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Online Shoppers Want Human Helping Hand

Impersonal e-commerce doesn’t always cut it

Despite Americans’ widespread adoption of e-commerce, sometimes there is no replacement for the personal touch.

According to an August 2009 survey conducted by Harris Interactive for human-assisted shopping site IMshopping, 77% of US Internet users who made an online purchase in the past six months would be interested in help from a real person before buying certain things on the Web.

Those who wanted human help were most likely to be interested in purchasing real estate (56%), automobiles (54%) and insurance (51%).

Though a majority of online shoppers reported a desire for help at least some of the time, 82% of respondents said they had not been able to get that assistance in the past. And more than one-half of that group said it had affected their purchase decision negatively—at least some of the time.

“No level of automation can replace the human touch,” said Prashant Nedungadi, CEO and founder of IMshopping. “The results indicate that shoppers still want real people to help them purchase products, even in a digital setting,”

Some e-tailers provide help via click-to-call or click-to-chat services, which allow online shoppers to interact with customer service reps in real time. (For more information, see “How Helpful Is Live Chat?”)

Harris and IMshopping found that overall, 74% of US adult Internet users had made an online purchase in the past six months. The most common Web purchases were items less likely to require human assistance before buying, such as clothing (44%), books (38%), music (28%), health and beauty products (28%) and travel-related goods (28%).

eMarketer estimates 69.7% of US Internet users ages 14 and older will be online buyers in 2009, rising to 74.2% in 2013. Higher usage of services that allow shoppers to interact with real people during the e-commerce process could provide the reassurance that some Web users need to boost penetration.

Keep up on the latest digital trends. Learn more about an eMarketer Total Access subscription, today.

Check out today’s other article, “How Deep Are Marketing Budget Cuts?

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