New Shoppers Hitting the Net This Season

Nearly half (45 percent) of the shoppers making purchases on the Internet this holiday season will be doing so for the first time, according to a survey by Active Research.

One-third of new online buyers are choosing e-tailers based on their brand name and whether or not they have a brick-and-mortar presence. Brand is less important for experienced holiday shoppers (14 percent) who are more concerned about a retailer’s product availability (18 percent), showing perhaps they’ve learned a less on or two from past experiences. Active Research’s study of 1,135 online shoppers also found that Americans above the age of 55 will spend more online per person than any other age group, an average of $521 per person.

Other findings of the Active Research study include:

  • E-commerce shoppers are expecting to spend an average of $388 online this season, compared to $607 in brick and mortar.
  • By gender, men are expected to outspend women by 28 percent overall, but only 20 percent online.
  • “Heavy” online shoppers expect to spend $1,045 online this year, compared to $243 for medium spenders and $17 for light spenders. Heavy spenders are most concerned about price (34 percent) followed by product availability when choosing an online retailer.
  • 34 percent of all e-commerce shoppers have increased their online holiday purchases from last year, whereas 15 percent expect to spend the same amount this year,

E-tailers seem to be holding up their end of the bargain at the customer service end. According to the results from week three of the Robertson Stephens Holiday Online Shopping Study conducted by BizRate.com, overall customer satisfaction increased to an 8.42 on a scale of 1 to 10, versus 8.39 through the first two weeks, and compared to last year’s cumulative level of 8.51 following the first week of December.


Highest Percentage
of Cyber Shoppers*
Washington DC 60%
Seattle 59%
San Francisco 58%
Baltimore 56%
Austin, TX 56%
Lowest Percentage
of Cyber Shoppers*
Fresno, CA 39%
Greenville, SC 39%
Lexington, KY 37%
Orlando, FL 37%
San Antonio, TX 37%
* adults with Net access who purchase online
Source: Scarborough Research

The Robertson Stephens study also found that first-time buyers like an offline presence. Nine of the top 10 sites in attracting first-time online buyers have an offline presence, the study found. Thirty-five percent of respondents in Week 3 were driven to a site by a promotion. Through three weeks, 32 percent of the respondents have visited a site based on promotional activity, slightly below last year’s 35 percent. Sixty-nine percent have taken advantage of free or discounted shipping promotions and 59 percent have purchased an item due to price discounts.

Scarborough Research found that Washington, DC topped the nationwide standings with 60 percent of “cyber shoppers” — adults with Internet access at home and/or at work purchasing items or services online. Following closely — and well above the nation’s average — are Seattle (59 percent); San Francisco (58 percent); Baltimore and Austin, TX tied with 56 percent penetration.

Ranking on the low end with the least number of wired adults using the Internet to purchase goods or services are: San Antonio, TX (37 percent); Orlando, FL (37 percent); Lexington, KY (37 percent); Greenville, SC (39 percent); and Fresno, CA (39 percent).

“Despite the Internet becoming a mainstream phenomenon and the increasing popularity of shopping online, we continue to see significant differences across the local markets as evidenced by the varying incidence of Internet penetration and online shopping,” said Bob Cohen, president, Scarborough Research. “This is not surprising, given that shopping choices are largely still determined by the structure of the local retail marketplace. E-commerce driven ‘dot coms’ should recognize that this study identifies an opportunity, especially with the holiday season upon us, for them to closely target the local markets that rank high for shopping. This will give them a stronger likelihood for reaching their potential cyber shoppers.”

Scarborough’s study found that cyber shoppers spend varying degrees of time online. The largest portion, 35 percent, spent between one and four hours of their time a week on the Internet. Almost a quarter (23 percent) spent between five and nine hours, and 28 percent spend more that 10 hours a week on the Internet. Cyber shoppers also tend to be slightly more male (56 percent), between 18 and 34 (39 percent) and married (58 percent). Almost three-fourths have attended at least one year of college (73 percent) and two-thirds own their own home. This group of online consumers is affluent with more than one-third (35 percent) making $75,000 or more, over one-third (67 percent) own a cell phone, and half (50 percent) have a gold or platinum credit card.

Scarborough’s data was based on 87,200 randomly selected interviews conducted among adults ages 18+ across 64 leading US markets.

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