Consumers, E-Tailers on Different Pages

A survey on holiday e-commerce expectations by LinkShare and BizRate.com found that online merchants and consumers are not on the same page when it comes to preparing for the holiday rush.

According to the survey, 28 percent of the more than 3,800 consumers polled plan to begin browsing online for holiday gifts before October, and almost half plan to shop online before November. That response differs greatly from the expectations of the nearly 100 online merchants polled, who had anticipated that only 9 percent of consumers would start shopping three months or more before the holidays.

Timing isn’t the only area where merchants and consumers aren’t connecting. Nearly one-third (31 percent) of the merchants surveyed believe that guaranteed on-time delivery will be the incentive most likely to make a consumer buy a product online this holiday season. But less than 10 percent of consumers who responded agreed. Free shipping and handling was the leading incentive for almost half (48 percent) of the consumers surveyed to make a purchase online, with product discounts driving purchases for 22 percent. Only one-third of the merchants survey thought free shipping and handling would be the key incentive for consumers to buy online, while only 13 percent of the merchants believed the same about product discounts.

“It’s clear that online selling will become increasingly important as we pass into the year 2000 and beyond,” said Stephen Messer, Chairman of LinkShare. “This survey demonstrates that merchants on the Web will need to be both nimble and flexible to meet unexpected challenges posed by e-commerce.”

The survey also revealed divergent views from the two groups on the subject of challenges to online buyers during the upcoming holiday season. Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of online merchants believe that customer support will pose the biggest challenge to online buyers — a view shared by only 10 percent of online consumers. Consumers said their biggest worry is that they will not receive their holiday purchases on time, with 48 percent saying product availability and on-time delivery will be their major concern when shopping online this holiday season.

“The discrepancies between the views of online buyers and e-tailers clearly indicate the need to have better access to information about what their customers are thinking when they buy online,” said BizRate.com President and CEO Farhad Mohit.

If there’s one thing consumers aren’t going to be concerned with while shopping online for the holidays, it isn’t Y2K. Ninety-two percent of those surveyed said Y2K will have little or no effect on their online shopping this year.

The survey was carried out via a Flash Survey™, a real-time online survey posing questions to online buyers at the point of purchase.

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