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Point, click, buy: Internet holiday shopping

Internet shopping graphic
November 28, 1997
Web posted at: 11:23 a.m. EST (1623 GMT)

From Correspondent Brian Nelson

(CNN) -- The day after Thanksgiving, the start of the holiday shopping season, may be a good time to consider giving up traffic and crowds -- and visit a virtual mall.

If you know exactly what you want, hundreds of individual retail outlets have Internet sites. But if you'd like to browse -- or want the shopping done for you -- the Web can help there, too.

"We offer 40,000 name brand products from 400 different manufacturers in a number of key categories," says Jeffrey Tauber, the president and founder of Cybershop.

CNN's Brian Nelson discusses the pros and cons of Internet shopping
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Some of the other online choices include The Internet Mall, Virtual Emporium and Choice Mall. But those names just scratch the surface of what's available. In addition, your favorite search engine probably has its own shopping directory.

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According to Forrester Research, online shoppers now spend more than $4 million a day on personal computers, software, books, music and adult entertainment.

From half a billion dollars spent last year, Internet shopping is expected to top $2.4 billion this year and $10 billion by the year 2000.

"For the consumer, this is a great time to test because the merchants are very interested in hooking you, and getting you to spend your dollars online," says Forrester senior analyst Kate Delhagen.

Convenience, but security concerns

The driving force for online shopping is convenience. Without the cost of a building and sales staff, Internet stores can afford to offer incentives like free gift wrapping and quick, inexpensive -- and sometimes free -- home delivery.

Always open Internet sign
The driving force of online shopping is convenience   

Still, some consumers hesitate because they can't touch the product, or they worry that their credit card number will be hijacked over the Net. Bookseller Barnes and Noble and other online retailers use encryption technology from Verisign to ensure that transactions are secure, says marketing director Susan Boster. icon 170K/14 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Retailers believe those security fears are fading as consumers become accustomed to shopping on the Web.

If even surfing online malls is too much, consider RoboShopper, a Web site where a free software agent does the shopping for you. "You could hire someone to drive around in a car to do that," says Marty Ford, the president of RoboShopper. "But, of course, that wouldn't be as fast and it would be very expensive."

The longer-term challenge for Web retailers may be to change consumers' habits of shopping for single items, and to convince buyers to let their impulses take over and their wallets open up.

That's one online habit shoppers still have to buy into.


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