Holiday Online Shopping Expected to Rise; Customer Service Top Priority

West Lafayette, Ind., Recent research shows that despite an anticipated double-digit increase in online sales this holiday season, consumers can expect a better online shopping experience.

According to Richard Feinberg, director of the Center for Customer-Driven Quality and a researcher with the Purdue University’s Retail Institute, online sales are estimated to be $45 billion to $50 billion this holiday season, which runs from two weeks before Thanksgiving until Christmas. The amount is up from $34 billion in 2006.

“Online retailers have suffered in the past few years with ordering problems and have instituted measures to guarantee that consumers will not be frustrated with online ordering,” said Feinberg.

More online retailers have instituted new and improved customer-service options: live chat, more opportunities to order online and pick up in-store, customer reviews and product ratings, product videos, order tracking, and same-day delivery. Free shipping is increasingly attractive to consumers.

After free shipping, the most common incentive retailers offer is a free gift with a purchase. Purdue research shows that one successful purchase increases the likelihood of additional purchases.

The official start of holiday e-shopping is on "Cyber Monday," the week after Thanksgiving. Although there is a spike in Internet spending on Cyber Monday, it may not be the biggest e-shopping day of the year, Feinberg said. He estimates that day to be between the fifth and 10th busiest shopping day for e-retailers. Internet shopping, said Feinberg, increases from Cyber Monday until the week before Christmas and then falls off.

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