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Source: The Miami Herald

Posted on January 4, 2001

      E-tailing offered consumers myriad shopping possibilities this holiday season; everything from books and videos to diamonds and rare wines could be had from an online site.

      So, what did most folks do when they went online during the holidays?

      Send e-mail.

      Just 24 percent purchased gifts online this year. More alarming, 22 percent of those who did their holiday shopping online in 1999 didn't bother with the online experience this year, according to a study released Sunday by the Pew Internet & American Life project.

      ``We call them the `click-offs,' '' said John Horrigan, a Pew senior research specialist and the principal author of the study. ``These `click-offs' far outnumbered the `click-ins' -- the 6 percent of Internet users who were first-time holiday shoppers.''

      That is more bad news for e-tailers, particularly those who sell only through the Internet.

      Faced with plummeting stock prices and increased competition from established retailers who also sell through stores and catalogs, analysts predict some of the online shops won't be around next Christmas.

      The study found that only a fifth of those who shopped online did the bulk of their holiday purchases there. Twice as many folks went online to surf for gift ideas or simply to compare prices.

      ``Those who shopped online weren't terribly engaged,'' said Horrigan, who noted that 24 percent of Internet users attempting to shop online stopped their transactions midway.

      Horrigan said companies should note what seems to be appealing to Internet users: material that relates to family, friends and possibly religion and church.

      While a quarter of Internet users shopped this year, 53 percent used e-mail to plan holiday gatherings, while 32 percent sent electronic greeting cards.

      The results of this Pew survey of 2,000 Internet users, conducted between Nov. 21 and Dec. 21, confirms earlier findings, Horrigan said.

      A March study showed that e-mail was the most widely used application. An August report pointed out that consumers remained highly concerned about privacy issues online.

      Also in keeping with the earlier studies, the holiday online report showed Hispanics were more likely than other groups to send e-greetings.

      Horrigan concluded that because many more Hispanics have friends and relatives living abroad, e-mail is a less expensive way to communicate than long-distance phone calls and could be far more reliable than the traditional post.

      The latest report also showed that African Americans were more likely than other groups to use the Internet to seek religious information and research religious traditions.

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