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
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.