Millard: Holiday Web Shoppers Disappointed by Lack of Unique Items

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Consumer satisfaction among online buyers was lacking when it came to the availability of unique merchandise, according to survey results released yesterday by Millard Group Inc., Peterborough, NH.


Of the online buyers surveyed, only 47 percent said that the Web sites they visited had unique items. The lowest-scoring product categories were food gifts with 40 percent and apparel with 44 percent. The highest score was 62 percent in the children's products category.


The findings come from the firm's latest quarterly Online Co-op Survey conducted by its Decision Direct Research division for the quarter ended Dec. 31. It included responses from 70,000 customers of multichannel merchants that are both clients and non-clients of Millard.


"Online buyers want and expect to find unusual, one-of-a-kind items on Web sites," said Lilliane LeBel, vice president of Decision Direct Research. "They want gifts, clothes and children's items that are different than anyone else's. Direct marketers are not filling this need. Merchandise is at the core of every multichannel business, and merchants have to do a better job at finding new merchandise for the consumer."


Overall, 70 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their holiday shopping experiences online. In the hard goods category, 79 percent reported being satisfied, the highest score. The lowest was the 66 percent of apparel buyers who indicated satisfaction. Millard said the low apparel score is significant given that 84 percent of respondents were women.


In terms of merchandise quality satisfaction, 58 percent said they were very satisfied with the quality of items purchased online. The highest score for quality was 69 percent in the food gifts category. Once again, apparel was the lowest at 50 percent.


Eighty-two percent of respondents indicated that receiving a catalog drove them to make an online purchase, and 81 percent said the same for an e-mail.


About 54 percent said they did comparison shopping before buying from Web sites of multichannel marketers participating in the survey.


Other results included increases in some areas of Web site satisfaction. Satisfaction with the ease of checkout rose from 51 percent in 2004 to 56 percent in 2005. Customer satisfaction with items matching online descriptions went up from 52 percent in 2004 to 55 percent in 2005. Accuracy of product descriptions and depictions online also rose from 44 percent in 2004 to 47 percent in 2005.


"These increases in Web site satisfaction are not dramatic, but they do indicate an improvement," LeBel said in a statement. "However, since roughly half of the shoppers did not give 'very satisfied' ratings to the sites they shopped from, it is clear that Web sites still need more refinement."


As far as online holiday spending, 64 percent of respondents said they spent the same in holiday 2005 as holiday 2004, 21 percent said they spent more and 15 percent said they spent less.


Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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