E-tailers mature for Xmas 2001

The 2001 online holiday spending tallies are in, and the reports bode well for Canada's e-tailers. More online buyers this year meant a dramatic increase in the total amount spent online, according to Toronto-based market research company Ipsos-Reid.

The 2001 online holiday spending tallies are in, and the reports bode well for Canada’s e-tailers. More online buyers this year meant a dramatic increase in the total amount spent online, according to Toronto-based market research company Ipsos-Reid.

Roughly 3.6 million Canadian adult shoppers forked out an average of $324 online for gifts – totaling an estimated $1.16 billion, and exceeding the holiday expenditure projections set this fall by 34%. (The tally also marks a 78% increase from the estimated $650 million spent for gifts online last season.) Estimates of U.S. online expenditures this holiday season ranged from $9.5 billion to $12.4 billion.

According to Ipsos-Reid, 92% of online purchasers say they are likely to purchase online next season and 35% of repeat buyers report their online experience this year was better than last year.

That may be because direct and interactive marketers are using time-tested techniques and expertise on the Web to improve customer service and retention, according to another shopping study. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) in partnership with Chicago-based consultancy the e-tailing group inc., reported that marketers did an impressive job of delivering excellent customer service during the holiday season. The data shows that:

* The average number of clicks to checkout reduced from 8.76 one year ago, to 5.36 this year.

* 54% of sites offered real-time inventory status, compared to 42% last year.

* 46% of sites offered gift search features, compared to 14% a year ago.

* 90% of sites linked to privacy policies directly from the home page.

* 80% of sites sent e-mail shipping confirmations, up from 54% in 2000.

* 79% of sites enabled customers to check their order status online.

*99% of sites provided a toll-free number for customer service.