Study: Small E-Tailers Are Ready for Holidays

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Small and mid-sized e-tailers will be ready for the onslaught of holiday shoppers buying online this season, according to a new survey by online retail tracking firm ePublicEye.

Most of the 1,390 e-tailers surveyed by the e-commerce tracker have taken steps to ensure that holiday sales go smoothly. Fulfillment, privacy and secure credit card processing are key issues.

About 83 percent of e-tailer Web sites allow consumers to track inventory, and 92 percent allow customers to track their orders. About 66 percent of e-tailers identify the U.S. Postal Service as their primary shipper. Twenty percent of the surveyed e-tailers offer Federal Express as a shipping option, the survey reported.

Nearly 92 percent of surveyed Web sites have posted return policies, and 72 percent offer unconditional money-back guarantees.

"This year we've seen the sophistication of small and mid-sized Internet merchants jump by leaps and bounds," said ePublicEye chief executive Errol Smith.

He attributed the improvements to the media's focus on Net privacy issues and the proliferation of turnkey Web firms that equip smaller merchants with the fundamental elements needed to conduct e-commerce.

About two-thirds of surveyed retailers will run some kind of special promotion to help drive sales throughout the next month, but less than one-third will offer free shipping this year. Only 10 percent have plans to hire extra help to assist with order fulfillment.

E-tailers are not up to speed yet when it comes to interactive customer service. Only 20 percent reported offering online customer support. Among the sites that do not have online customer service, 22 percent told ePublicEye that they plan to have it up and running in time for the holiday blitz.

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