Survey shows Floridians browse, don't always buy online

nwilliams@bradenton.comDecember 8, 2012 

MANATEE -- Floridians are 21st Century window shoppers.

A recent sampling of 100 million nationwide online shopping experiences shows consumers in the Sunshine State love to browse online retail websites, but aren't necessarily willing to make purchases.

Based on the sample, 5.58 percent of e-commerce traffic came from Florida, but Florida accounted for only 3.30 percent of purchases, which ranked 37th among the states. Florida posted an average order value of $90.82, nearly $20 less than leading $110.35 by Alaskans.

Florida ranked fourth in e-commerce traffic behind California, New York and Texas and was slightly above Pennsylvania. The bottom five states in order are Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The statistics were gathered by Monetate, a Pennsylvania-based technology company, based on third quarter online shopping experiences and same store data. The numbers are distributed to Monetate's clients, which include Best Buy, QVC, Aeropostale, The Sports Authority and PETCO. The data is used to help Monetate clients target visitors to their sites geography and how traffic relates to the emergence of smart phones and tablets.

"We put the statistics out there to make online retailers aware that geography is important when customers are online," said Marifran Manzo-Ritchie, spokeswoman for Monetate.

By 2011, less than 8 percent of traffic leading to online retail were generated by tablets and smart phones, the report shows, but tablet traffic has since increased 161 percent, while traffic from smart phones has increased 119 percent. Maryland led all states with traffic via smart phone or tablet, followed by South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas.

Economists suggest e-commerce traffic and purchases depend on an area's options for shopping experiences along with the emergence of more

tablet and smart phone users.

"It's gotten a lot easier for comparison shopping online," said John Fleming, director of communications for the Florida Retail Federation. "It used to be you had access through your desktop, but now any smart phone can get on the Internet."

"It makes more sense with Mississippi high in smart phone traffic, with them being in areas not as densely populated with opportunities for shopping," said Gary Jackson, an economics professor at Florida Gulf Coast University and director of the school's Regional Economic Research Institute.

"In the rural areas, you don't have many shopping venues and they use the Internet because that's where the sale of goods has shifted."

Meanwhile, Florida offers abundant shopping options in its metropolitan areas.

"Look at South Beach, that's a densely populated area," Jackson said.

Companies like Monetate are finding ways online retailers can attract consumers by location and proximity and other categories such as family size, household income, age bracket, likelihood to have children, even voting preferences and education level. In Florida, for example, e-commerce retailers may promote warm weather clothing and outdoor activity items.

Bealls, a Bradenton-based retailer, boasted strong online sales numbers during the Thanksgiving holiday sales. The company recently reported Cyber Monday sales were 41 percent higher than 2011.

"More customers and consumers are shopping online," said Bill Webster, Bealls director of public and government affairs. "Bealls has tremendously increased the number of items offered on BeallsFlorida.com and some very competitive, special offers that were not offered in the physical stores."

Webster said the company practiced targeting consumers geographically with online promotions of Florida-friendly merchandise like fishing shirts and lighted palm trees for Christmas decoration.

"You're not going to find that from other retailers," he said. "We do sell a lot of Florida-friendly clothes to people all over the country. If someone from Michigan will take a cruise after Christmas, they might not find cruise wear in any stores up there. We sell that apparel to people in other states."

Jackson said e-commerce shopping has opened new doors for consumers.

"It gives people more opportunities, either through Amazon or different mediums," he said. "It's great way to explore. For Black Friday, there were a lot of ads to use online sources for ordering."

Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams

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