E-Holiday Boasts High Customer Satisfaction

More than 90 percent of online shoppers were satisfied with their holiday shopping experiences and more than two-thirds plan to buy online again soon, according to a report released Monday by the NPD Group.

The NPD e-Visory shows that 57 percent of shoppers were “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their buying experiences during November and December. Another 35 percent were “somewhat satisfied,” while 8 percent claimed to be “not satisfied at all.”

The Port Washington, New York research firm suggested that shoppers gaining experience with buying online may account for the higher levels of satisfaction.

“Online shopping experience has taught consumers how to get the most out ofthe Internet,” NPD Online vice president Pamela Smith told the E-CommerceTimes. “Its becoming a real viable way to do yourshopping.”

In fact, many shoppers insulated themselves from frustrations such as site outages and items being out of stock by buying earlier.

“I think sites rose to the occasion and consumers are learning how to shoponline,” Smith said. “Consumers maybe learned from all the press last year about peoplegetting burned [at the holidays] online. They didnt wait until December 23rd tomake their purchase.”

Buying More Soon

When asked what held them back from buying more, 34 percent of Internet users who did not shop online cited the shipping fees associated with buying online as the reason for holding back.

Additionally, 35 percent of online buyers cited shipping as a reason for being dissatisfied.

“Sites have to understand where they can cut down on their costs so thatperhaps they can lower shipping fees or lower the cost of products, so totalcost is more in line with what you can go to the store and pay,” Smith said. “[Shippingcosts] are not stopping people from purchasing, but they are holding themback from buying more online.”

The best news in the survey may be the future plans of consumers. Sixty-eight percent said they will buy again online during the first three months of 2001, with 40 percent saying they will be back online to buy during the month of January.

E-tail’s Changing Face

The report also indicates that online shoppers are increasingly coming fromall walks of life. A little more than half of this year’s online holidaypurchasers were female, and slightly more than a third were over 45 years ofage. Half of the online shoppers surveyed had incomes under US$60,000.

“Well stop hearing so much now that the Internet is made up of the moreupscale and higher educated,” Smith said. “Theres still a skew toward that, but thedemographics are much more mainstream than last year.”

The new report also found online holiday revenues in 2000 came in nearly twotimes as high as those gained during the same period last year.

“Its really good news, especially in light of all the gloomy press aboutthe dot-coms,” Smith said. “Its enlightening to see consumers embracing online shoppingas a viable alternative. I do think theres a bright future ahead fore-commerce.”

Hard Times

Still, a majority of shoppers experienced some difficulty while shopping online. Those problems ranged from a shopping site being temporarily down (23 percent) to late shipments (14 percent) and poor customer service (6 percent).

Another 5 percent complained that the e-commerce company they wanted to visit was out of business.

Top Dogs

Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) was rated by e-shoppers as the most “important” online site. According to a recent report from Media Metrix, Amazon also won the race as the most-visited site during the season.

In terms of importance, Amazon was followed by eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY), Barnesandnoble.com (Nasdaq: BNBN), brick-and-click e-tailer JCPenney.com and thestruggling eToys (Nasdaq: ETYS), according to the survey respondents.

NPD Group said it will give a detailed breakdown of online spending habits and site penetration in a later report. The e-visory was based on interviews with 2,439 Web users.

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