10.10 eCommerce Statistics

While you'll no doubt be overjoyed to discover that missing piece of your market study — that percentage increased confidence in ecommerce among Vietnamese communities, or whatever — it's worth reflecting on the accuracy and significance of your discovery. Surveys are generally based on a small sample of the population, and their success depends on the representativeness of that sample. Surveys are conducted in many ways, moreover, often a combination of ways — by telephone, email, mail shots, online (computer) surveys, mobile phone, personal at home, personal at shopping mall, etc.— and results can reflect the method used to collect the information: only the comparatively well-off in Vietnam would own a computer, for example.

A semi-US Government agency like Westat, which employs 5,000 interviewers to weekly feed 25,000 to 35,000 hours of results into 400 field stations for computer analysis, has several criteria to fulfill. Staff have to be trained at an appropriate level to handle responses in a similar way. Samples need to include factors that may be relevant: income, marital status, ethnicity, education, age, etc. Results are subject to the interviewees' motivation, honesty, memory, and ability to respond. Surveys may need to be repeated, particularly if results are off trend. And so on: surveys are a complicated matter, and there are suspicions that some market research companies may cut corners when times are hard.

Statistics, moreover, is a science or branch of mathematics, and has its own ways of assessing data reliability and the significance of results. Statistics is indeed an immensely complicated subject, and a great deal of forethought and experience is required to apply the right measures and draw meaningful conclusions. The larger market research companies do indeed have this expertise, but the extent to which it can be deployed is sometimes limited by the understanding and/or budgets of their clients.

Small businesses may be satisfied with ballpark figures: they need only to take advantage of a growing interest in some market sector, perhaps, but the same latitude does not apply to academic research, or to the econometric modeling a corporation may need to undertake in switching R & D funds to another field. Even incontrovertible facts like capital expenditure set down in company annual reports may prove deceptive on examination. Companies present their figure to burnish their reputations and minimize their tax liabilities, and it's not always clear what expenditure has been assigned to what, or whether indeed the figure represents true capital expenditure at all and not fixed cost given a good home for the present. Nor is the same figure appearing in different sources sufficient grounds for optimism — indeed the opposite on occasion, given the way information is cheerfully copied across the Internet. Data quality is always of first importance, and while some figures have to be accepted in good faith, industry experts can often make shrewd adjustments where outsiders must take matters at their face value.

Chief Sources

Actinic Surveys. Surveys of ecommerce experience of Actinic merchants: free but generally more Europe-based.

Comscore. Consumer Internet behavior in the US and Europe.

Clickz. Web site with statistics and web marketing information, gathered from key data sources, such as Jupiter Media Metrix and Nielsen/Net Ratings.

Digital Economy in Canada. Statistics links listed on Research and Statistics page.

eCommerce Facts. Useful roundups of ecommerce surveys and news.

eConsultancy. Internet statistics reports by geographic block: US$400/report or US$495 for one year's 350 reports.

eMarketer. Excellent reports, articles, statistics and news on ecommerce and marketing from over 4,000 sources..

E-Stats. Official Census Bureau's surveys of ecommerce activity in the US economy.

GVU WWW Surveys. Detailed surveys of world wide web users' behavior: several years out of date but detailed and still valuable for understanding customer preferences.

Internet / E-commerce Statistics. Key statistics on Canada and worldwide ecommerce-related matters.

Internet News: Stats. Continuous compilation of business ecommerce statistics from industry sources.

Internet World Stats. Detailed Internet statistics by country, region and world groupings.

Marketing Charts. Free informative charts on many aspects of ebusiness

Wilsonweb. Large collection of articles, including ecommerce statistics in the free Web Marketing Today Research Room.

Subsidiary Sources

Browser Statistics. Internet browsers in use worldwide: generally retrospective by 10 months.

Cybermaps. Geographies of the Internet, web and emerging cyberspaces.

eBillMe. Quarterly index of US online spending habits.

Entrepreneur. 2006 compilation of ecommerce statistics.

Federal Statistics. Statistics from over 100 US federal agencies.

Gallup Organization. Polls on most aspects of life: results free online: also offer books and courses.

International Data Corp. Commercial surveys and assessments of IT and associated industries.

Internet Statistics and Resources. Infoplease's listing: much is now dated.

Internet Traffic Report. Monitors the current flow of data around the world.

Internet World Stats. Internet usage and world population statistics: usually 6 months in the past.

ISC Domain Survey. Growth of domain names: statistics from 1994.

Marketing Charts. 76 free charts provided quarterly.

MIT eCommerce Forum. MIT library's listing of ecommerce statistics sources.

Net Market Share. Current market share of browsers, search engines, etc.

Statistical Abstract of the United States. Authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States.

Top 250 Retailers. NRF Store's listing of top 250 retailers globally.

TrendWatching. Tracks consumer trends: free monthly briefing, plus premium service.

UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report 2010. Summary on site: full report worth £149 free on registering.

ZookNic. Domain name location and Internet access by country.