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Consumers opting for convenience

Monday, December 12, 2005

SIKESTON -- More and more holiday consumers are opting for the convenience of shopping in the privacy of their own home or office via the Internet.

Nicole Kennedy of Sikeston is one of those consumers.

"I like not having to deal with anybody or any of the personnel at the store," said the 23-year-old. "I can go at my own pace and time."

Kennedy said she's been shopping online for about five years.

"I hate to go in stores and shop. So I like the idea of not going through the racks and seeing everything in front of me -- and I get to pick and choose," Kennedy said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 32 percent of adults shopped online in 2003 -- up from only 2 percent in 1997.

Dana Copeland of Miner said she likes the convenience of shopping online.

"It's easy," Copeland said. "I don't have to get out. If there are places we don't have around here, I can still shop there. I can get the kids to bed and shop at midnight if I want."

Nearly six in 10 online retailers already experienced growth of 30 percent or more through Thanksgiving weekend, according to the 2005 Shop.org/

BizRate Research eHoliday Mood Study conducted for the National Retail Federation.

"Following a strong Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday, the 2005 online holiday season is off to a great start," said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org. "Effective marketing vehicles, desirable promotions and site features that help shoppers find the best gift seem to be the right combination for another great holiday for online retailers."

This year retailers are using a variety of marketing, promotions and site tools to push holiday sales. About 92 percent of online retailers said direct e-mail promotions have been the most popular marketing initiatives followed by paid search engine marketing (71.4 percent), natural search engine marketing (53.3 percent) and affiliate/loyalty programs (40.1 percent).

Copeland, who's been online shopping for about two years, said she mostly purchases clothing online. Most orders arrive within a week, she said. Only once has she had a problem with an order.

"My husband ordered a pair of boots and it was two months and he still didn't get them," Copeland said. "When we called, the store said they were coming directly from the boot maker and we ended up just canceling the order."

Like Copeland, Kennedy, who mostly buys clothing and toys for her 2-year-

old son, said she hasn't had any problems with items she's order off the Internet.

"If anything, there was an item that didn't fit, but there's nothing I've never had a problem. And even if I did have a problem, I don't think it would stop me from shipping online," Kennedy said.

Most stores offer some type of shipping promotion, such as if a person spends $50, they get free shipping, Copeland said.

Or some offer flat shipping rates, Kennedy said.

According to the study, free shipping with conditions is the most successful promotions with 62 percent of retailers citing it as being most successful in driving holiday sales.

"Personally, I find you can get some items cheaper online than in the store," Copeland said. "I don't know if they're giving you a break because of shipping costs, but I think they're cheaper."

And there's also more item availability online, Copeland said.

Another perk of ordering online are the promotional codes used for discounts off the next order, Kennedy said.

"You can spend $50 or $100 and get $10 off and if shipping is $5, you still save," Kennedy said.

Security issues may bother some, but not Copeland. "That's everybody's main fear -- security. But I don't shop sites I haven't heard anything about and don't know," she said.

And Kennedy also doesn't worry about security.

"That's just one of things I don't worry about. There are a lot of other ways they can my information," Kennedy said.

Kennedy's advice? "Just try it," she said.

Consumers should know the deadline is approaching for orders to be delivered in time for Christmas. The study said one-fourth of retailers will guarantee Christmas delivery using standard shipping for orders placed by Dec. 16. One-third of retailers will guarantee Christmas delivery for orders placed by Dec. 15 or earlier.