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Some 36% of online shoppers ran into roadblocks when buying gifts this past holiday season — ranging from slow website response, to fruitless efforts to check out, to outright system crashes — according to a survey of 1,000 online consumers, conducted for Guidance by Synovate, reports Retailer Daily.

The Guidance/Synovate survey found that 64% of shoppers completed their purchases incident-free. At the same time, 37% of those online skipped internet shopping altogether, a small percentage of whom reported doing so because of problems in the past.

Of those who reported trouble in 2008, 13% said they had to abandon a very slow website while they were trying to shop, 8% said a website froze or crashed altogether, 7% could not complete a purchase on their first attempt, 6% tried to access a website that was down temporarily, and 4% said a purchase they thought they had completed actually didn’t go through.

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According to the survey, online shopping hassles affect the overall degree to which people will shop online: Across nearly every demographic breakdown — other than race — the group least likely to say their online shopping was incident-free was also the group least likely to shop online.

Other major findings of the survey:

  • Women were more likely to say their purchases were completed without incident (44%, compared with 36% of men).
  • Respondents at both ends of the age spectrum seemed to have more problems than their counterparts overall: Just 35% of both the 18-24 and the 65+ age groups said their shopping was incident-free, vs. 40% of the overall sample. Respondents 25-54 were most likely to say their online shopping was incident-free: 44.5% of those 25-34, 46.5% of those 35-44, and 40% of those 45-54.
  • That might explain why the youngest and oldest also were the least likely to shop online: Nearly half of both groups (45% of those 18-24, and 48% of those 65+) said they didn’t shop online at all this holiday season. The group most active online were those age 35-44: Just one-quarter of them (26%) did not shop online.
  • Those with higher incomes had an easier time of it: Just 27.5% of those who earn less than $25,000 per year said they didn’t encounter problems, compared with 46% of those who earn more than $75,000.
  • Weather wasn’t the only thing bedeviling those in the nation’s midsection in the holiday season. Respondents in the Midwest were far more likely to experience problems: only 29% reported no problems, compared with 44% for those in both the Northeast and the South, and 42.5% of those in the West. Respondents in the Midwest were also least likely to shop online: Nearly half (46%) said they didn’t shop online, while just 30.5% of those in the Northeast agreed.

“While online shoppers may have escaped the ferocious winter weather, a significant number didn’t elude the issues that tend to afflict overburdened, under-engineered e-commerce sites,” said Jason Meugniot, Guidance CEO and owner.

“Ideally, every shopping cart that is not abandoned by the shopper should be converted — and every one that doesn’t sends a message to the consumer. Uptime, speed and reliability ought to be prerequisites of the online shopping experience. Still, I’m heartened by the success that many online shoppers enjoyed, especially since deep discounts, special offers and free shipping/returns made online shopping a better value than ever this season.”

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