RealTime IT News

A Triumph of Hope Over Experience

In what represents a stunning triumph of hope over experience, 96 percent of last year's online holiday shoppers in the United States intend to purchase gifts online again this year, even though more than half of them have experienced "a purchase failure."

That research finding comes from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Harris Interactive.

"In spite of a high incidence of out-of-stock items, system crashes, poor selection and delivery problems, the vast majority of last year's online holiday shoppers said they are willing to give it another go," said Michael Silverstein, BCG senior vice president and head of the firm's consumer practice.

Is there a catch? Well, yes. "Many consumers aren't ... prepared to go back to the sites where they experienced the purchase failure in the first place," Silverstein said. "They will go to different online retailers."

But despite the problems, consumers see the online channel as a convenient and accessible place "for easy, no pressure shopping," he said.

The research shows that online shoppers who purchased online last holiday season experienced a variety of failures:

28 percent wanted to buy an item that was out of stock; 22 percent gave up trying to buy an item because the Web pages took too long to load and another 17 percent gave up because the system crashed; 17 percent experienced delivery problems - either the item was delivered late, damaged, never came at all, or the wrong item was sent; and 15 percent simply couldn't find what they wanted.

Despite these failures, 88 percent of survey respondents said they intend to buy as many or more gifts online this year as they did last year, and they also expect to spend more. In 1999, the average online shopper spent $170 on holiday gifts, this year, those same consumers expect to spend $240.

"This year, more consumers will be doing their holiday shopping online -- with up to 70 percent of the online population in the U.S. indicating that they are considering buying gifts over the Internet this season," said Lori Iventosch-James, director of e-commerce research for Harris Interactive.

Even those who don't buy online will be using the Internet to research purchases, the survey found. More than a quarter of shoppers in this category said they will use the Internet to compare prices, review product information and generate gift ideas before they head out to the stores.

Almost half of this year's holiday online shoppers have not bought holiday gifts over the Internet before, and another 10 percent will be completely new to online shopping. This first-time online shopper will be the most cautious of all. Newbies will spend only 7 percent of their holiday shopping budget online, the research showed.

The findings were obtained from an online survey completed by 5,226 Internet users over the age of 18 who live in the U.S. The survey was conducted by The Boston Consulting Group and Harris Interactive during October 2000. Results were weighted to reflect the U.S. online population.