Four in Ten Mother's Day Shoppers Uncomfortable Purchasing from Internet-Only Retailers, According to Accenture Survey

Online Users Like Familiar Brand Names, Ease of Returns Associated With Web Sites of Traditional Stores

NEW YORK, May 9, 2000 — As the Mother’s Day shopping season reaches its peak, nearly half of Internet users (43%) are uncomfortable buying gifts from so-called "pure-play" eTailers, companies that exist only on the Internet, according to a new study by Accenture. These same users, the research found, say they would rather shop online at Web sites operated by traditional retailers, known as "clicks and mortar" companies. Only 1% of users surveyed said they prefer shopping with Internet-only companies, while more than one in three (36%) said they would rather shop at "clicks and mortar" Web retailers.

The survey was conducted online between April 27 and May 1. Nearly 3,200 U.S. Internet users took part, with the data weighted to reflect the online population. The margin of error is +/- 2%.

Shoppers who would rather do business with "clicks and mortar" retailers cited a number of reasons for their preference: the ease of making returns or exchanges (79%); their familiarity with product quality (75%) and their familiarity with a retailer’s name and reputation (69%). People who were reluctant to shop at Internet-only sites said they were mainly concerned with their ability to exchange or return gifts, with 65 percent citing that as an important issue. Other concerns raised about shopping with pure eTailers include security (64%), product quality (56%) and unfamiliarity with the retailer or brand name (48%).

But the survey also identified a number of important issues that concern all Internet users when it comes to buying Mother’s Day gifts on the Web, regardless of whether they are shopping at an Internet-only site or one linked to an actual store. Those issues are ease-of-use (97%), free delivery (96%) and whether the company can guarantee the gift will be delivered in time for Mother’s Day (92%).

"eTailers are learning the same lessons that have long plagued traditional retailers: You must deliver the customer service you’ve promised to consumers," said Mary Tolan, global managing partner of the Accenture Retail industry practice. "Certainly, consumers aren’t going to take any chances when it comes to buying a present for Mother’s Day. On that day especially they want shopping to be easy and secure. They want to know the gift will arrive on time and that if Mom doesn’t like her gift, she’ll be able to return it."

"Traditional retailers have some built-in advantages in the online era, since people already know them and are loyal to them. Now their challenge is to translate those advantages into an online shopping experience that meets the consumer’s expectations," Tolan said.

Banner ads remain the most effective method of advertising to Web consumers, the survey found. This is consistent with an earlier online shopping survey conducted by Accenture last December. Nearly one third (28%) of Internet users who have already used the Internet for Mother’s Day were influenced by banners compared to 12 percent who were influenced by print ads,seven percent by TV ads, six percent by outdoor ads and three percent by radio advertising.

Despite the fact that one-third of all Internet users plan to turn to the Web as part of their Mother’s Day shopping, most will spend modestly. More than half (53%) the Internet users who will go online for Mother’s Day will be sending an e-greeting card, which are frequently offered free-of-charge. The vast majority (74%) will be spending under $100, 43% will spend between $50 - $99 and 31% will spend under $50. Only 9% of online shoppers plan to spend more than $150 on Mom. After Mother’s Day cards, the gift items most likely to be purchased over the Internet are flowers and plants (46%) or books (20%). Most Internet users who plan to purchase a gift online will shop at least two weeks before Mother’s Day.

Among the survey’s other noteworthy findings: