KEEPING CUSTOMERS CONTENT YEAR-ROUND

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — Internet shoppers spent $10.8 billion online during holiday 2000 — or 54 percent more than they did a year earlier — according to fresh figures from Jupiter Research. Now, says the Internet consultant, the question is: How do e-tailers spark consumption on a comparable scale, year-round?
Spurring the surge in cybersales during November and December, Jupiter noted, were the roughly 36 million U.S. consumers who spent an average of $304 online during that period. The volume of $10.8 billion they produced on the Web compares with sales of $7 billion in the prior-year period, and marks more than a twofold run-up over transactions totaling $3.1 billion for holiday 1998.
“E-tailers who invested in improving back-end operations last year were winners in satisfying holiday online shoppers,” observed Jupiter Research analyst Heather Dougherty, referring to the firm’s Post-Holiday 2000 Consumer Survey disclosed Thursday. “Moving forward, however, the challenge is to retain and expand customer relationships and continue to increase online sales to justify those investments in operations, well into 2001.”
Jupiter Research culled the data and made its resulting recommendations to e-tailers based on a survey of more than 2,000 Internet users in the U.S. The post-holiday research further revealed:
Pure-plays got plenty of action. Despite the deluge of dot-com bombs, online shoppers still shopped many Internet-only e-tailers, with 35 percent transacting purchases at such Web sites, versus the 37 percent who said they bought something from e-tailers who also have a catalog or stores.
Cybershoppers had heightened expectations of online shopping, but also liked what they found online: 90 percent were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with buying on the Web.
The mass market consumer emerged in November and December as online shoppers became more diverse in terms of age, gender and income, and Web sites such as Sears.com, Target.com and BlueLight.com rolled out significantly expanded assortments.
As a result, Dougherty counseled, e-tailers need to enhance customer service, improve product presentation, and make their Web sites easier to navigate for a user base that has grown far beyond twentysomething male geeks. “In order to encourage loyalty to drive online sales, e-tailers must be able to support their newly upgraded operations,” Dougherty concluded. “They need to maintain communications with customers beyond the holidays to preserve and enhance existing relationships.”

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