January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Shopping Agents No Secret

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

Nearly half of the respondents purchasing products online in the past six months indicated that they are aware of shopping agents such as MySimon.com, Cnet Shopper.com and Excite Shopping Channel, says a new study conducted by market research firm NFO Interactive, Greenwich, Conn.

In total, 402 of the 759 respondents that have purchased a product online in the past six months, or 53%, indicated awareness of shopping agents or finders on the Internet; however, only 28% of those aware of shopping agents have actually used the services. Among those respondents using shopping agents, the most popular services are CnetShopper.com (9%), MySimon.com (7%) and the Excite Shopping Channel (3%).

Other findings of the study specific to shopping agents include that two in three respondents that have ever used shopping agents use the services less than 25% of the time when shopping online. In general, respondents visit two or three sites to compare prices, shipping fees and check merchandise availability when not using a shopping agent.

Meanwhile, one-fifth of online shoppers indicated that they have returned an item purchased online in the past six months, says NFO.

Some 159 of the 759 of past six-month online shoppers, or 21%, stated that they have returned a product purchased online during that time frame. Also, 21% of those making returns in the past six months have taken back women's apparel and accessories. Movies and videos were returned by 13% of the 157 respondents that have made returns.

Among those making returns, 157 respondents, nearly three-fourths at 73%, were satisfied with how the return was handled. About two in three respondents making returns, 68%, found the return process to be convenient and easy. Some 89% of those making returns did so by mailing the item back to the merchant.

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