April 1, 2003, 12:00 AM

Why some retailers should move faster to get ready for broadband

Consumers buy more online in some categories after they have broadband. Some retailers already have a higher proportion of broadband users with higher expectations.


With more of the online audience going broadband–-already installed in 19 million U.S. households by the end of last year--how fast must e-retailers move to prepare? For some, according to a new report by Forrester Research Inc., the answer is: do it now. E-retailers in product categories that attract more spending over broadband connections, those that attract a higher concentration of broadband shoppers, and upscale retailers that are pure-plays should implement broadband site upgrades before Holiday 2003 to keep up with their customers, Forrester recommends.

That means that once they’ve provided for the basic needs of dial–up customers, sellers of consumer electronics, computers, media products and some apparel should be live with the right tools and services, as consumers say they buy more of these products online once they have broadband connections. Retail sites that attract a broader segment of customers already equipped with high-speed connections also need to move faster on making sure tools and services are broadband-friendly, according to Forrester, which means this should be a priority for those such as Lands’ End and Banana Republic. For the same reason, sites such as Lowe’s, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart will have more time to catch up, as broadband penetration in their existing core audiences is not as deep.

Among those e-retailers first in line for increased broadband traffic, the tools they’ll need to be prepared vary by product category, says Forrester. Higher-end apparel retailers that don’t already have them should add display tools such as zoom and color swatches, for example, while retailers that sell media products such as music must develop a download strategy for “download-hungry” broadband shoppers. Consumer electronics sites should move buried buying guides and customer service functions to product pages.

And since they sell mostly other merchant’s products, Amazon.com and eBay should assist those partners with broadband upgrades, Forrester suggests. “To help merchant partners master broadband selling, they should make broadband upgrade tool kits available as part of their commerce platforms,” says Forrester analyst Carrie Johnson.


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