DM-Savvy Online Marketers Improve Service for Holidays, Study Says

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Online marketers made their commercial Web sites easier for consumers to use this past holiday season by reducing the number of clicks to checkout and offering real-time inventory information and search features, according to a Direct Marketing Association study released yesterday.

The study showed that online marketers are growing savvier as the e-commerce market matures, DMA officials said. For example, the average number of clicks required to buy an item was 5.36, compared with 8.76 a year ago, according to the study, carried out for the DMA by The E-tailing Group Inc.

"Marketers are using time-tested direct marketing techniques on the Web to improve customer service and retention," said H. Robert Wientzen, president/CEO of the DMA.

To conduct the study, researchers bought one product from each of 100 commercial Web sites during fourth-quarter 2001. Items were grouped into 16 categories, including apparel, books and music, computers, consumer electronics, department stores, gifts and home and garden.

Other findings of the study:

• 54 percent of Web sites offered real-time inventory status, and 46 percent offered search features, up from 42 percent and 14 percent, respectively, a year ago.

• 90 percent of sites contained links to privacy policies on their home pages.

• 80 percent offered e-mail confirmations when items shipped, up from 54 percent in 2000, and 79 percent let consumers check order status online.

• 99 percent offered toll-free numbers for customer service.

Copies of the study will be available at the DMA's Web site,, in late February, priced at $195 for DMA members, $395 for non-members.

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