MEDIA WATCH: Having rung the sales, e-tailers must ring changes

After unprecedented holiday sales, online shopping is expected to go through more changes as retailers seek to establish themselves at the dawn of what many see as a new retail era. This follows a season where consumers have benefited from unprecedented promises of discounts with free shipping, as well as being subjected to blanket ad campaigns.

After unprecedented holiday sales, online shopping is expected to go through more changes as retailers seek to establish themselves at the dawn of what many see as a new retail era. This follows a season where consumers have benefited from unprecedented promises of discounts with free shipping, as well as being subjected to blanket ad campaigns.

After unprecedented holiday sales, online shopping is expected to

go through more changes as retailers seek to establish themselves at the

dawn of what many see as a new retail era. This follows a season where

consumers have benefited from unprecedented promises of discounts with

free shipping, as well as being subjected to blanket ad campaigns.



Despite widely publicized reports of botched orders, CARMA’s analysis of

media coverage immediately following Christmas found it to be supportive

of online shopping. But many reports recognized that the online industry

still has a way to go to convince the skeptical consumer.



The advent of online shopping could not have come at a better time.

’Consumers are in very good spirits as the 20th century comes to a

close. Healthy paychecks, continued low inflation and job opportunities

will keep the economic expansion on its record-breaking course,’ said

Lynn Franco, the Conference Board’s consumer director (The New York

Times, December 29), echoing the sentiments of numerous reports.



Many analysts estimated that online Christmas sales were at least four

times the level of a year ago, well above estimates that sales would

double. Online retail outlet Bluefly.com made headlines by conducting

more business during two days in mid-December than in the entire fourth

quarter of its previous year. ’If last year was about experimenting,

this was the year shopping online became part of the popular culture,’

explained CEO Ken Seiff (Houston Chronicle, December 28).



Said one relieved online shopper: ’Doing my shopping with a couple of

clicks was the way to go. Opening up my local paper and seeing the kind

of nonsense shoppers had to endure at the mall, I knew I would have been

tearing my hair out’ (Dallas Morning News, December 28). Not all online

shoppers were as happy, however, and the media were quick to relay

instances of bungled orders.



Customers frequently complained about shoddy service and faulted online

companies for unanswered e-mails, long waits on hold and late

deliveries.



Toysrus.com received significant coverage for admitting they could not

guarantee all deliveries for Christmas, and offered dollars 100 coupons

to disappointed customers who didn’t receive their orders in time.



Some reports examined ways online companies are making their Web sites

easier to use in order to further increase sales. Landsend.com is

offering instant e-mail messaging, which allows shoppers and customer

service representatives to communicate in real time, while Roxy.com

allows customers to type in questions and have them answered by a live

voice that responds through the speakers of a customer’s computer.



Although most e-tailers hoped just to emerge unscathed through the rush,

many reports pointed out that the deterioration in online shopping as

Christmas approached might have revealed infrastructure weaknesses. And

despite the media hype, little mention was made of the fact that online

shopping is still only a fraction of the total amount Americans were

projected to spend during the season. It’s fair to say that e-commerce

is only just past the experimental stage with many changes and

challenges to face.





- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be

found at www.carma.com.



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