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U.S. Likes Cybershopping During Work Hours

New figures from ecommerce company CyberSource show that most online shopping in the U.S. happens during what would be considered “working hours,” despite the proliferation of broadband Internet access to American homes.

According to CyberSource, numbers from the week of December 3rd to 9th were typical, with online shopping transactions peaking at 4 P.M. Eastern Time, 1 P.M. Pacific. Similarly, online transactions hit their nadir between 2 A.M. and 7 A.M. Eastern (11 P.M. and 4 A.M., Pacific). The highest volume of online shopping happens on Mondays and Tuesdays, with Saturdays and Sundays typically showing the lowest volume.

“We’ve all seen the numbers—broadband is now in two-thirds of American homes equipped for the Internet,” said Doug Schwegman, CyberSource director of market and customer intelligence, in a statement. “But our processing stats say the majority of people are still doing their online shopping from the office.”

Although it might be comfortable to infer that online shoppers must, of course, be in an office at 4 P.M. Eastern/1 P.M. Pacific, CyberSource’s numbers don’t provide any evidence to that effect, and Schwegman’s conclusion might be generously described as a bit of “old world thinking.” Given the number of professionals who telecommute, work from home, own their own businesses, work on “flex-time” schedules, it’s likely that many shoppers CyberSource seems to think are sapping productivity from the American economy by shopping at work are, in fact, shopping on their own time. And as an increasing number of business procure supplies and services online, a number of them might even be shopping online as part of their jobs. And gosh, there might be an online shopper or two outside of the U.S., skewing the timestamp data.

Which is not to say the availability of broadband Internet to U.S. homes isn’t increasing the amount of online commerce taking place during Schwegmans’ non-work hours: the number of online commerce transactions continues to grow, and the relative gap between the highest and lowest volume hours is decreasing. According to CyberSource, in the same week in 2004, the difference between the lowest and the highest number of transactions was approximately 300 percent, while in 2006 that difference was just 160 percent.

“We believe several factors are at work here: one, the widespread availability of broadband, so people can conveniently shop from home, and two, the globalization of ecommerce. We know from our latest fraud survey that many of our large merchants have 17 percent or more of their volume coming from outside the U.S. Just last year, that percentage was 14 percent.”