Survey: Shoppers, Sellers See Things Differently

Consumers are planning to start their holiday online shopping much earlier
than merchants anticipated, according to a new industry survey.

The report from affiliate marketing company LinkShare Corp. and BizRate.com says that 28 percent of the
more than 3,800 consumers polled plan to begin browsing online for holiday
gifts before October and almost half plan to shop online before November.

That response differs greatly from the expectations of the nearly 100 online
merchants polled, who said they thought that only 9 percent of consumers
would start shopping three months or more before the holidays.

The online survey, which posed questions to thousands of online
buyers per day at the point-of-purchase, revealed other discrepancies between
the attitudes and expectations of online buyers and online merchants.

Nearly one-third (31 percent) of the merchants surveyed believe that
guaranteed on-time delivery would be the incentive most likely to make a
consumer buy a product online this holiday season. But less than 10 percent
of consumers who responded agreed; free shipping and handling was the leading
incentive for almost half (48 percent) of the consumers surveyed to make a
purchase online, with product discounts driving
purchases for 22 percent.

Only one-third of the merchants surveyed believed free shipping and handling
would be the key incentive for consumers to buy online, while only 13 percent
of the merchants believed the same about product discounts.

LinkShare is a provider of partnership-based marketing programs on the Web.
BizRate.com, a provider of customer feedback to merchants on the Web,
conducted the survey online from June 2-4.

“This survey demonstrates that
merchants on the Web will need to be both nimble and flexible to meet
unexpected challenges posed by
e-commerce,” said LinkShare Chairman Stephen Messer.

“The discrepancies between the views of online buyers and e-retailers clearly
indicate the need for merchants to have better access to information about
what their customers are thinking when they buy online,” said Farhad Mohit,
president and CEO of Los Angeles-based BizRate.com.

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