October 31, 2006, 12:00 AM

In Brief

75% online have purchased products via web
Of the 80 million U.S. online households, 75% have purchased products over the Internet, with more than two-thirds having made an online purchase within the past three months, according to a new report from Forrester Research. Of web shoppers, 19%-about 8 million households-spent $500 during the past three months, 16% spent between $250 and $499, 26% spent between $100 and $249, and 39% spent between $1 and $99, Forrester says. Nearly 40% of web shoppers say they are pressed for time, and more than 70% say they find shopping online easier than through other channels, according to the report. Active web shoppers-those who spent at least $500 during the past three months-account for about 10% of the U.S. online population.

ARTS releases new search advertising standards
Following a test under which Circuit City Stores Inc.’s online division successfully submitted detailed product information through Channel Intelligence Inc. to the AOL Shopping platform, the Association for Retail Technology Standards has announced new standard formats to simplify how retailers submit data to search engines. Jay Heavilon, who chaired the ARTS committee that developed the new standards, says they will replace the current “digital tower of Babel” that prevents consistent and accurate exchange of data between e-retailers and Internet search engines and shopping portals. “These specs allow advertisers, engines and agencies to exchange product data more efficiently,” Heavilon says.

Social networkers say bye-bye to traditional media
Members of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook increasingly are turning away from traditional media and instead looking to peers for product information and recommendations, according to new research from Compete Inc., a market research firm that specializes in how consumers interact with brands online. This change provides marketers with a new opportunity to reach consumers by launching initiatives that interweave e-commerce and social networks, the research firm says. As social network members spend more time on these sites, they become impervious to traditional media, Compete reports.

Gap pounds the pavement for online shoe shoppers
After a year of development, Gap Inc. is launching an online shoe store. The site, PiperLime.com, features more than 100 different brands and categories for men, women, girls, boys and babies. Customers can search for merchandise by style and brand. To drive traffic to PiperLime.com, Gap is offering online shoppers free standard shipping and $10 off their first web purchase. PiperLime.com also features fashion advice and other content from well-known stylists such as Rachel Zoe. Online footwear sales are growing nearly 15% annually and will become a $5.5 billion market by 2010, according to Forrester Research Inc.

Sales tax project launches with first transaction
An online and catalog retailer of home-renovation products has completed the first transaction under the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, using web-based AvaTax tax management software from Avalara, officials at the Streamlined Sales Tax Project and Avalara have reported. The initial transaction-which collected $5.38 in sales tax from multiple taxing jurisdictions in North Carolina on a sale valued at $76.85-was followed by transactions at 13 other direct sellers, including b2c and b2b companies, a spokeswoman for Avalara says. Scott Peterson, executive director of the Streamlined Sales Tax Project’s Governing Board, says the initial transactions mark the beginning of the ability of participating states to recover billions of dollars in tax revenue that has gone uncollected because many direct online and catalog sellers have not had the means to collect sales tax from customers in cross-state transactions.

Numbers back up Comp USA’s customer reviews plan
81% of surveyed CompUSA Inc. online shoppers consider customer ratings and reviews important when they are researching or planning a purchase, according to research findings by a viral marketing firm and web analytics vendor. “CompUSA offers more than 20,000 products online,” says Al Hurlebaus, senior director of e-commerce. “Customer ratings and reviews are absolutely critical to helping our customers choose the right products from this assortment-and to attracting new shoppers to our site.” The findings are based on feedback and comments gathered by analytics vendor iPerceptions from more than 2,000 CompUSA online shoppers in August.

Shopping.com testing new shopping cart and wallet
Comparison shopping engine Shopping.com is testing an integrated shopping cart with attached wallet functionality. The cart will enable shoppers to purchase items from multiple merchants across Shopping.com directly from Shopping.com, using one cart, without having to visit the merchant’s site to complete the purchase. The goal of the test is to determine whether eliminating a potential point of confusion in the shopping process-the point at which the shopper, having clicked a Buy from Merchant button on Shopping.com, suddenly is transferred from Shopping.com to the merchant’s site-reduces cart abandonment and improves conversions for the merchants.

Annual e-commerce sales grow 62% at Costco.com
E-commerce sales at Costco.com grew 62% in fiscal 2006 and the company expects web sales to easily exceed $1 billion in 2007. For FY 2006 Costco had e-commerce sales of $880 million compared with $542 million in FY 2005. The e-commerce numbers include web sales from the U.S. site and a Canadian site Costco opened last year. Overall the web accounted for about 2% of total sales of $58.9 billion in FY 2006. The growth in e-commerce was helped by several technology initiatives and site upgrades that Costco.com has implemented.

PayPal adds 10 currencies and 48 new markets
PayPal Inc. now supports payments in 10 new currencies, enabling customers to send, receive and hold funds in 17 currencies worldwide. The currencies added are the Czech koruna, Danish krone, Hong Kong dollar, Hungarian forint, New Zealand dollar, Norwegian krone, Polish zloty, Singapore dollar, Swedish krona and Swiss franc. PayPal also has added 48 markets in which local residents can use PayPal to send money online; markets include Indonesia, the Philippines and Croatia.

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