Study: Online Sales Take a Bite Out of Traditional Retailing

The recent explosion in e-commerce has made it increasingly clear that a big change for brick-and-mortar retailing looms just around the corner. A new study conducted by Greenfield Online, Inc., indicates that online sales have already begun to take a bite out of offline sales, at least among Internet-savvy shoppers.

The big surprise, however, is that this shift is happening now, rather than some time in the future, as most industry observers have thought. The message to brick-and-mortar-only stores: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

According to Greenfield Online, if your local mall or department store seems less crowded these days, it may not be entirely your imagination. The newly released shopping study finds that 39 percent of those with access to the Internet say they go to the store or mall less often now that they can easily shop for and buy a wide variety of products online.

“These results are significant to retailers, since Americans who use the Internet hold 60 percent of the buying power of the total US population,” explains Rudy Nadilo, CEO of Greenfield Online, Inc.

The results of the study are based on a sample of 1,286 respondents, drawn from an Internet-user panel of nearly one million people, representative of the Internet population in terms of age, gender and region.

Shopping for Software

While the tendency to window-shop online is about the same as at local stores (70% vs. 71%), the Internet still trails the local store (49% vs. 68%) as the place where consumers who shop online make their actual software purchases.

The Internet, however has overtaken malls (49% vs. 42%) and catalogs (49% vs. 22%) as a point of purchase for software.

Clothing Online

Shopping for apparel online is now almost as popular as shopping in catalogs. More consumers (38%) still leaf through catalogs than browse online (30%), yet malls (75%) and local stores (70%) still rule for window shopping.

When it comes to making actual purchases, online — at 18% — is nearly as popular as catalogs (22%). Nevertheless, online and catalog retailers are still not as popular as malls (68%) and local stores (66%) when consumers are ready to buy.

Buying Books

The real online retail success story remains books, where one out of two Internet-enabled people are buying online. Furthermore, online book marketers are poised to surpass mall bookstores. Consumers say they are just as likely to make actual purchases online (49%) as at the mall (51%).

However, the reports of the demise of local bookstores are still premature. Some 63% of consumers still go to their local bookstore to buy their books. However, they do an equal amount of their browsing for availability and price online (64%) as they do at their local bookstores (63%).

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