Shmuel Gniwisch, the CEO of the online jewelry store Ice.com, thinks so. He doesn't have hard evidence that the cost of driving to stores will drive people online, but he's putting his money where his mouth is: This holiday season, for the first time, he will offer free shipping on any order and free returns. Of course, jewelry doesn't cost that much to ship, but he thinks the offers will be the extra push for the "fence sitters who have a hard time purchasing on the Net." (And according to Forrester Research, that's almost 30% of North American consumers.)
Some online retailers are already worried about gas prices pushing their costs higher, so it's a bold move. But some folks like Jay Small at Poynteronline think online stores ought to use gas prices as a marketing tactic: "Don't drive, just click." Given that e-commerce otherwise is pretty healthy these days, I wouldn't be surprised if other players follow that advice.