Sandy Brings E-Commerce Uptick, And Headaches Too

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There's a demonstrated link between foul weather and e-commerce revenue. Storms bring more shopping activity, higher order volume, and higher value per order.  They also create a data retargeting opportunity, as website visits increase.

But when the weather turns from unpleasant to destructive – as it did with "Superstorm" Sandy this week – that link can quickly flip to an inverse correlation for businesses and consumers alike. Websites go down, homes lose power, orders fall. Fulfillment breaks down for companies in stricken regions or for consumers whose UPS and USPS service has been disrupted. Shipping improvements may actually exacerbate the delivery issue, as Amazon Prime and its two-day delivery promise create unreasonable expectations.

So it has been with Sandy, which has provided a sales lift to some (but not all) shopping sites. Despite the uptick, many New York- and New Jersey-based companies are still coping with power outages and other infrastructure breakdowns.

Here's what we know right now about e-commerce during and after Sandy:

  • Birchbox notified customers by email that its New York office and New Jersey warehouse are closed until further notice, and delivery will be delayed.
  • Fab.com likewise appears to be struggling to fill orders, its warehouses without power amid higher order volume, as reported by Reuters. The same story noted Gilt Groupe is extending delivery times and glasses seller Warby Parker moved to temporary office.
  • On Monday 1-800-Flowers.com reported a site outage in the late evening but was back up by Tuesday morning. (DailyDeal Media)
  • Two large marketplaces, eBay and Buy.com, emailed customers on behalf of merchants in the storm's path. (AmazonGenius)
  • Bonanza.com and TIAS.com said sales were up during the storm, and a few others observed no change.  (EcommerceBytes)

But if the storm has put a crimp in some companies' activities, it hasn't noticeably hurt the national players. Amazon did notify resellers to stay in close contact with customers in Sandy's path, but it hasn't posted any notifications on its homepage – other than a link to Donate to The Red Cross.

Perhaps more telling, Amazon today released its Black Friday Deals Store right on schedule.

 

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