Telecommuting is popular, so why not 'teleshopping'?

Research firm comScore predicts e-commerce surge of 15 percent for the 2011 holiday season as consumers shun crowded malls in favor of convenience and potentially lower prices.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Shoppers sick of checkout lines and traffic will help contribute to a 15 percent rise in retail e-commerce spending for the 2011 holiday season. That means it is more important than ever for small and midsize business to make sure their Web site and transaction technologies are in order. It also means more opportunities to compete with "the big guys."

According to a forecast this week by comScore, a research firm based in Reston, Va., $9.7 billion has already been spent online during the first part of November. The heaviest spending day so far was Nov. 16; e-commerce sites raked up $688 million on that single day.

Said comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni:

"The 2011 online holiday shopping season has shown strength in the early going with a year-over-year growth rate of 14 percent. WIth the persistent backdrop of macroeconomic uncertainty and continued high unemployment, consumers appear to be increasingly favoring the online benefits of convenience and lower prices."

The total amount that comScore expects online shoppers to spend between November and December is $37.6 billion, which is a 15 percent increase over the same period last year. Last year, online sales were up about 12 percent overall.

This data underscores two very real dynamics. First, that a store's physical location could be far less important in the future, other than as a connection to a small retailers local community. And, second: If your small business isn't investing in e-commerce technologies and capabilities, it will find itself at a disadvantage.

comScore's ongoing consumer surveys indicate that one of the most important differentiators for businesses driving e-commerce sales is what they charge for shipping. Approximately 46 percent of the 1,000 consumers polled by comScore in the first half of November said this is "somewhat" important to them and that they seek out free shipping deals. Another 30 percent reported that this is "very important" and that they won't make an online purchase that doesn't come with free shipping.

All this makes total sense to me: As telecommuting becomes an accepted practice in the business world, people are becoming more and more accustomed to using their computers as the window into different parts of their personal lives such as banking and shopping. The state of cybersecurity will affect sentiment around online shopping. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that small businesses that don't have an e-commerce presence are missing out.

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