- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

Online shopping has taken off this year, giving consumers a tool not just to avoid crowded malls, but also to find the best deals, the perfect wrapping paper and the cheapest shipping.

Online shoppers are using the Internet 80 percent more to research and compare than they did in 2002, and most say that online shopping has improved during the past year, according an America Online survey.

The most-visited comparison-shopping sites are Yahoo.com Shopping.com and Bizrate.com, according to Web research firm Hitwise.

“This year’s dramatic increase in the use of comparison-shopping sites marks a new era in online shopping,” said Bill Tancer, vice president of research at Hitwise. “Users are becoming more sophisticated in their online purchase behaviors, clearly demonstrating the willingness to use comparison-shopping sites to find the best product at the best price.”

Free or discounted shipping, guaranteed holiday delivery, gift wrapping and the ability to pick up and return online purchases at local brick-and-mortar stores are also perks that online shoppers should consider this year. For instance, items on Sears.com that are marked with a blue star are available for pickup at the store after customers order them online.

Gift hunters can use some Web sites to find holiday coupons and sales. Savingscount.com and 247malls.com provide links to coupons redeemable at big-name stores like Amazon.com and Ace Hardware. Shoplocal.com allows you to bargain-hunt in your neighborhood for everything from golf clubs to toilet paper.

But as online shopping gets more popular, it is starting to experience growing pains in the form of slowed order processing. Heavy online traffic this holiday season has slowed the time it takes for consumers to complete purchases by nearly 50 percent, according to Keynote Systems, an online measurement company based in San Mateo, Calif.

Some other indications that online shopping has come of age:

• AOL says San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego are the three most wired cities, with the most online holiday shoppers. The rankings were based on a nationwide survey of 6,043 adults that asked how much they planned to spend online.

• Holiday shoppers are more confident about buying online, so much so that more are waiting until closer to Christmas to click and buy, a study by digital marketing technology provider Atlas DMT showed. The busiest day for online shopping will be around Dec. 16 or 17, more than a week before Christmas.

“Holiday shopping online isn’t a novelty anymore,” said Young-Bean Song, director of analytics at the Atlas Institute, the research arm of Atlas DMT. “During this critical season, consumers are shopping in stores on the weekends and then continuing that shopping experience online during the workweek.”

• During the holidays, Mondays remain the busiest online shopping day, in contrast to the rest of the year, the Atlas DMT study showed. Consumers shop in brick-and-mortar stores on weekends and then log on to do comparative shopping on Monday. Fridays are also a big online shopping day during the holidays, unlike the rest of the year.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide