Buyer Beware - InformationWeek Provides an E-Commerce Shopping Guide for the Upcoming Holiday Season

- Editors Warn Consumers of What to Expect From E-Merchants and How to Best Handle the Holiday Shopping Crunch -

Nov 20, 2000

Based on InformationWeek's recent cover article ("Raising the Bar," October 16, 2000), the editors of the publication have developed an extensive guide for consumers looking to use the Internet this holiday season to purchase their gifts and accessories. In the wake of last year's e-commerce debacle and with customer expectations at an all time high, this year, e-merchants will need to offer a lot more than just convenience. Online gift certificates, customer service representatives and unprecedented personalization are just a few of the many services that e-tailers must provide to the consumer this holiday season.

"With the holiday shopping season rapidly approaching and the use of e-commerce on the rise, it's critical that e-shoppers are offered a wide-range of on and offline services that ensure on-time delivery and help reduce lengthy delays and hassles when problems do occur," said Stephanie Stahl, editor of InformationWeek. "Purchasing holiday gifts via the Web because it is novel and convenient is last year's story. This holiday season, consumers have the right to demand a new level of customer service from Internet retailers that make the purchasing process a fluid and enjoyable experience."

Below is a detailed guide for all holiday shoppers who will venture to the Web either for the first time or as veterans of the e-shopping experience.

  -- Customer service via the telephone is something all consumers should
     demand this holiday season.  For assistance in finding the right gift
     at the right time and help in alleviating major problems with delivery,
     e-tailers should provide around the clock customer service via the
     phone to help expedite the shopping experience.  Those companies that
     don't offer this service will probably not be able to offer the same
     level of customer service compared to those companies that do.

  -- E-mail notifications about products and sales in addition to prompt
     responses to incoming e-mail inquiries are something every consumer
     should demand from their favorite e-tailer.  The consumer should have
     the ability to pick-up a phone and speak with a customer service
     representative or send an e-mail and receive a prompt response with
     accurate and detailed information.

  -- Online chat sessions with customer service representatives are also an
     effective way of communicating between e-tailers and e-shoppers.  Many
     questions, concerns and issues can be addressed in a half-hour chat
     session for consumers looking to learn more about the company and its
     offering for the holiday season.

  -- The ability to return an item to a brick and mortar store is key for
     any one buying online this holiday season.  As most of us know all too
     well, returning a gift to a virtual store is somewhat complex and time
     consuming.  Don't let your e-tailer get away with this.  Make sure the
     products you are buying are fully returnable to the brick and mortar
     store around the corner.  This will save you time, money and the
     frustration of having to wonder where your product is in the virtual

  -- The ability to use online and traditional gift certificates either on
     the Web site or at the brick and mortar store is another convenience
     that consumers should expect from e-tailers this holiday season.  This
     will allow for more purchasing flexibility both on and offline and
     enable you to take advantage of lower prices at the same time.

  -- Personalization is a technique that e-tailers have been trying to
     perfect since the first days of Internet shopping.  This holiday
     season, consumers will start to see greater use of personalization on
     Web sites, enabling companies to provide detailed information that
     addresses the specific desires and needs of each individual.  For this
     type of service, consumers have to live up to their end of the bargain,
     as they must be willing to provide enough information to the company to
     generate a detailed profile of the person.

The editors of InformationWeek are available for comment on how e-tailers can meet and beat customer demands this holiday season. For more information, please contact: Ted Birkhahn at (212) 931-6119.

SOURCE: InformationWeek

Contact: Ted Birkhahn of InformationWeek, 212-931-6119