Computers Still Top E-Item

According to BizRate.com’s second quarter Consumer Online Report, computers and related accessories continue to lead the charge of consumer buying on the Internet.

Sales figures from the second quarter showed that computer goods accounted for 41.4 percent of all online sales from April through June. Overall online sales for the period — $2.56 billion (US$) — tripled last year’s second quarter total. Fourth quarter sales are expected to stay on that pace and top $3.25 billion.

The BizRate.com report is an independent study of e-commerce, based on 135,000 surveys collected from online buyers at the point of sale. The company estimates that third quarter hard goods sales will reach $2.81 billion. If fourth quarter sales hit the predicted $3.25 billion, total sales for the year will reach $11.1 billion.

The company’s second quarter sales forecast came within 6.6 percent of the study’s actual sales figure.

Computers Keep Large Lead

Trailing computer goods by nearly 16 percent, entertainment products ranked as the second most popular online buying category. Sales in that category, which includes books, music and videos, accounted for 25.7 percent of overall online sales in the second quarter. Gifts and consumer goods followed with 10.9 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively.

On the whole, e-commerce stores followed their brick-and-mortar counterparts in the second quarter, showing an increase of 2.3 percent in overall sales. For brick-and-mortar stores, the company said, “sales for the quarter are sluggish after a traditionally big first quarter.” In retail stores, apparel and consumer goods sales dropped more than 30 percent from the first quarter, while sales of computer goods, entertainment, food, wine and gifts continued their steady growth rates of 10 to 18 percent.

“Despite a relatively slow second quarter, e-commerce sales continue to rise, due in part to the changing face of the online buyer,” BizRate.com Information Products Group Vice President Paul Bates said. “As more mainstream consumers experience Internet shopping, sales will only continue to climb to new heights.”

Who Shops When

Women are starting to buy more products online, according to the study. Female shoppers accounted for 37 percent of online purchases in the second quarter, up from 31 percent in the first quarter. In addition, women comprise 49 percent of all first-time online buyers.

Experienced online shoppers continued to dominate sales, but 60 percent of online buyers said they bought from new merchants in the second quarter. Income levels of buyers may be going down, as first-time online buyers reported an average household income of $61,000. That figure is down 21 percent from the $77,000 average household income of all online buyers. BizRate.com argues that this data shows Internet buying is becoming more mainstream.

BizRate.com, based in Los Angeles, conducts consumer research by using data from more than 1,700 online retailers. “As an impartial third party, BizRate.com evaluates e-commerce activity and merchant quality across the Web by unobtrusively soliciting information from millions of online buyers each month as they make their purchases,” the company says. Typically, those surveyed by BizRate.com represent more than 43 percent of all online retail commerce.

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