According to eMarketer in its 2001 'Holiday Readiness Report', an amazing 40% plan to shop less in stores this holiday season. And a robust 29% will translate their concern over safety into increased online shopping.
Victor Hugo said, 'Nothing rivals the power of an idea whose time has come.' And in his insightful book 'The Tipping Point,' Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates eloquently that when large numbers of people change habits, they don't do it linearly. The process works like a seesaw: a gradual increase followed by a dramatic flip. The evidence shows that the Web could well be at that fulcrum, that tipping point, right now.
What reasons do consumes cite for their increase in online shopping? In addition to the 29% who cite safety, eMarketer lists another 13% who want to avoid crowds, 12% who seek better selection, 10% who want to avoid stress and frustration, and another 10% who want to save money.
There are at least 17 companies that publish estimates of consumer online spending. An aggregate of their data shows an 81% increase in ecommerce revenues for Q4 2000 over Q4 1999. One might argue that a great deal of this data is projected or harvested in suspicious ways, so let's just look at two companies that publish their own (actual) numbers: AOL shows an 84% year-to-year increase, and Visa International boasts 108%. Pretty impressive numbers.
My own favorite source of data, however, is Bizrate. Their numbers are real hard-and-fast actual, gathered from mountains of transactions across a dozen categories. And these numbers make an even stronger case of the Web: for the most recent week measured, Bizrate shows a 151% increase over the same week in 2000. And compared to the week immediately prior to September 11, online revenues are 132% higher.
What can we conclude?
The link between marketer and consumer was wildly overhyped a few years ago, at that time forecast to reach and maintain a completely unsustainable growth rate. When things returned to reality a couple of years ago, many of the most unrealistic online marketers pretty well ceased to be. But those that are left appear to be doing exceedingly well.
So the American consumer is turning to the Web to make purchases in swiftly increasingly numbers. Isn't it reasonable to assume that marketers will soon turn their attention to this rapidly growing income stream, and attempt to influence it? Isn't that the role of Web advertising?
Conclusion: Web advertising will rise again.
Soon, and fast.