RealTime IT News

AOL Member Spending Doubles

Spurred by a doubling of e-commerce purchases by members, America Online Inc. rolled out a new layout in its shopping area and new tools for shoppers designed to streamline the buying process.

AOL said that its members are returning again and again to its Shop@AOL online marketplace to make their purchases, with total online spending by members rising to $4.9 billion in the quarter ending June 30 -- more than double the $2.4 billion spent in the same quarter last year, and up significantly from the $3.9 billion spent during the first quarter of this year.

In fact, AOL said that nearly 70 percent of its members made an online purchases in the past six months.

Shop@AOL now includes 37 category-specific shopping departments, ranging from Clothing & Accessories to Toys & Games, all of which now utilize new time-saving "fly-out" menus; a new Bargain Basement area; an enhanced Search function that includes product reviews, shipping information and the ability to list products by price or popularity; gift ideas and specialty shops conveniently accessible through the main Shop@AOL screen; and a new Shopping List that will enable shoppers to "bookmark" products to refer to or purchase later.

The new "fly-out" menus allow shoppers to flow seamlessly from department to department by significantly reducing the number of clicks users need to find and purchase products.

The Shop@AOL area also features a revamped main screen and an updated, layout that highlights one-touch access to various shopping departments.

Powered by SmartBargains, the new Bargain Basement area offers convenient access to discounted brands in men's and women's apparel, consumer electronics, kitchen appliances and other items for the home.

"The number of households shopping online is expected to double in the next two years, and when people come online they want to find a shopping experience that brings them the best selection of merchants, products and easy-to-use features," said Katherine Borsecnik, senior vice president for strategic businesses at AOL.

"The redesign enables us to offer consumers the latest features and innovative services available online."

Beginning later this fall, Shop@AOL users will find the search feature enriched with consumer product reviews entered by other AOL members. The new search results will offer more details, including product images, product descriptions and lists of key features, along with independent reviews of Shop@AOL retailers, offering details on the quality of the site, return policies and shipping charges.

In addition, merchants will have the opportunity to list information such as special offers, product availability, and shipping information in the Search results.

Shop@AOL is available to AOL members on the proprietary service at Shop@AOL, to CompuServe members at Shop@CompuServe, and to visitors through the Web at Shop@AOL.com, Shop@Netscape, Shop@Spinner and Shop@Gateway.