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The number of items purchased online, the number of website sessions, and other measures of consumer engagement with shopping sites all fell in February as the US online retail sector was hit hard by dramatic month-over-month and year-over-year drops in e-commerce activities, according to Coremetrics.

Among consumers who shopped online in February, the number of items purchased per order fell by 13% from the month before. Similarly, website sessions in which shoppers added items to their carts and sessions in which they went on to compete orders decreased from January by 4% and 3%, respectively.

Consumers’ engagement with websites, measured by page views per session, product views per session, and the average time they spent on sites, fell by 1%, 2.5 %and 4.5% respectively from January.

Coremetrics reports only one small bright spot: On average, the retail sector as a whole reported an increase in average order value (up 3.7%) and in shopping cart conversion rate (up 1.5%) since January. These numbers demonstrate that though the number of people willing to spend online shrank considerably, those who did shop spent more money than in the prior month, Coremetrics said.

coremetrics-online-shopping-benchmark-retail-february-2009.jpg

Specific segments of the online sector also registered some interesting increases in February, reflecting what can most likely be attributed to a Valentine’s Day spike, the research found. Compared with January 2009:

  • Gifts retailers and Jewelers – both historic winners on Valentine’s Day – reported 23% and 15% increases in order sessions respectively. However, the average dollar value of those orders did not match these increases, with a modest increase of 4% for gifts retailers and a decrease of 14.3 % for jewelers. These numbers illustrate that even on those occasions when consumers want to spend, they are spending in a more restrained fashion than in the past, Coremetrics said.
  • Department stores suffered a 13% drop in shopping cart sessions and a near 10% drop in order sessions. However, they did report increases of 2% and 13.4% in the average number of items per order and their average dollar value.

coremetrics-benchmark-shopping-report-department-store-february-2009.jpg

  • Apparel (-12.6%), Health and Beauty (-9.6%), Home Goods (-5.2%), Outdoor Goods (-10.8%) and Specialty Retailers (-7.2%) all reported decreases in order sessions.

“The online economy is reflecting what is happening in the broader markets,” said John Squire, chief strategy officer for Coremetrics. “Consumers are being increasingly selective about when and where they make their online purchases, which means that we can’t expect the online sector to power us out of this recession over night. That’s why retailers are becoming more analytical about launching marketing programs that aggressively target consumers with personalized, relevant promotions designed to get them to open their wallets.”

About the research: Findings in the Coremetrics report are based on data from Coremetrics Benchmark peer-level benchmarking solution that measures online marketing results, including commerce data, against those of the competition. More than 300 leading US retailers, representing approximately $15 billion in revenues annually, contribute their analytics data to Benchmark. All data is aggregated and anonymized.

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