States that usually associate the holidays with snow were home to some of the more frequent online shoppers during the 2001 holiday season, according to BizRate.com, even though many northern states experienced unseasonably warm and dry weather for much of the holiday shopping season.
BizRate’s data puts holiday season e-commerce sales at $6.4 billion for the period from Nov. 19 to Dec. 25, 2001. Fourth quarter sales increased by 35 percent to $12.4 billion, making it the strongest quarter of the year in online retail. Average online order sizes were also up 13 percent from the 200 season, averaging $126 per order vs. $112 last year. Consumers also spent, on average, 27 percent more on shipping charges in 2001 because most retailers required a minimum purchase amount in exchange for the free shipping offers.
“Most free shipping offers came with a $100 spending hurdle compared to last year when free shipping deals were unadulterated,” said Chuck Davis, president & CEO of BizRate.com. “Consequently, this year, consumers paid a truer cost of $10.13 dollars on average for shipping.”
According to BizRate, the peak online holiday shopping day fell on Dec. 27, 2001, one day earlier than last year (for more data on peak shopping days by product category, see Value Sites Win, Customer Service Loses). BizRate, along with most other post-holiday reports, cited an unusual increase in last-minute online shopping. The last week before Christmas (Dec. 16 to Dec. 22) saw a 48 percent jump, up to $1.4 billion, compared to the same period last year.
|Percent of Online Holiday Orders by Gender
As for geography, it comes as no surprise that Alaska, with a widely dispersed population, high Internet penetration and a frigid winter climate led U.S. states with 305 orders per 1,000 people, followed by New Hampshire (296 orders per 1,000 people). The warmer southern states were the biggest online shopping laggards during the 2001 holiday season.
BizRate’s research also matched a study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project when it came to the number of women who did their holiday shopping online in 2001. According to BizRate, 56 percent of orders were placed by women (the Pew study put the percentage of women at 58 percent). Just three years ago, BizRate found only 39 percent of online orders were placed by women. When it came to last-minute online shopping, men were more active. The last weekend prior to Christmas found 53 percent of online orders placed by men, BizRate found.
“The female migration online is having an impact on what is selling best and when for e-commerce. For instance, male driven categories such as electronic gadgetry and computer hardware used to be the categories that sold first and best online,” Davis said. “This year, with the huge female influence online, we saw other categories grow in sales such as Home & Garden and Toys & Video Games.”
BizRate rated the top performing categories for the holiday period as Electronics (up 102 percent from last year) and Toys & Games (up 69 percent). Gifts & Flowers, the largest category in terms of sales, reaped over $1.3 billion — up 37 percent from last year. Computer Hardware, the second-largest category in terms of total sales volume, was up 53 percent.
Customer Service Performs Well
Retailers stuck out a down economy and made good on most customer service promises, BizRate found. And that’s a good thing. Forty percent of shoppers who did not intend to purchase again from a merchant cited poor customer support and late delivery as the major reasons for their decision.
On-time delivery, which was a major problem back in 1999, has remained constant at 87 percent for the 2000 and 2001 holiday seasons. The top performing sectors for on-time delivery were: Sporting Goods (91 percent), Health & Beauty (90 percent), and Food & Drink (89 percent), while the bottom performing categories for on-time delivery included Computer Hardware (84 percent), Electronics (83 percent), and Computer Software (82 percent).
According to Keynote’s Post-Christmas Fulfillment & Performance Report, retailers exceeded the delivery expectations they set with customers to such a high degree that orders not delivered in time for Christmas hardly impacted their Delivery Performance for the season overall. Retailers took 1.5 days longer in 2001 to deliver compared to last year (based on orders delivered by Dec. 24), yet exceeded the delivery promises they set to a greater degree this year than last.
Sixteen out of the 21 retailers for which Keynote had last-minute fulfillment results met last-minute delivery guarantees in time for Christmas; five of the 21 missed on-time delivery for at least one order. One retailer missed six out of six orders.
Transaction performance, which had been slowing since Thanksgiving, reversed its slowing trend and improved the week before Christmas. Shoppers were by and large treated to the speediest transaction times from Dec. 23 through Dec. 25, when transaction performance on almost all sites improved even more.
|Top 5 States for Online Holiday Sales