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E-COMMERCE: DON'T FEAR THE GRINCH

Source: Business 2.0

Posted on November 27, 2001

      Each holiday shopping season in recent years has come gift-wrapped with its own little e-commerce surprise. In 1998 we all gaped at the holiday e-tailing forecasts, each one exponentially bigger than the last. In 1999 we wondered, "Will websites crash again like they did last year?" In 2000, the year of the shakeout, the question was, "Will they ship their packages on time?" This year, as the country worries about recession and the economic aftershocks of Sept. 11, online shopping has been presumed dead -- or at least supremely unimportant.

      It shouldn't be. Market data shows that Internet usage and e-commerce have quietly moved from niche to mass-market, despite the collapse of so many businesses that once described the phenomenon.

      BizRate.com, a comparison shopping firm that tracks sales at more than 2,000 online retailers, expects year-over-year fourth-quarter revenue growth of 25 percent for online shopping. Even the online ad market has reason to feel good. According to Jupiter Media Metrix, $5.7 billion will be spent on online ads this year, up 5.3 percent from the $5.4 billion spent in 2000.

      Most likely to succeed in 2001 will be (no surprise) the Web shopping categories that have done well in the past, says David Schehr, an e-commerce analyst at market research firm Gartner Inc. Books, CDs, and catalog-sold goods will likely lead the pack.

      The difference this year? People who used to shop for anything online know what they want and where to go, and waste little time with anything else. "The browsing rates have gone down, but the conversion of browsing to buys has gone up. People are being more selective in how they use the Net," Schehr says.




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