Veteran Web Users Happy With Holiday Shopping

For the most part, customers were very happy with their online holiday shopping experiences last year, according to a survey released last week by Cognitiative Inc.

In fact, shoppers said they will buy more online this year, according to the San Francisco-based consulting firm's survey, "Pulse of the Customer."

"We will remember [the fourth quarter of] 1999 as the period when e-commerce got real traction in the mainstream U.S. population," Cognitiative President and CEO Laurie Windham said.

"Our data shows that many people relied on the Internet for their shopping.

While we've all heard anecdotal horror stories about recent problems, in reality, the e-consumer seems very satisfied with their online holiday shopping experience," Windham said.

But Cognitiative's results stand in stark contrast to a survey conducted last month by San Francisco-based FleetBoston Robertson Stephens Inc.

That survey indicated that overall customer satisfaction declined as the holiday season progressed last year, particularly among shoppers visiting online toy stores.

The contradictions could be due to which shoppers were surveyed, said Emily Meehan, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston. "If first-time shoppers were surveyed, then they could have had lower expectations than more experienced online shoppers," she said.

However, it appears that just the opposite is true.

Cognitiative said it surveyed 600 mostly experienced online shoppers nationwide, while FleetBoston Robertson Stephens said it surveyed approximately 5,500 people, about 55 percent of them first-time shoppers.

According to Cognitiative's survey, products that fared well this season were those most often associated with retail sites on the Web, such as books, music, toys, clothing and software.

The survey said consumers had better online shopping experiences because there were more products to choose from, they had heard positive stories about online shopping from family and friends and they felt better about making purchases with credit cards. In addition, Cognitiative said, some consumers were swayed by the glut of online retailers' advertising and promotions.

According to Cognitiative, 83 percent of shoppers said the key benefit of online shopping was convenience, while 81 percent said it saved time and 51 percent said it saved money over purchasing items at brick-and-mortar stores.

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