Back in 1999, the U.S. Department of Commerce began tracking online retail sales. At that point in time, online shopping was but a blip in the overall retail spending number with only .6 percent of sales being attributed to online purchasing. Thirteen years later that value has grown by a factor of 10 with online retail sales now representing 6 percent of all retail sales. If that does not seem like much, then consider that in just the 4th quarter of 2013 online sales in the U.S. reached over $69 billion!
While the percent of all retail sales made up of online purchases continues to grow, the opposite is occurring with consumers’ satisfaction with online buying. As reported in this NBC News story, consumers’ satisfaction with online purchasing is declining and is now at a 12-year low. The reasons for this dip can, in part, be tied to delivery issues that occurred during the December 2013 holiday shopping season. But, this decline may also reflect a rise in customers’ expectations for online sellers. While in the early years of retail e-commerce customers often viewed Internet purchasing with a curious rather than critical eye, today shoppers have higher expectations for their online purchasing experience. They expect online sellers to not only make the purchasing process simple and convenient, but also quick. And for the inconvenience of not receiving a product right away, customers want online sellers to offer special incentives, such as lower prices and an easy returns policy.
However, this report, which rates all type of retailers, suggests store-based retailers are fighting back against online competitors. Retailers in such categories as specialty stores and supermarkets are seeing their customer ratings improve. Yet, this may not be all that surprising since, as we posted earlier this month, it appears brick-and-mortar stores are learning how to combat online competitors by offering a shopping experience that is exciting customers.
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