Cards, E-Mail Take the Holiday Cake

Plenty of Americans used the Internet this holiday season, they just didn’t use it to buy things. According to a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Americans used the Internet for its original purpose, which was to communicate, not sell toys.

More Americans used the Internet to celebrate and socialize than to make purchases, according to the Pew Project’s report, “The Holidays Online: E-Mails and E-Greetings Outpace E-Commerce.” More people used the Internet during the holidays to arrange get-togethers and send holiday e-greeting cards than to buy holiday gifts online. Pew also found that a substantial number of Americans used the Internet to track down new ideas for holiday celebrations, including tips on holiday crafts and recipes, or to learn more about holiday religious traditions.

Top Shopping Sites
Week of 12/30/00
Rank Site % Audience
1. 13.2% 12,186
2. 11.0% 10,184
3. 9.3% 8,601
4. 6.7% 6,205
5. 5.1% 4,682
6. 4.0% 3,679
7. 3.4% 3,172
8. 3.0% 2,743
9. 2.8% 2,597
10. 2.8% 2,561
Source: PC Data Online

Among the findings of the Pew Internet Project study:

  • 53 percent of Internet users (more than 51 million people) sent emails during the holiday season to relatives and friends to discuss the holidays or make plans.
  • 32 percent of Internet users (more than 30 million people) sent e-greeting cards to loved ones and friends.
  • 24 percent of Internet users went to the Web to get information on crafts and recipes, and to get other ideas for holiday celebrations.
  • 14 percent of Internet users researched religious information and traditions.

By comparison, 24 percent of Internet users purchased gifts online. Some 45 percent of Internet users said they went online to get gift ideas and 32 percent said they used the Web to compare prices.

“During the holidays, online Americans were more inclined to use the Internet for social purposes than commercial purposes,” said Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet Project. “People used email to connect, catch up, and make plans. They used the Web as a vast resource to help them get new ideas to enrich their celebrations.”

Those who did make purchases online were generally pleased by the experience and said they saved money and time. But the study contains some tough numbers for online retailers to swallow: An equal number of Internet users (24 percent) stopped an online purchase in mid-transaction as those who completed one. Some 22 percent of Internet users who shopped online last year during the holidays did not do so this year. These are the “click offs” and they outnumber the “click ins” — the 6 percent of Internet users who for the first time bought holiday gifts online during the holidays in 2000.

“We have seen once again that people value having control when they are online, and they believe that they retain a large measure of that when they are sending emails, online greeting cards, or searching for information about holiday traditions,” said John Horrigan, Senior Researcher at the Pew Internet Project. “Online shopping means relying on other people or systems to safely transmit the credit card data, pack the right size and color in the box, and get it to a destination on time. These systems usually work well for online shopping, but more people clearly prefer the social dimensions of online life, where they have greater control over what’s going on.”

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