E-shopping shift: web shoppers now buy more online than in stores

Online shopping. Picture courtesy Pixabay

Online shopping. Picture courtesy Pixabay

Online sales growth used to be huge with 20% or 30%-plus figures appearing regularly. But while it’s understandably slowed down as the sector has got bigger, that doesn’t stop some pretty spectacular headlines still appearing. And this one really made me sit up: Surveyed shoppers made 51% of their purchases on the web.

That extra 1% that tips it over halfway is so important. What it means is that for the first time, in an annual survey of 5,000 US-based online shoppers by UPS and comScore, more consumers said they bought more of their purchases online than in stores.

OK, it doesn’t mean that 51% of goods are now bought online as the survey spoke to e-shoppers only and there are still a lot of people who don’t buy online – hundreds of millions of them in fact.

But for those who do, the landscape has now shifted to the extent that they no longer make most of their purchases in a physical store. And given that the survey excluded grocery shopping, this is big news for the fashion sector.

online shoppingI know where they’re coming from. I rarely go to stores these days, and while my eBay, Vestiaire Collective and Etsy addiction probably isn’t going to boost the profit margins of most global retail giants, it’s a sign of the times. I only do my grocery shopping in-store now because I decided I was being pathetically lazy by ordering groceries online (as someone who works from home I do need to get out of the house occasionally!)

So, back with the survey. E-shoppers now make 51% of purchases online, up from 48% a year ago and 47% two years ago, which means growth has accelerated in the past 12 months alone.

Unsurprisingly, Millennials make 54% of their purchases online and 63% use their their smartphones to indulge in some kind of shopping activity (which could also mean browsing).

But we Boomers, while we only make 49% of purchases that way, are seeing a faster growth rate. The figure was just 44% two years ago. However, only 19% of Boomers and 8% of Seniors use smartphones to shop. Is that because they don’t like doing it or, as in my case, because we need a larger screen to be able to see what we’re doing? Who knows?

Anyway, it’s also interesting that of the purchases made in physical stores, only 20% are totally traditional, i.e. browsing and buying in the store. Many people now combine online browsing with in-store buying (or the reverse if they want to try something on then take advantage of a price promo online).

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