Portals click a hit with online shopping

Relief from traffic and attractive offers just a click away is making surfers spend more time shopping online and less at the mall. With over one lakh surfers shopping on the Net everyday, portals feel it's the next big thing on the Net after e-mail. And to cash in on the sizeable traffic, portals are busy expanding their product range - from toys to VCDs, and home furnishings to airline tickets. Also, luring the surfers are attractive payment options. These include paying through credit cards, cash on delivery. Major portals like Indiatimes and Bazee, an online auctions site, are also in talks with banks providing debit cards. While books and CDs continue to be the fastest moving items online, holiday packages and leisure travel bookings are fast gaining acceptance. Further, a new trend of increased purchasing of higher price items appears to imply a growing confidence in online shopping and ordering. In the last six months portals have witnessed a surge in the number of surfers going for online shopping. "More than 1,500 customers actually shop everyday on our site," says Rajesh Sawhney, COO, Times Internet. "In the last six months we have seen a massive growth in online purchases,' he added. Meanwhile, Bazee officials claim around 25,000 hits a day. Gautam Thakar, chief marketing officer of bazee says, "We have the double advantage of being both a buy and sell site and that reflects on the high number of visitors coming to our site." Recently, online retailer announced its Japanese site had attracted one million shoppers in record time and would soon become its largest earner outside the US. Portals say the advantage of shopping on the Net is the width of product ranges just a clisk away. "We have a wide range of products and its being increased. It ranges from toys to VCDs. and clothes to airline tickets. Also, with a range of payment options, customers find it more convenient to purchase on the Net rather than going to the mall," says Sawney. "The advantage of online shopping is that one gets an organised market for second-hand products," says Thakar. However, according to a Taylor Nelson Sofres Mode survey the fear about online payment security is holding back surfers from shopping online. Portals feel the payment gateways, the interface between them and card companies like Mastercard and Visa, that anyway verify the card number and the funds availability, should verify the additional details too. Sawhney of Times Internet says: "At Indiatimes, this is not a problem as we have a range of options available. Besides credit cards, we have cash on delivery option. We have also integrated with all major debit cards." In this regard, portals are putting in checks like Verisign certification and the SSL technology. These ensure that your card number is inaccessible while it is travelling from your PC to the site's server and further on. What you need to be looking for: a lock sign at the bottom right of your screen and a URL beginning with an https instead of merely http. So convenience is the key in Net shopping. While an average shopping day would entail visits to different localities to buy varied items of household importance, Net shrinks the distance. All you would have to do is click on the various items you want to order and wait for them to be delivered at your doorstep. This, at little or no costs involved. Shopping online for items of daily needs -- an almost a way of life in the US -- is fast catching on India, especially in the metros where a hectic lifestyle and long work hours renders shopping cumbersome. With Net connectivity fast on the rise and a huge untapped list of potential shoppers just waiting to be lured, online shopping is on the rise. The mall is dead. Long live the Net.