Following the infographic about what people buy online, I received the following note from reader Erin, who was kind enough to agree to her email being published:
I’m writing because I’ve seen the infographic you posted floating around the internet, and just wanted to point out that it is based on misleading census data. It grossly overstates the size of the online market in each of these categories.
The percentages shown here are actually E-commerce sales as a % of “Electronic shopping and mail order houses”. For example, it makes no sense that 58% of ALL food, beer and wine purchases would happen online. However, compared to mail order/catalog sales, this number makes sense. There are two tables of data that the census puts out on this issue– and the creator of this graphic only saw one. The other reports these numbers to be extremely low (e.g. only .2% of total food, wine and beer is bought online).
You can download the two tables I’m referring to here: http://www.census.gov/econ/estats/2008/2008tablespdf.html
Table 5 shows the “true” e-commerce percentages against total “retail trade” sales
Table 6 shows “U.S. Electronic Shopping and Mail Order Houses” (the misleading table)
I’m also happy to send along via email.
Even putting these two tables together, the data doesn’t 100% make sense– so I am by no means advocating for the Census on this one :)
From what I’ve seen, Euromonitor does a pretty good job of estimating online market sizes by country.
Sorry to bug you with this long message, I just hate to see (admittedly pretty) graphics convey misleading data!
So in summary:
The infographic actually shows the difference between what people buy via the Internet versus via direct mail catalogs, not in-store.