopped where they wished to shop. So offline sales spurred online sales, without any change in consumer behavior tied to those rising costs.
Then again, it isn’t as though pure online retailers, offline/online enterprises or shopping aggregators of any size encourage consumers to use e-commerce instead of driving the family Buick to the strip mall.
Amazon.com pages focus almost purely on products for sale and their prices. There’s no mention of the potential to save money by clicking instead of driving. Ditto for Target.com, Overstock.com and local-media-based shopping portals from ajc.com and nwsource.com.
It’s hard to understand why the e-commerce pure-plays, such as Amazon and Overstock, would not use the scary cost of gas as a marketing tactic. (“Don’t drive, just click!”) It’s easier to understand why sites that promote both offline and online shopping — especially local media shopping portals — would play it down. The big money in those environments comes from the offline interests.
Even where the marketing strategy is blended, however, shopping portals typically offer e-commerce gateways for one or more retailers. Once consumers drill down into e-commerce screens, maybe it’s time to offer them tools to compare the real costs of buying products online …
- Shipping cost (delivery fee plus time lost)
- Sales tax (sometimes)
… vs. offline …
- Round-trip cost (fuel plus vehicle wear plus time lost)
- Sales tax
Wouldn’t that be useful?
Bottom line for this bottom line business is this: Paying attention to the behavior of your users is hard work. And the answers aren’t always obvious.