How many Christmas presents will you be buying online this year?
Marketing's research from Taylor Nelson Sofres this week shows that 74%
of those with net access won't be buying any. True, more are buying
online than last year, but the fact is, most of us aren't.
But another survey by Amazon last week showed that seven million working
hours a year are being lost by staff taking time off work to fit in
their festive shopping.
It doesn't quite add up. We may be 'time-poor and cash-rich' as the
saying goes, but at the start of 2002 it seems we're still prepared to
brave the weather, the crowds and the queues to buy at the same old
shops. Retailers that two years ago were described as 'struggling' and
berated for having no online strategy are in far better shape today than
the likes of boo.com and Etoys.
As we all know, the online shopping revolution failed to happen for many
of the dotcom entrepreneurs of 1999. There is light at the end of the
tunnel, however. Lastminute.com's recent announcement that it could
break even by 2003 may mean it joins the ranks of dotcom survivors, as
featured on page 22.
So what are the lessons that we can learn from these survivors - was it
a good proposition, a brilliant marketing plan or simply luck that kept
them alive? At first glance, the only common theme uniting this group
seems to be the prevalence of certain sectors, such as travel. These
have undoubtedly capitalised on the fact that consumers had such a
dismal high street experience in their market that almost anything
quicker and easier could have improved it.
Most, too, have some kind of unique offer. Ebay allowed consumers to do
something entirely new. Prior to this, 'auctions' involved coughing from
the back of some dusty room to bid for a 19th-century grandfather clock.
But this still doesn't explain why these survived and others didn't.
Brent Hoberman, of lastminute.com, says many firms went under because
they were only in it to "make a quick buck". But surely it is not as
simple - or as cynical - as that.
The dotcoms that survived have also been the ones that did not expect
the revolution to come at once. These sites built their consumer bases
While the losers blew their borrowed budgets on expensive brand
advertising campaigns, hoping to reap returns quickly through
advertising income, the dotcom survivors have combined well-targeted
online marketing strategies with cautious offline brand building.
They have expanded gradually, ensuring their technology and fulfilment
systems worked first before making promises. In other words, they have
waited for consumers - and consequently advertisers - to catch up with