AMERICANS STICKING WITH E-COMMERCE

AMERICANS STICKING WITH E-COMMERCE

The initial results are in, and for old-media and brick-and-mortar marketers, the news isn't too good. The Internet is changing the way Americans receive information and entertainment and how they interact with family and friends. Perhaps most of all, it's changing the way America shops - despite its growing pains in areas that include delivery.

A quarter of Internet-using Americans have decreased the amount of time they spend reading newspapers, while almost half say the Internet has reduced their television time, according to a December survey of 4,600 U.S. consumers by Gomez Advisors of Lincoln, Mass., a provider of e-commerce research and analysis.According to senior analyst Jill Frankle, ''The Net is posing a serious threat to old media like newspapers and television and allowing people to work more at home.''

Indeed, the Web has created new work options. A quarter of respondents say using the Internet has increased the amount of time they spend working at home. The downside is more than one out of 10 admit the Internet has decreased time they spend with family and friends.

It also has lowered the amount of time people spend shopping in stores. Twenty-two percent of survey respondents say the Internet has cut into the amount of time they spend visiting retailers.

And that figure is bound to increase. An Andersen Consulting study found that, while nine of 10 online holiday shoppers experienced problems, they still rate the Web over stores and catalogs as their preferred place to buy.

Seventy-three percent of shoppers gave Internet shopping the highest possible marks in terms of overall satisfaction, compared with the ratings for brick-and-mortar stores (60 percent) and catalogs (56 percent).

The Internet outperformed catalogs and stores on all the key attributes that mattered most to online shoppers: competitive prices, one-stop shopping, convenience and time savings.

Andersen anticipates that 72 percent of homes with computers will shop online throughout the year. This will come despite the fact 88 percent of Web buyers abandoned their online shopping carts in frustration at some point during the 1999 holiday season, while two of five reported a problem of some kind.

Thirty-five percent who experienced problems on one Web site left it for another. The most cited problem was out-of-stock items, with two-thirds of respondents saying this happened at least once.

Forty percent said late delivery was a problem, while just as many complained about paying too much for delivery. One in four left a Web site because they found it too difficult to navigate.

Still, consumers anticipate buying more often over the Internet if Web businesses sweeten the deal with free delivery (98 percent) and on-time delivery guarantees (95 percent).

Highly influential for 91 percent of Net shoppers is the absence of sales taxes in cyberspace. Less critical but also helpful to online shoppers would be customer assistance through a toll-free telephone number (68 percent), as well as live, online customer assistance (62 percent).

''Online shopping has its flaws, but experienced Internet users love it,'' says Steve Johnson, co-director of the e-commerce program for Andersen Consulting. But, he warned, if Internet retailers don't solve their infrastructure problems, they'll suffer.