Online lessons learnt this Christmas

Online retailers learnt a valuable lesson in keeping consumers happy during this year's hot Christmas shopping period, which exceeded most expectations.

An estimated 598,000 users made an online purchase last Christmas - four times the number of online purchases in 1998, according to www.consult.

Online e-tailer dstore.com.au recorded "very exciting" results for Christmas with revenues five times, and orders six times previous forecasts, according to CEO, David Gold.

However, Gold said he had learnt that he could not rely on couriers for delivery in the pre-Christmas rush.

Most couriers would not guarantee delivery before December 25 in the lead-up to the big day, and as a result, dstore will set up its own delivery service for major metropolitan areas next Christmas, Gold said.

For online IT shop E-store, December was the "biggest month ever", while January is on track to be even better, according to managing director, Steven Spilly.

E-store is experiencing "exponential growth" due to a rise in consumer confidence, a general increase in the marketing of online stores, and word-of-mouth, Spilly said.

One lesson learned this Christmas was about e-store's product range, Spilly said.

"We added additional products prior to Christmas and there was an immediate uptake by consumers. This confirmed our belief that there is virtually adirect line between the number of products [available] and the number of orders," Spilly said.

E-store also had some fulfillment challenges, Spilly said.

"What we learned was that identifying problems with deliveries quickly and keeping the customer informed throughout the process was the key to achieving customer satisfaction," he said.

"To this end, we updated our online tracking system and were vigilant in ensuring customer service staff contacted customers by phone andemail in the event of any delivery delays.

"We also had a policy over Christmas that if a product ordered for delivery before Christmas was not deliverable, we would upgrade the product at no cost to the customer."

The total e-tail spend for 1999 has been estimated at $920 million, and is projected to reach $4 billion this year, according to consult.com.

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David Smedley

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