Study: E-tailers Missing Holiday Mark

Although many e-tailers are frantically ramping up their offerings andservices for the holiday season, 42 percent of consumers willnot purchase gifts online within the coming weeks, according to a new surveyby and BBBOnline, the Internet arm of the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

While many e-tailers would be more than satisfied with havingaccess to 58 percent of the buying public, the data also showsthat only 16 percent of those who purchased goods on theWeb over the past year will definitely buyonline again this year. Even among frequent e-shoppers who had purchased online four or more times in the past year, only one-third said they plan to do so for theholidays.

Instead, many of those surveyed said they will be taking theirbusiness to brick-and-mortar mass merchandisers, department stores,specialty boutiques and mail order catalogs.

Privacy Concerns Linger

Consumers’ worries over online privacy issues continue to pose a major obstacle for e-tailers looking to generate widespread consumer acceptance. Over half of those customerssurveyed said they were troubled that their personal financial informationmay not be secure throughout an Internet transaction.

At the same time, the survey found that Web merchants can take steps to ease theseconcerns. For instance, more than 40 percent of respondents said the display of a security trust mark or certifying seal was an important consideration when shopping online.

Beefing Up Service

According to the BBBOnline, which works in conjunction with 145 BBBs in theUnited States and Canada, e-tailers that do not provide a satisfactoryexperience run the risk of alienating shoppers. Nearly half of the Net shopperssurveyed noted that good customer service contributes to their decision tomake online purchases.

A customer who has a positive experience can propel the growth of an e-commerce site’s customer base.Almost 80percent of respondents said they rely on the advice and recommendations of family and friendswho have already made purchases from a particular online marketer.

The study also cited measures that e-tailers can take in order to boostconsumer confidence, including implementing real-time inventory features,ensuring that mistaken items are not delivered, and providing for rapid fulfillment of orders. Other policies that reassure customers are repairing server outages and other problems quickly, and displaying security and privacy policies.

Seeing Slowdowns

A recent study from Nielsen//NetRatings bolsters these findings, as researchers concluded that key e-tailers saw only modest growth in traffic from the last week in October through the first full week in November.

NetRatings attributed the lackluster start toseveral possible factors, including the recent closing of severalhigh-profile pure plays and a decline in dot-com advertising on televisionand radio.

Another study, however, reinforced the findings by the BBB and that a key to e-commerce success was turningonline shoppers into repeat customers. According to Deloitte & Touche andthe National Retail Federation, 91 percent of those who made an onlinepurchase in the past year plan to conduct e-commerce transactions thisholiday season.

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