Surprising Research Says Only 7% of Shopping Is Done Online

Meghan Blalock

As people who pretty much live, breathe, and eat in the digital realm, we were shocked to learn of a 2011 Census survey which revealed that of all shopping done in the retail market, only 7% takes place online. And in the fashion and apparel categories, that numbers grows to 12%—still remarkably low, considering that we can barely pry ourselves away from all our bookmarked e-commerce sites.

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Another interesting fact: around the holidays, there’s a huge jump in the numbers of people shopping online–from 7% to 33%. “A lot of that is because they’re buying for other people,” MaryAnn Bekkedahl, co-founder of e-commerce aggregation site, offers. “They think, ‘I don’t need to try it on, I don’t need to touch it. Or, my son wants a particular Lego set, and I know I won’t need to return it.”

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According to Bekkedahl, the two main factors that hinder people from online shopping are the lack of ability to touch, feel, and try the product, and the difficulty often experienced in returning goods that don’t meet your expectations. The chart below, from the Census survey, tells this story more completely: fashion and accessories falls toward the low end of the spectrum in terms of percentage of people doing their shopping online.

online shopping

Photo: Courtesy Jeff Jordan

Not surprisingly, furniture and home furnishings fall close to fashion on the chart—buying a sofa without trying it out first is a major no-no, and having to return it if you don’t like it would be a practically impossible task. But Bekkedahl is optimistic about the future.

“Maybe one day, I can buy myself a pair of shoes or a bag online without touching the leather first,” she ponders. “I wish I could predict how fast this might happen, but there are a lot of brands out there doing so well—Zappos have done a fantastic job telling women you can try on multiple pairs of shoes and return the ones you don’t want, and Warby Parker has a similar way of doing things. People are buying couture online! That barrier  has been pushed.”

Tell us in the comments below: do you do most of your shopping online?

online shopping

Photo: Getty Images

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