Shopping on the Internet should be easy and stress-free: no queues, norude assistants. Yet, according to a recent study, people are still reluctant to buy from e-commerce sites. Dr Peter Lunt, a London university psychologist, spent two years analysing Internet shopping and found that books, CDs and travel tickets are the goods most often purchased online. He surveyed almost 900 people, surfing the Net with groups and talking to individuals in their own homes.
According to Lunt, the main explanations given for this reluctance to go e-shopping were the costs or computer equipment, fear of going online and concerns about the delivery and possible need to return products.
Acknowledging this difference, Lunt says “People recognise the convenience of e-commerce in principle, especially for grocery shopping, but it became clear that even the regular supermarket visit is a complex activity where personal and luxury items would be bought on impulse or with a specific occasion, person or meal in mind. It's hard to reproduce the pleasure of this experience using an unfriendly list-based computer program.”
Lunt believes there are three groups of people who do not shop online. The first has little knowledge of the Internet, but is potentially interested. “They’re a prime target for limited e-services delivered by digital TV,” he adds. “The second group tends to be older, less educated and, Lunt believes, may be left behind. Members of the third group are relatively wealthy and computer literate, but have other reasons for not shopping on the web.
And even amongst those who do shop online, most viewed it as an alternative. They are thinking more of the integration of e-commerce services into their current household routine, rather than taking the opportunity to rethink how they organise their home lives,” says Lunt.
Lunt sees this as a drawback because as he puts it, “PCs are not integrated into the places in the household where decisions about shopping are made.” Perhaps this is why single young men were most positive about e-commerce.
There seems to be some doubt about this. More of us may be encouraged to shop online as manufacturers overcome bad web design and learn to safeguard our privacy, but will Internet shopping ever seriously replace the stress and thrill of the real thing?
A.Indeed, like most shoppers, Lunt’s interviewees found it hard to navigate e-commerce sites, saying goods were not laid out logically. Many were also disappointed at how dull the websites were, particularly compared to things like computer games.
B.Indeed, about 58 per cent of online shoppers fall into this category. Lunt suggests that this reflects their interest in books andCDs, rather than clothes - but even so, men still aren't buying much in total.
C.The more interesting question, however, is what the response from sellers will be. They have to find new ways ofappealing to customers and offer services that include a mix of online and offline outlets.
D.But underlying these stated reasons, there's also a fundamental difference between conventional shopping and online services: both the pleasure of unplanned purchases and the ability to examine products are missing online. And for many, the experience of shopping, especially for clothes, is as important as the products themselves.
E.The location of the computer was another factor in this domestic mindset. Many people have theirs either in the sitting room as part of an entertainment set-up, or else in the studyfor work.
F.The issues for such people are the broader social issues of privacy and the possible effects on the way we live — although surprisingly they are happy to use the Internet for other reasons.
G.“What's more, they’re relatively well-to-do, technologically aware people who get little pleasure from shopping.” Lunt adds. “Given that such people are a minority, will the situation change enough to encourage the rest of the population to shop online”.
H.Amongst all these people, only 14 per cent had tried shopping online anda mere 5 per cent were regular users; most of their purchases were confined to those three commonest product types.