Last year was considered by many to be the first e-Christmas - the year that the Internet met with Christmas shopping. As e-Christmas enters its second season, there are now a slew of ’e-tailers’ hoping to cash in on the online retail toy market. Analysts forecast that the online retail market may reach as much as dollars 15 billion this holiday season, as online shopping becomes more mainstream this year.
Last year was considered by many to be the first e-Christmas - the
year that the Internet met with Christmas shopping. As e-Christmas
enters its second season, there are now a slew of ’e-tailers’ hoping to
cash in on the online retail toy market. Analysts forecast that the
online retail market may reach as much as dollars 15 billion this
holiday season, as online shopping becomes more mainstream this
CARMA’s review yielded some surprising themes. For all the convenience
and benefits the Web is said to offer, preliminary coverage of the 1999
holiday shopping season suggests that the Internet is still relatively
young and prone to crashes due to overwhelming demand.
Media reports most often focused on crashes and delays at various online
toy sites, such as KBkids.com and Toysrus.com. Both sites slowed to a
crawl in the early days on holiday shopping, apparently swamped by a
tremendous surge in online shoppers. KBkids spokespeople tried to view
the positive side of the situation, noting, ’The good news is we’ve got
tremendous traffic, and the less than good news is we are not providing
the speed of customer service we would like to’ (Denver Post, November
27). While there were also reports that Toysrus.com had made strides in
improving its web site and increasing its number of visitors since last
year, there were also damning reports that its ability to handle demand
is still lacking.
The Wall Street Journal (December 3) wrote that shopping at Toysrus.com
was ’the worst web-shopping experience we’ve ever had.’ Several reports
pinpointed the source of the tremendous upswing to mammoth advertising
blitzes that brought more customers than the companies’ sites could
While its competitors earned unflattering coverage for their web sites,
eToys.com was generally portrayed as the online company to beat. The New
York Times (December 9) quoted an analyst who said, ’Etoys has a better
sense of how to merchandise on an Internet site.’
The slow sites contributed to poor coverage from the point of view of
the consumer. There were many reports indicating that shopping online
was just as time-consuming and maddening as shopping at the mall, with
long lines and crowds replaced by slow sites, glitches and late
The frustration of one columnist was evident as he urged e-tailers to
shape up their online acts: ’Once you venture online, do it right. If
you screw up in your ’brick and mortar’ store, you may offend one or two
people. If you mess up in cyberspace, you can offend thousands, who will
tell thousands more that your store is run by incompetent loons’
(Deseret News, November 28).
Interest in the numbers of individual visitors to specific online retail
sites also brought increased media attention for Media Matrix, a New
York-based web site that tracks the popularity of web sites.
The public appears to have resolved its fears about the security of
shopping online, but e-tailers would be well advised to make shoppers’
experiences as pleasant as possible or risk the possibility that they
will either take their online business elsewhere or become disenchanted
with the entire process and revert back to shopping in malls.
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found