Most Holiday Shoppers Will Keep Clicking

Study results released yesterday by Andersen Consulting show that 96 percent of 1999 holiday Internet buyers anticipate using the Web for holiday shopping this year, and 72 percent intend to use the Internet for day-to-day shopping in 2000.

The study also indicates that despite widespread shopping problems, 73 percent of Internet shoppers ranked online shopping higher than brick retailers or catalog sales for overall satisfaction.

High Rank in Spite of Problems

Other figures show that 88 percent of experienced Web shoppers abandoned their online shopping carts at some point during their gift buying, and 40 percent reported various problems. Still, shoppers reported that the Internet outperformed brick stores and catalogs in price, selection, convenience and time saved.

“Even though online shopping has its flaws, experienced Internet users love shopping on the Web. But the long-term message is clear: Internet retailers must solve their infrastructure problems or suffer consequences,” said Steve Johnson, Andersen Consulting partner and co-director of the firm’s e-commerce program.

Stock and Delivery Snafus

The study reported that out-of-stock products led the problem list, followed by untimely product delivery. Other complaints included high delivery prices, connection or download trouble, no confirmation of order, and limited selections.

“Thirty-five percent of online shoppers who experienced problems on a particular site left that site for another,” said Johnson. “Given high customer acquisition costs, e-tailers can’t continue to lose one of every three consumers and expect to survive. Their top concern must be infrastructure improvements.”

The solution for e-tailers may be tougher than simply improving service, stock and infrastructure. Amazon.com, which is famous for its high customer service and always-in-stock product selection, was heavily criticized for its inability to turn a profit on its high-revenue fourth quarter holiday-shopping season. Amazon.com cited investment in infrastructure and stock as the reason for its losses.

Toys, Books, CDs

Toys led the product category list for Internet holiday shoppers, although these consumers still bought more of their toys from brick stores. Books came in second, beating brick bookstores. Next came CDs and videos, followed by clothing.

Apparel was a closely watched category during the 1999 holiday shopping season, with some experts showing open skepticism about consumer acceptance of online clothing purchasing. Indeed, the Andersen study delivered mixed results. Twenty-nine percent of Internet shoppers bought apparel online last month, but 41 percent of those same shoppers bought clothes from catalogs, and 81 percent purchased apparel at brick stores.

Queries Before and After Holiday Season

New York-based Andersen Consulting queried 1,492 online shoppers for its study. Five hundred and forty-one of these Internet users responded to a follow-up poll during the period of December 27th through January 3rd.

Andersen Consulting is an $8.3 billion global management and technology consulting company.

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