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Online Shoppers Say They?ll Buy from Small and Large E-Businesses Alike

As the holiday shopping season begins in earnest, consumers say they're just as willing to buy from small online retailers as they are from large, national e-commerce providers.

In addition to this key finding, a new national survey of 2,500 consumers discovered extremely high levels of consumer participation in ? and satisfaction with ? shopping on the Internet, despite continuing concerns for security and privacy.

According to the survey, sponsored by Hostway Corp., a global leader in Web hosting and managed services, more than three-fourths of consumers who have shopped the Web sites of both large and small companies said company size is not a factor in having their online shopping needs satisfied. Only 15 percent of respondents expressed a strong preference for dealing with large companies online, opening the door for small- to medium-sized businesses to get in the e-commerce game.

"These survey results provide very encouraging news: The Internet 'Gold Rush' is far from over for small businesses," said John Lee, Hostway's vice president of marketing. "The Wal-Marts of the world may be hurting sales for Main Street retailers, but consumers are telling us size doesn't matter on the Information Highway.

"Our message to small retailers is this," Lee continued, "You clearly have an opportunity to succeed in e-commerce. Consumers are able to find you online. They're willing to buy from you. But it still takes a lot of work, and you should get help from the experts in building and promoting a successful e-commerce Web site."

Overall, nearly nine of ten survey respondents reported buying products online, and of that group, 94 percent said they are satisfied (30 percent) or very satisfied (64 percent) with their overall experience. Participating consumers ranked the following attributes as being the most important factors in shopping online:

- Assurance of security (97 percent)

- Promise of privacy (96 percent)

- Prices (95 percent)

- Web site ease of use (94 percent)

- Availability of desired products and services (94 percent)

Market research firm TNS conducted the survey for Hostway between November 10 and 13, questioning 2,500 adult consumers nationwide about their online shopping experiences.

Lauria L.

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