Download - News analysis - Keen buyers await better shops.

Web users are increasingly geared up to buy over the internet, but retailers need to guarantee a good experience. That’s the picture which emerges from The New Mass Medium, the latest internetTrak report carried out by NOP on behalf of KPMG, Ziff-Davis, Dell and Intel.

Web users are increasingly geared up to buy over the internet, but

retailers need to guarantee a good experience. That’s the picture which

emerges from The New Mass Medium, the latest internetTrak report carried

out by NOP on behalf of KPMG, Ziff-Davis, Dell and Intel.



The report, which looks at the size, shape and behaviour of the internet

audience in the UK, Germany and France, found that 24 per cent of regular

British web users have bought something online. But a larger number - 52

per cent - regularly shop by mail order or phone, and 70 per cent have

credit cards. The ability and willingness to shop online are bigger than

the actual market.



Two-thirds of web shoppers say that they have a positive attitude towards

the traditional shopping experience, so they’re not simply people who hate

the high street. The biggest reasons cited for buying from a certain

online store are speed of delivery and retailer’s geographical reach.



It seems that people are keen to see e-shops replicate the virtues of

their high street cousins.



This was underlined when the survey asked consumers what they thought

would improve the online shopping experience. Among the most frequent

comments were: easier ordering; not forcing users to repeatedly enter

personal data when, say, an item is unavailable and they want to select

another; including more information about the products; and,

interestingly, showing pictures of them.



This is not virgin retail territory where the old rules don’t stand -

another common suggestion was that it should be easier to return products

bought online. Clearly, this is an area where traditional retailers,

particularly those with extensive store networks, can score over

internet-only stores. Bookseller Waterstone’s, for example, is now

allowing buyers from its web site to take unwanted books back to its

physical stores for a refund.



So the internet has to give shoppers at least as good an experience as the

high street. Online retailers can’t just say: ’Well, we’re letting you

order from the comfort of your own home through our flash new web site, so

you’ll have to put up with a #20 delivery charge and a two-month wait’.

Consumers will just get back into their cars.



The gap between consumers’ willingness to transact online and their

opportunities to do so is particularly pronounced in a sector like

banking. Only seven per cent of UK web users bank online, compared with 26

per cent in Germany.



And 28 per cent of UK users expect to bank on the web in the next

year.



It’s not that they don’t want to - many just don’t have the chance.



Sectors such as clothing, where serious e-commerce players in the shape of

Boo.com and Arcadia’s Zoom have only recently come on-stream, are

similarly under-represented online. While internetTrak found that 10 per

cent of online buyers had bought books, eight per cent travel and six per

cent CDs, only two per cent had bought clothes. Shirley Brown, a

consultant with report sponsor KPMG, believes that this is largely because

of the shortage of sites selling them.



But with a quarter of UK web users having dipped their toes in the

e-commerce water despite these drawbacks, there is a market ready and

waiting.



For one thing, when online buyers do dust off their credit cards, they’re

big spenders. The average online book buyer spends #119 on the internet

each year, compared to the #70 spent in physical stores; for CDs, the

figures are #80 and #50; and for leisure travel #816 and #500. Some 16 per

cent of online shoppers spend more than #1,000 a year.



The demographic signs are also positive. The percentage of female UK

internet users is now 39 per cent, compared with 26 per cent in the third

quarter of 1998, when the last set of internetTrak figures came out. And

of people who said they were likely to become internet users in the near

future, 57 per cent were women. This should open new e-commerce

markets.



People who are using the net are doing so for longer periods and more

frequently, with 73 per cent accessing it once a week or more, and three

million people in the UK doing so every day. That’s largely because of the

falling price of access: 55 per cent of home web users are now with free

ISPs; only three per cent say they pay more than the equivalent of $25 a

month.



Finally, there was a heartening nugget from report sponsor Dell. When we

launched Revolution, we were agog at news from the US that the company

sold $2 million of computers a day globally over the web. Now, it sells

$4m a day in Europe alone.



Become a member of Campaign from just £77 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content