Average order size increases nearly 7% as transactions fall, a new index shows.

Consumers who shop online are placing fewer but larger orders, resulting in a nearly 4% overall increase in sales through March of this year compared with the same period last year, Dydacomp says in a new index of small and mid-sized online retail businesses.

The Dydacomp SMB Index, prepared for Internet Retailer, is based on data compiled from more than 1.7 million orders per month at more than 1,500 e-commerce operators across more than 15 product categories—accounting for more than $200 million in combined monthly retail sale; the retailers are users of Dydacomp’s order management software.

The index showed a slight decline in sales, 0.84%, last month compared with March 2011, while year-to-date sales through March increased 3.85% year over year. Average order size grew in every category included in the index except for one, Tobacco Products/Alcohol. “Books (which includes publications from religious organizations), sporting goods and auto parts showed strong gains, while jewelry and tools were weakest,” says Fred Lizza, CEO of Dydacomp.

Following are the changes in gross merchandise sales across all retail channels for each product category in the index for March 2012 over March 2011, and for the year to date through March 2012 over the same period of 2011:

Advertising Specialties/Promotional Items, -12.47%, -2.47%

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Auto Parts, 3.18%, 10.41%

Books, 18.11%, 23.72%

Clothes, -10.47%, -6.37%

Consumer Electronics, -3.82%, 4.20%

Educational Training Materials, -22.62%, -4.59%

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Food/Health, -0.75%, 3.39%

Home Furnishings, -7.10%, 1.70%

Jewelry, -16.29%, -14.54%

Music/Video/DVD, -12.20%, -8.47%

Sporting Goods, 6.98%, 12.99%

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Tobacco Products/Alcohol, -1.88%, -1.15%

Tools/Hardware, -12.59%, -8.86%

Toys, -4.06%, 2.39%

Other, -12.51%, -5.91%

Total, 0.84%, 3.85%

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Following are the changes in the number of transactions across all retail channels for each product category in the index for March 2012 over March 2011, and for the year to date through March 2012 over the same period of 2011:

Advertising Specialties – Promotional Items, -16.58%, -9.32%

Auto Parts, 0.95%, 10.04%

Books, -0.83%, 6.09%

Clothes, -16.27%, -12.64%

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Consumer Electronics, -14.65%, -7.32%

Educational Training Materials, -34.00%, -15.06%

Food/Health, -2.48%. 0.29%

Home Furnishings, -9.62%, -4.39%

Jewelry, -31.86%, -30.42%

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Music/Video/DVD, -13.83%, -9.46%

Sporting Goods, -6.67%, -2.36%

Tobacco Products/Alcohol, -5.70%, -1.10%

Tools/Hardware, -13.80%, -9.48%

Toys, -7.47%, -4.09%

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Other, -23.81%, -16.05%

Total, -6.59%, -2.64%

Following are the changes in average order size across all retail channels for each product category in the index for March 2012 over March 2011, and for the year to date through March 2012 over the same period of 2011:

Advertising Specialties – Promotional Items, 4.93%, 7.54%

Auto Parts, 2.21%, 0.33%

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Books, 19.10%, 16.61%

Clothes, 6.92%, 7.18%

Consumer Electronics, 12.68%, 12.44%

Educational Training Materials, 17.25%, 12.33%

Food/Health, 1.77%, 3.09%

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Home Furnishings, 2.79%, 6.38%

Jewelry, 22.84%, 22.82%

Music/Video/DVD, 1.89%, 1.09%

Sporting Goods, 14.63%, 15.72%

Tobacco Products/Alcohol, 4.05%, -0.05%

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Tools/Hardware, 1.40%, 0.69%

Toys, 3.68%, 6.75%

Other, 13.4%, 11.22%

Total, 6.16%,  6.66%

Information in the Dydacomp SMB Index includes a small percentage of sales processed in stores and contact centers using Dydacomp’s order management software.

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