How is the American online consumer evolving?
Just a decade ago, online commerce was the exception. Now it is routine. Retailers must adapt and get ahead of the curve.
- September 2012
- Philip Dalzell-Payne, Josh Leibowitz, and Kevin Roche
For several years, we have done wide-ranging surveys of global online consumers. This has allowed us to develop both numerical analytics and conceptual insights in a range of markets. We have come to six major conclusions.
1. Online is more and more important: Researching and buying over the Internet is increasing in almost all categories (Exhibit 1 in PDF), though there are still distinct laggards. Online grocery sales, do-it-yourself, household products and health-and-beauty are all small and relatively flat.
But it’s also interesting that the categories that already have the greatest market share (ranging from 31 percent to 41 percent) are growing fastest. Books sales were up 11 percent, DVDs/videos, 10 percent and video games, 10 percent. One interesting distinction: The biggest “gone-to-digital” categories are largely bought through pure online players like Amazon. Categories in the middle—ie, with significant sales both in-store and online—tend to favor online retailers that also have conventional stores. These “digital battleground” categories are where we expect to see the most attention in the next years.
We don’t yet know what constitutes online saturation—but there might be a clue in checking out the behavior of more prosperous consumers. People who make more than $200,000 a year far outpace the average in several categories, including music (84 percent for the rich, against a national average of 52 precent); 63 percent of furniture spending (versus 12 percent); 56 percent for flowers (versus 22 percent) and 41 percent for large appliances (versus 13 percent). One interesting tidbit: There is very little difference by age in online shopping behavior; only in a few of the 16 categories (video games, footwear and clothing) was there much difference by age in how often items were purchased online.
Submit a comment
Comments chosen to be published may be edited for length and clarity and will appear along with your name and details, but not your e-mail address. We will use your e-mail address only to send you a confirmation copy of your comments and to notify you if we publish them online. We value your feedback and will consider it carefully. Nonetheless, we receive so many comments that we cannot acknowledge all of them.