Online Sales of Consumer Electronics Will Reach $14 Billion by 2002

Last week, the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) announced its forecast that Internet sales of traditional consumer technologies to online households should reach at least $14 billion by 2002, representing 13% of total industry volume. CEMA also revealed that consumer research shows interest in buying consumer technologies online should grow by at least 135% in the next two years. The study found that the vast majority of online shoppers opt to consummate the purchase online instead of at a retail store because of price.

According to CEMA's Todd Thibodeaux, "Whether consumers make the purchase online or not, the industry will see a tremendous increase in the use of the Internet as a research tool. On average, more than 75% of consumers who likely will make a consumer-technology buy in the next two years will use the Internet to research their purchase."

CEMA's new research also shows that successful retailers need a website to complement their physical presence. More than 40% of consumers who use brick-and-mortar retail in combination with cyber-retail are more likely to patronize a retailer with a companion Internet storefront, and that nearly 6 in 10 online shoppers are using both established retail and the Internet in most of their product purchases.

Thibodeaux commented that "Interesting synergies are taking shape between traditional brick-and-mortar retailers and the online world. Almost 60% of online consumers think the Internet has made them more educated shoppers. This education process cuts both ways---some consumers are being educated at retail stores and then buying online, others are educating themselves about products online and then buying at retail. The Internet and traditional retail are working together, in consumers' views. They don't see them as separate realms."

For retailers who think online shopping is just a fad, CEMA says that the research proves otherwise: the study found that only 6% of respondents think online shopping is a mere novelty; 29% of the respondents expect to double their online buying in the next 12 months.

The study also reveals that brick-and-mortar retail stores' worst nightmares are being realized in younger shoppers: more than a third (35%) of online shoppers have made specific visits to retailers to "see and learn about a product," only to leave and purchase the same product from an online retailer. The study notes that those most likely to exhibit such behavior are Generation X shoppers: "More than 40% of Gen-X online consumers have, in the past 12 months, used a traditional retail store as little more than a product showroom or library where they could see, feel, and touch products, and then pick the brain of the retail salesperson."

Other interesting details about Internet shoppers include the fact that a full 85% are men, who are more than three times as likely as women to use the Internet to shop for traditional consumer technologies. Also revealed: at the same time consumers are using brick-and-mortar retailers to help facilitate online purchases, a large number also are doing the reverse. Roughly half of all online shoppers are using the Internet as a research tool to make more informed purchases in traditional retail stores. Of special note to higher-ticket retailers: The study found that purchases by households with less buying power (less than $25,000) are less likely than higher-income households to use the Internet to research their traditional retail purchases.

In the final analysis, however, the survey states that "when a shopper goes to a store and then shops online, he or she does so in order to find lower prices. Going back the other way, from Internet to retail, is of greatest importance to consumers who like the Internet because it makes them smarter shoppers."