Direct-to-Customer Commerce

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Strategic insights into the direct commerce industry, including ecommerce, direct marketing and related fields

Why have direct commerce sales held up better than overall retail sales?

First, I suppose I should document the inference in my question that direct commerce sales have held up better.  Based upon Retail Sales data from economy.com, the following facts are in evidence:

  • Current retail sales (actually, Aug 2009) are just a little below what they were in Oct 2008.  But they are also about the same as they were in Dec 2005 / Jan 2006.  Overall, a drop of 7.5 percent from their peak in Nov 2007.
  • In contrast, current direct commerce sales (Jul 2009), which also peaked in Nov 2007, are down only 2.25% from their peak.

Why?

I suggest there are two reasons:

First, the decline in retail sales driven by the general downturn in the economy has resulted is even less staff at retail stores, resulting in even poorer customer service, resulting in more customers being driven away from stores.

Second, direct commerce has always been driven more by convenience than by price.  And affluent consumers are more interested in convenience than price.  So, affluent consumers, who are less affected by the economic downturn, have sustained sales at direct commerce businesses to a greater extent than retail stores.

The Implications

My concern about this is the longer term effects, when retail managers recognize that their retail store sales will recover regardless of the poor quality of their customer relationships.  If they can get by with fewer staff now, can they get by with fewer staff later?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I bet they’re going to try.

This is just one reason why joblessness recovers more slowly than the economy.

This also explains the continuing pressure on businesses of all types to move to the internet for their core business functions — it allows them to accomplish as much if not more with the same or fewer employees.

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