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The current big story is about the demise of Internet companies (yes, over 200 Internet companies went down in 2000, according to But one story that drifted quickly off the main pages is about what Internet consumers did this past holiday season.

For those interested in e-marketing, this is important.


In case you didn't read it, the Pew Internet Project reported that people like to socialize more than buy. That's right. The Internet is more of a social phenomenon than an economic one.

The universal impulsive nature of consumers, as predicted and expected by the online advertising industry and many retailers, is evidently not coming to pass.

As we've often said on this site, the Internet might change many things in life, but people are still people and their habits and basic social needs change slowly. You can see this in the fundamental insights from the Pew project.

In short, people like person-to-person communication, they seem to like seeing products, they like to browse in a similar fashion to the offline world, they even like to purchase products in offline stores, and convenience is still a big deal with online shoppers.

So, in case you missed the details, we list below the main insights and we suggest you read them for yourself at the Pew website. They provide the basis for most of the lessons for marketing on the web.

Epiphany 1: People used the Internet more to socialize and celebrate during the holiday season than they used it to buy gifts. The Internet is really a means for gathering and disseminating information rather than for buying stuff.

Epiphany 2: Browsing is more important than buying. Yes, people like to browse (just like in the offline world) and find the net useful for getting product ideas.

Epiphany 3: Even online shoppers did most of their gift buying offline. Yes, the idea that offline retailers are history is turning out to be silly.

Epiphany 4: Online retailers have lost a major number of purchasers and they have not made up the difference by luring new buyers. A lot of prior buyers didn't have a good experience last year and aren't coming back. It seems first impressions do matter.

Epiphany 5: People like to kick the tires of products. Yes, people like the personal experiences they have grown accustomed to in the offline world. They like to see products, know that they can be easily returned, know they can get them right away, and know their privacy won't be invaded.

Epiphany 6: As many stop as shop. Uncompleted transactions are still plaguing the web. With all the fancy technology at the disposal of companies, hasn't anyone (except for players like figured out how to make the search and purchase process easy?

Epiphany 7: Committed shoppers say holiday buying online brings convenience and savings. The timesavings averaged 3 hours. The average Internet holiday purchaser spent about $330 online.

Epiphany 8: Many shop while on the job. Will this eventually contribute to the lowering of economic efficiency?

Epiphany 9: Online retailers can close the deal with impulse buyers. Ok, there are still people who will buy something without a lot of search. These are the same people that grocery stores identified long ago - that's why there is so much gum and candy in the checkout line.

Epiphany 10: Online gift lists are becoming popular. It's always been a pain to get gifts, and we often put this off to the last minute. Maybe this is what the net is really good for.

Epiphany 11: Some regional differences still matter. Look at the tastes in food, dress, and even politics, and regional differences exist. Any surprises here?

Epiphany 12: Women and men really do experience the holidays in different ways. No kidding.

We're sure many people will pass these findings as idiosyncratic to the holiday season, or at least an aberration in a long-term trend towards a radical change in customer behavior. To that we say: don't bet on it.

Continue reading "Holiday E-Marketing Insights" ... Read the full article

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image of Allen Weiss

Allen Weiss is the founder of MarketingProfs. Over the years he has worked with companies such as Texas Instruments, Informix, Vanafi, and EMI Music Distribution to help them position their products defensively in a competitive environment. He is also the founder of Insight4Peace and the Director of Mindful USC.