Strong Online Sales Predicted For Holidays

Studies released yesterday by America Online and BURST! Media signal strong e-commerce sales this holiday season. AOL found that consumers who research and/or shop online intend to do 53 percent of their holiday shopping online, while BURST! reported that 57.6 percent of consumers surveyed online with a household income of $75,000 or more plan to do more than half of their shopping online.

These statistics enforce a DoubleClick study, released on Monday, which reported that 64 percent of people leaving Web sites surveyed during the first week in November said they plan to make an online purchase during the holidays. Twenty-eight percent of those polled said they plan to spend between $251 and $500 online.

"People are more comfortable shopping online. The experience has improved dramatically," said Patrick Gates, senior vice president, e-commerce strategy, at AOL. In addition to the convenience of online shopping, Internet users now have available features that make it easy to comparison shop online, he said.



Research firm Hitwise released data yesterday showing that shopping sites drew 8.37 percent of all Internet visits--from shoppers and browsers--for the week ending Nov. 20, and 8.02 percent of all visits for the week ending Nov. 13. The 2003 high for the week ending Dec. 13 was 7.84 percent, according to Hitwise. Also, Nielsen//NetRatings announced yesterday that visits to e-commerce sites increased some 60 percent for the week ending Nov. 14 compared to the week ending Nov. 7.

Throughout this month, many industry researchers and analysts have predicted strong online holiday spending growth. comScore Networks forecasted that at least $15 billion would be spent online during November and December of 2004--a 24 percent year-over-year increase. Research firm eMarketer issued a report concluding that online spending would reach $16.7 billion during November and December--a 29 percent increase from last year. And JupiterResearch also predicted online sales of $21.6 billion--a 19 percent increase from their predictions last year.

TRUSTe, a nonprofit that sets and enforces standards for protecting consumer privacy, was the dissenting voice in the crowd on Tuesday, when it released a survey reporting that about 58 percent of Internet users said they may reduce their online shopping during this holiday season. Consumers are more cautious this year as a result of identity theft and other privacy concerns, according to TRUSTe. During their first annual online shopping study--last year--conducted by marketing data provider TNS, 49 percent of Internet users said they would reduce their online shopping.

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