Cybernaut 

Mer ‘e-Christmas’

Although the recession will likely take a bite out of holiday spending this year, retailers that offer online shopping – otherwise known as e-tailers – are optimistic that Santa Claus will be more than generous.

According to statistics compiled by Gartner Research, online holiday sales this year are expected to double to $11 billion in North America, or $25 billion world-wide.

While that’s still only a small chunk of total holiday receipts, it’s definitely enough to justify the unprecedented level of Web site investment and promotion on the behalf of e-tailers – visit any brick and mortar store’s Web site and see for yourself.

There are dozens of reasons why people are choosing to shop online this holiday.

The first is convenience. You can avoid the parking, the crowds, the long line-ups and the cashier by shopping online, and you can do two days worth of shopping in less than two hours. A package shipped to your home in days, or to the homes of other friends and family members around the world without having to bring it home, wrap it up, and take it to the already overloaded post office.

There is also the question of choice to consider. In the early days, companies would only offer a handful of products online, choosing instead to use their Web sites to direct people to their stores. These days, encouraged by consumer interest, many companies put their entire catalogue online. If you know where to go, the variety of gifts available is enormous. If there’s a drawback to this, it’s that there are almost too many products online to choose from.

The second reason is price – it’s easier to find a deal online, and many sites are offering lower prices or discounts to online customers to promote their sites, building customer loyalty, and pass on their own savings (fewer staff, no bricks and mortar rent or upkeep), to buyers.

The third is availability – because online retailers have central warehouses for their bricks and mortar locations, you can often find and purchase the popular items that stores can’t seem to keep on their shelves.

The fourth reason is customer service. If you’re stumped for ideas, many sites will guide you towards the more popular items. Honest stores allow customers to rate products as well, which can help you to choose between different makes and models. Toy stores are especially helpful, guiding parents towards toys to match their children’s age groups and interests.

The fifth is reliability. Although online shopping is hardly new at this point, for many stores it is only now just emerging as a significant mode for conducting business – they’ve invested considerable time and money in their online stores to get where they are, and they’re not going to blow it all now by not honouring guarantees or screwing up shipments.

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