Shoppers Have High, E-Apple Pie Hopes

Consumers who shop the Web this holiday season will have higher expectations
than ever before, and many online businesses may not be prepared, says a new
industry study.


In polling the top management at 150 e-tailers and comparing their thoughts
with those of 600 consumers, AT&T said it found that 97 percent of
the consumers who shopped online during the 1999 holiday season expect to
shop online in this season.


And among consumers who did not shop online in 1999, half said they plan to
give it a try during the 2000 holiday season. In fact, online shopping volume
is likely to increase as high-speed Internet access modes, such as DSL and
cable modems, grow in popularity, AT&T said.


“The 2000 holiday season will be a make-or-break season for many online
retailers,” said Kathleen Earley, president of AT&T Data and Internet
Services. “Last year proved to be a training ground for companies. Some Web
businesses reaped the financial rewards of being well prepared for the
holiday crush. This year, even more consumers will be online, and their
expectations are high, so businesses have to gear up. If they don’t,
they’ll be shut out.”


What do consumers want? Well, privacy, for one thing. The survey found that
more than three-fourths of respondents said concern about the security of
their personal and financial information affects their willingness to shop
online.


What else? Half of the respondents say businesses should build Web sites that
are more user-friendly. Consumers want faster download times and Web sites
that don’t crash during peak times.


They also want a better sense of where on the Internet they can find who’s
selling what. And of course they want be assured that products are in stock
and will be delivered on time..


Interestingly, when senior decision-makers at online retailers were asked to
review their
performance during the 1999 holiday season, they gave themselves fairly low
scores — only two out of five rated their season as “very successful.” And
one quarter of businesses said last year’s holiday season was “not at all
successful.”


What separates the successful from the unsuccessful? Pretty much just the
basics. The AT&T study shows that nothing replaces a well-designed and
well-functioning Web
site, e-commerce experience, a strong customer focus and good external
technology partners, especially in Web hosting.


AT&T said it has created an online shopping guide for consumers, “Tips for Cyber-Shopping,” that
is available on the company’s Web site. The guide covers the basics of safe
shopping online, and includes special sections on customer support, security
and privacy, tips for parents and recognizing and dealing with fraud. The
guide also includes information on how to contact the Washington, D.C.-based
National Fraud Information Center and Internet Fraud Watch.


For businesses of all sizes , the company offers a variety of hosting options
including a complete e-commerce solution as well as its Intelligent Content Distribution
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