E-Marketing Slackers Miss Holiday Potential

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A lot of online retailers "dropped the ball" on Valentine's Day, according to InfoBeads, La Jolla, CA, the research arm of Ziff-Davis that this week released results of its Valentine's Day E-Commerce survey. Less than 4 percent of all online users made purchases on the holiday.

"Many marketers are under the belief that as long as they are on the Web and they get traffic, it is going to turn into commerce activity," said Aaron Goldberg, executive vice president of InfoBeads. "That's not the way it works. They have to do the traditional marketing activities after that as well to turn visitors into buyers, and a lot of them didn't do that."

According to the study 3.7 percent of 85.4 million online users (3.2 million) purchased items on the Web during Valentine's Day, which is an increase of 500,000 consumers from the number of consumers who made purchases for the same period last year.

"That is a good increase but what we were expecting was to see at least half of the online consumers make purchases during Valentine's Day -- somewhere between 5 million and 5.5 million people," Goldberg said. "With all that is available on the Web -- from candy, gifts, chocolates and the opportunity for guys to go online and purchase items that they might be embarrassed to buy in a store -- it surprises me that retailers were unable to get more people to make purchases."

The study tracked shopping and buying activities as well as influences and satisfaction of online and Internet users during the holiday. The results were gathered from a weighted, random sample of 994 adults in telephone interviews conducted between Feb. 14 to Feb. 17.

Those surveyed said the two main reasons for not making their Valentine's Day purchases online had to do with security and privacy (56 percent). Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said they preferred shopping in stores instead of shopping online.

InfoBeads said people's preference to shop in stores was reflected in the distribution of purchase sources used. It said that the top five product categories accounted for less than 5 percent in each case.

The one product that proved to be popular this year was electronic greeting cards, with more than 11 million U.S. adults -- 13 percent of all online users -- sending one.

"Judging by the number of people who sent greeting cards, there are people out there paying attention to what is going on online," said Miran Chun, industry analyst at InfoBeads. "Given the convenience, ease of use and affordability, it is easy to understand the appeal of electronic greeting cards."

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