Commentary

Household vs. Nation

Each week the folks at BizRate send out their ecommerce scorecard. I like their stats, and I’ve made ample use of them in the past. But the last time I quoted them I was accused of being a shill for the Web since their numbers are always rosy and bright. So this time, instead of just plopping BizRate’s numbers into the column, I thought it would be interesting to compare their ecommerce stats with those of a household familiar to me.

So here are some recent Web purchases for one American household:

RioRiot MP3 player. Has a hard drive big enough to store every piece of music ever recorded, going back to the days of the lute. Competes with the Apple iPod and the Nomad. Retails for $400, found on the Web for $335 plus $15 shipping. Promised to arrive in 3 days, actually came in 2. A complete joy.

Olympus C4040-Z digital camera. Selected after exhaustive research on various electronics and photo-related sites. Chose site offering lowest price. Promised to arrive in 3 days. Then got a phone call from the retailer saying ‘the camera is no longer available at that price.’ Not happy. Paid difference, received camera next day. Shortly afterwards Olympus released their D4 model, which contains some improvements.

XboX. Teenage son drove household nuts for months with nonstop requests for this item. Purchased on KayBee site for $500, with three games and two controllers. Used constantly. Rest of family voted XboX ‘Most likely to be thrown out the window.’

Shutterfly. One of the great sites on the Web. Upload digital images, edit them easily, make them into albums and ‘snapbooks’. Send out individual pictures, enlargements, wallet-sized copies, whatever. Amazingly inexpensive, especially since they’re constantly offering promotions. Quickly becoming indispensable.

Egyptian perfume flasks. A very misguided Mother’s Day present. Made mistake of allowing children to make selection. Children impressed with words like ‘Egyptian,’ ‘perfume,’ and ‘flask.’ Spent $100 for two of them. Actually worth approximately $5, including faux-straw protective wrapping.

Indoor basketball hoop. Another wayward Web purchase. Indoor basketball ok if ceiling is higher than 50 feet. Not ok if ceiling is 8 feet. Especially not ok if downstairs neighbors are able to hear.

Other purchases: Books from BN and Amazon, flowers from 1-800-Flowers, airplane tickets from Orbitz and Travelocity. This is all the stuff that’s becoming routine, mainstream purchasing on the Web.

And now the national numbers: For the week ending 5/4/02, total ecommerce sales were up by 55% ($1,120.8 million in 2002 versus $723.3 million in 2001.

The top three growth categories for the week were:

  • Electronics 93%
  • Computer hardware 80%
  • Office supplies 78%

    The bottom three growth categories for the week were:

  • Computer software 18%
  • Health and beauty 17%
  • Apparel 0%

    -- Michael Kubin is co-CEO of Evaliant, one of the web's leading sources for online ad data.

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