RealTime IT News

'Tis the Season of More

There's more of everything online this holiday e-commerce season, according to new research results: the number of online purchasers is up, with 49 million consumers spending, on average, 38 percent more on holiday gifts than last year's online purchasers.

That's according to new research released today by The Boston Consulting Group and Harris Interactive.

But there is a caveat, the research found - despite the plethora of shoppers, online retailers are failing to fully capitalize on growing consumer demand "as many potential online holiday shoppers have opted not to purchase online."

As of Dec. 11, the average online holiday shopper had already bought six gifts totaling $234, up from $170 last year, the study found. In addition, the number of online holiday shoppers grew 23 percent compared to the 1999 holiday season, with 40 percent of the online population having bought a holiday gift online.

Yet a significant percentage of consumers who had earlier considered doing their holiday shopping online decided not to do so. Research conducted in October showed that 70 percent of the online population was contemplating doing some part of their holiday shopping online. The new research shows that 27 million of those consumers, who represent 22 percent of the total online population, decided against purchasing holiday gifts online this year.

"While online retailers have been able to encourage individual consumers to do more holiday shopping online, there are still far too many consumers sitting on the fence," said Michael Silverstein, BCG senior vice president and leader of the firm's consumer practice. "These are the consumers who won't believe in online retailing as a reliable alternative to traditional shopping during the holiday season until they try it for themselves, or a friend or relative convinces them otherwise. Word of mouth drives usage. So far, consumers are telling each other, it's a mixed bag."

The survey revealed that 79 percent of online holiday shoppers said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their holiday shopping experience, with 90 percent indicating that the product selection online was as good as or better than it is off-line.

Twenty-one percent of consumers, however, have experienced a purchasing problem of some kind -- such as receiving an incomplete order or receiving the wrong or a damaged gift. So far, 11 percent of gifts ordered online were received later than the scheduled delivery date, the research found.

"Despite nagging problems with delivery, consumer satisfaction remains quite high. Only three percent of consumers have expressed a clear dissatisfaction with their online holiday shopping experience," said Lori Iventosch-James, director of e-commerce research for Harris Interactive.

The findings were obtained from an online survey of 1,930 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 from Dec. 8 to 11.