Story Jump-start: 3 New E-Commerce Angles

by May 18, 2017
Shopping on a smartphone

E-commerce sales topped $100 million in both the third and fourth quarters of last year, estimates the Census Bureau. (“Online shopping” by Pixabay user “Photo-Mix” CC0 license Public Domain)

The Census Bureau estimates that e-commerce sales topped $100 million in both the third and fourth quarters of last year. With the online retail landscape constantly evolving, here are three trends to explore in your retail coverage.

Online and physical worlds converge

Online-first retailers like Warby Parker, Casper and Modcloth are now opening brick-and-mortar locations. What’s driving that trend and are any of these stores in your area? At the same time, big department stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are shuttering locations and experts predict this could benefit lower-priced retailers. Is this happening in your area? How is it impacting commercial real estate prices and malls? And do experts attribute this to the rise of online shopping? Or are other factors to blame?

Selling online to cash customers

How are online retailers catering to those without credit or debit cards? Last month, Amazon launched Amazon Cash, which allows customers without a credit or debit card to add money to their Amazon Balance with cash at a local retail location and then order online. Other examples of this concept include PayPal My Cash and PayNearMe. With the proliferation of data hacks, this idea could also appeal to people who are wary of entering credit or debit card data online.

Faster online shipping

With Amazon offering same-day delivery in some markets (and having just lowered its free shipping minimum back to $25 for non-Prime shoppers), other large online retailers are looking for ways to compete. For instance, Walmart recently announced a ship-to-store discount on online-only items. The strategy brings customers into stores and also reduces Walmart’s shipping costs compared to shipping to individual customer’s homes. What are other retailers in your area doing? If Amazon offers same-day delivery in your market, how does that work? Do they have warehouses locally storing popular items?

Reporter’s Resources

• National Retail Federation: This retail trade association represents internet retailers, discount and department stores, wholesalers and others. Its media center contains information on public policy impacting retailers and data on the retail industry.

• Internet Merchants Association: This trade association has been around since 2006 and specifically focuses on companies involved in online sales.

• Consulting companies: Consulting firms often have staff members specifically focused on following retail trends (whether online or brick-and-mortar), and understanding the landscape. They may be able to provide data and expert sources.