Juan Carlos Perez writes in Infoworld that Customers use searches more, show confidence in on-time shipments.
Vendors and researchers have detected various new trends at play in online retail shopping this holiday season, such as shoppers' increased use of search engines and comparison shopping services to make better informed buying decisions. Not all trends are encouraging, however, such as a disconcertingly high percentage of shoppers willing to buy from spammers. Excerpts with edits and my comments added:
What is indisputable is that online retail shopping has grown significantly this holiday season over last year's period, a fact verified by various market researchers. For example, comScore Networks expects non-travel retail spending to grow by between 23 percent and 26 percent to between $15.1 billion and $15.5 billion in November and December of this year, compared with last year. Two factors contribute to better saled: shorter shipping times and improved options to buy online and pick up the merchandise at a bricks-and-mortar store. The shorter shipping times prompted buyers to shop more last week with the confidence that the products would arrive in time for the holidays, Hess said. "There has been extensive work done behind the scenes by retailers and shippers to shave days off of shipping timelines and effectively communicate them to consumers," he said. "The days of online retailers not meeting their product-delivery commitments are becoming a distant memory." Meanwhile, many major online retailers have improved their options to buy online and have the buyer pick up the products at a local store, which eliminates shipping costs and shipping wait time, Hess said. "This is not a new option this year, but it has been perfected by more retailers than ever before, including some which were experimenting with it in years past, and consumers have really taken to the option."
Online shoppers for the first time planned to spend more of their holiday shopping budget online (53 percent) than offline, according to an America Online survey conducted in August and September. The study also found that shoppers planned to spend on average 6.5 percent more online this holiday season than last year, although they cut their overall budget for both offline and online holiday purchases by 3.6 percent, compared with last year. While spending is undeniably up, so is shoppers' willingness to take advantage of search engines and comparison shopping sites, a trend identified by several organizations. online measurement company Hitwise found that during the week ending Dec. 11, search engines contributed a significant number of referrals to shopping and classified sites, led by Google with 4.26 percent of referrals and followed by Yahoo (2.24 percent) and Microsoft's 0.54 percent. Moreover, the AOL survey found that 27 percent of online shoppers described themselves as comparison shoppers or researchers, up from 23 percent last year, and that 48 percent are using search tools, up from 42 percent.
And the more time shoppers spend researching buying decisions online, the less fixated they are on price and the more value they place on other factors, such as companies' reputations and brands, according to a year-long study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management and announced this month. "A common assumption has been that the more time people spend searching, the more price sensitive they are," said Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Center for eBusiness at the MIT Sloan School of Management, in a statement. "But there's more to a product than its price. We found that consumers weren't searching just for lower prices, but for other characteristics."
In other trends:
- Web surfers have been less inclined to visit Web sites devoted to humanitarian causes and charities this holiday season, according to Hitwise.
- Men are expected to outspend women by as much as 15 percent this holiday season, according to AOL.
- Rural shoppers are more likely than their urban counterparts to visit online shopping sites, according to Hitwise Definitely newer trends are emerging maturing the online retail industry.