Earlier today comScore released Q4 and full year e-commerce data for 2011. Total online sales for the year were roughly $162 billion ($50 billion in Q4). These figures are impressive and reflect solid double-digital annual growth.
Here are the historical data provided by comScore:
As large as they are, these numbers are still just a drop in the proverbial bucket for retail however. Offline/traditional/local retail constitutes 95% of consumer retail spending. This is one reason why “local” is much more powerful and important than e-commerce.
It’s also why Amazon is contemplating opening physical stores and will be trying an offline retail experiment in Seattle.
As we know, most online consumers use the Internet before making product or apparel purchases, which happen mostly in stores. A holiday shopping survey by Baynote found that “64.8% of shoppers researched then purchased in stores at least half the time.”
Question: Thinking of this holiday season, approximately how often did you research products online and then purchase them in a store?
Source: Baynote Holiday Shopping Survey
If we look at this data in terms of the larger online–>offline pattern we see that only 6.5% of respondents didn’t follow this “ROBO” behavior for at least some of their purchases.
Smartphones, which can be used at the point of sale, are only adding more complexity to this process for retailers. Recently Pew found that many people who used their handsets in stores decided not to buy at that moment:
- 37% decided to not purchase the product at all
- 35% purchased the product at that store
- 19% purchased the product online
- 8% purchased the product at another store
While we don’t know how these people would have behaved absent the smartphones, the data argue that 64% of in-store smartphone users decided not to buy then and there — presumably because of some information accessed or obtained via their phones.
For all the celebration of e-commerce and online conversions, the much larger and more important phenomenon is offline/local.