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One of the biggest factors holding back consumers from doing their Christmas shopping online is concern about delivery times, according to a survey by shopping site GreasyPalm.co.uk.

The survey finds that concerns about delivery are likely to be hurting online sales this Christmas, with 55% of those surveyed citing delivery times as the major obstacle to doing their Christmas shopping online.

Another 30% gave ‘lack of stock’ as a reason for concern, while the remaining 15% cited credit card fraud as a major worry.

GreasyPalm MD Neil Durrant explained the figures:

"Late delivery can cause a lot of problems for consumers at Christmas.  However, whilst this is given as the biggest drawback of online shopping, notification on lack of stock seems to be the cause of most frustration.”

“Shoppers are fairly forgiving if told, before ordering, that an item is out of stock. If they are notified only after ordering however, consumers feel this could have been avoided and that their time has been wasted."

Of those surveyed, 42% were not confident of delivery times, while 32% were unsure but would take the chance anyway. Such mistrust is more prevalent amongst women, according to the survey. 48% of female respondents were not confident of timely delivery, compared with 33% of men.

Christmas 2006 is expected to be a bumper one for etailers, but they must ensure that they communicate with customers, giving accurate information on stock levels and delivery times, and online customer service departments must be ready to deal with any problems.

Online retailers should take extra care as consumers are unlikely to forgive and forget if their family's Christmas is ruined by late delivery.

As for concern about stock, this also extends to offline shopping. One of my friends decided to buy a laptop and visited both PC World and Curry's, in the high street. Amazingly, one of these stores only had FOUR laptops in stock (as in a total of four), despite displaying many more than that, and staff in both stores advised her to "try the website".

Graham Charlton

Published 13 November, 2006 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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