Vital statistics.

The UK’s first interactive TV service, Open, has begun its Christmas offensive with a survey designed to show that people should do their Christmas shopping ... via Open.

The UK’s first interactive TV service, Open, has begun its Christmas

offensive with a survey designed to show that people should do their

Christmas shopping ... via Open.



The Open system, created by British Interactive Broadcasting and backed by

BSkyB, BT, Matsushita and HSBC, was initially launched to digital

satellite TV users, and is now in nearly two million homes, offering

shopping, TV banking, entertainment and email services.



Open appears to see the battle as one between itself and the internet,

with some of the major retailers having a foot in both camps. Open has an

impressive list of retail partners including Argos, Carphone Warehouse and

Dixons.



Although these are fearsome names in the high street, with big-brand

franchises, they will not be the only names which consumers will use

online.



There are far more retailers and consumers who are not on Open than who

are and that will be the case for years to come. For the foreseeable

future, Open is not a truly internet experience, but a walled garden where

consumers are denied the variety of the net. That has benefits as well as

disadvantages.



Open is a world of trustworthy brands, a predictable ordering system, and

no chance of data overload.



It is a sign of Open’s lack of net-savvy that although its own site’s

address is www.open-here. co.uk, it didn’t call the brand Open-here. To

add to the confusion,opentv.com and opentv.co.uk are used by a Palo Alto

company and a UK company called The Patel Group respectively.



Open’s survey found 23 per cent of the population will not finish their

Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. We shall see whether last-minute

shopping traffic flows in large numbers to Open’s shopping partners, and

whether their servers can withstand it.



Open quotes a psychologist saying that consumers want to feel above ”all

the fuss” and that last-minute shopping creates more stress, less choice,

and rushed choices, resulting in gifts which might be only

”second-best”.



But many of the retailers working with Open are seen by net-heads as

second best. Consumers use the web to get different products and a range

of prices. To some critics, Open is more akin to the traditional school of

retailing, while the net offers a different model. There will be an

interesting post-Christmas comparison to be made between the successes of

shopping via the net and shopping on interactive TV.





Nick Rosen is a director of The Online Research Agency, a market research

company focused on the internet. Email: nick@online-agency. com or tel:

0797 1543703.



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