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

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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