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RealTime IT News

E-Tailing Giants Grab Lion's Share

American consumers spent an estimated $6.2 billion online this past holiday season, but most people (87 percent of shoppers) tended to confine their shopping to a maximum of three different retailers' sites, meaning that the big dogs of e-tailing got the lion's share of the pie.

The report from e-consulting and research firm Gartner Group Inc. found that Amazon.com was the most dominant purchasing site, with 28 percent of all buyers purchasing at least some gifts there.

"Consumers don't yet see the Web the same way they see a shopping mall, as a place to stroll, browse and window shop in search of gifts," said David Schehr, research director for Gartner's e-Business Services group.

"Consumers continue to show that they use sites they are already familiar with, and in most cases for only those things they've come to expect at the sites. Other research we've completed shows that consumers don't usually think of the sites they use as one-stop shopping locations, but more as specialty stores for selected categories."

Gartner's survey showed that nearly 25 million American consumers bought gifts online this past holiday season.

However, the idea of shopping at a "cybermall" was not particularly prevalent in the survey results. When asked, 70 percent of online gift buyers responded that they generally had a particular item or product in mind when they went online to buy.

Only 22 percent of online gift buyers said that they generally browsed a variety of sources without a specific item in mind.

Meanwhile, another survey, this one from Cognitiative Inc. and Greenfield Online, found that 92 percent of all online consumers actually shopped online this holiday season and of the consumers who shopped online, 84 percent also bought online.

Overall, the expectations of holiday shoppers were met among 70 percent of online shoppers and exceeded among 23 percent. Close to 50 percent reported spending more online this year than last, and 55 percent of consumers predict their online shopping will increase in 2001.

Greatest online purchase growth came from experienced online shoppers, rather than consumers who were new to the Web, as first-time shoppers represented only 12 percent of online buyers and an even smaller percentage among the big spenders, the survey found.

"The experienced shopper bought a larger proportion of their purchases online this year than ever before," said Laurie Windham, founder and CEO of Cognitiative Inc. "And the highest volume purchaser was the happiest customer. The implications are significant to Web sites as they develop customer acquisition and retention programs. The customer who buys the most is the experienced and satisfied online buyer."

That survey's finding regarding the "range" of shopping sites resembled the Gartner study, showing 52 percent of shoppers bought from only two to four sites.