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Savvy Shoppers Spark New Online Trends

By Paul A. Greenberg
Nov 29, 1999 12:00 AM PT

It's official: E-tailers had a stellar holiday weekend, with brisk sales and vigorous activity fueled by savvy shoppers who have been doing their homework. The consumer is now well-equipped to sidestep inefficient or rigid e-tailers and carve out the best online deals with a maximum of convenience.

Savvy Shoppers Spark New Online Trends

Self-Education

Shoppers are increasingly shopping by item rather than by Web site, and many have discovered bots such as MySimon, shopper.com or dealpilot.com.

E-tailers that use shipping and handling as a profit center may suffer losses in the long run, as smart shoppers find better delivery deals on competing sites. Sites that offer to ship purchases to more than one address are perceived as more customer-friendly.

Companies with brick-and-mortar stores that accept returns from e-tail sites are more attractive to online shoppers. Those without traditional stores will benefit by making returns easy and economical.

Displaying the TRUSTe seal or a Better Business Bureau symbol on the homepage is sometimes enough to win the shopper's confidence. Shoppers are also checking for the padlock that appears on secure sites when they enter credit card information.

People still need people. Sites with no possibility of human contact for the customer are at a disadvantage. Shoppers want to be able to talk to a real person in real time. Toll-free numbers are big winners.

Shoppers want to buy as much as they can at one site to avoid having to repeatedly enter their personal information, and the easier they find the navigation through the site, the better. Sites with FAQ links have an advantage.

Comparison shopping is gaining a foothold in the industry, with a number of companies offering assistance in scouring the Web for the best price. Just like in traditional malls, price and brand names still count. Vigilant retailers are doing whatever they can to make their offers irresistible.

Quick, splashy promotions may garner quick sales, but not necessarily customer loyalty. Jupiter Communications reports that online promotions are most effective when aimed at a long-term marketing campaign.

Last Minute Shoppers

NetRatings, an online monitoring firm, reports that retail online traffic increased 25 percent between Friday, November 19th, and the Friday after Thanksgiving, with toy retailers realizing a 51 percent jump in the number of shoppers.

Still, e-tailers can count on a flurry of activity close to Christmas Day. Those with powerful delivery systems in place that can accommodate last-minute shoppers may emerge as the true winners.

With the busiest shopping day of the year traditionally falling on the Saturday before Christmas, e-tailers will have a full week to deliver the goods this year.


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