Thursday, May 22, 2003

Virus forces shoppers online

Staff reporter

Hong Kong consumers increased online shopping by 13 per cent after the Sars outbreak, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Total Internet shoppers in April rose to 2.4 million from 2.2 million in February, the market research firm said.

``Consumers turned to the Internet for online shopping and banking, preferring to browse the Internet for shopping deals and check out their finances online rather than walk in crowded places or stand in queues,'' said the firm's director of sales and marketing Peter Steyn., the website of the supermarket chain controlled by Hutchison Whampoa, recorded the largest percentage gain of 161 per cent to 78,830 users. The most popular site remained Yahoo Shopping/Auction, which rose 16 per cent to 429,710 users in April.

``It will be interesting to see how many of these new users continue to use online shopping sites, now they have visited once,'' said Steyn. ``It may end up being a silver lining on the Sars cloud for some of the online retailers.''

Online banking also gained popularity amid the Sars crisis with overall users rising by 25 per cent. Users of Bank of China's website rose by 58 per cent from February to 68,760 users in April, Hang Seng Bank's by 41 per cent to 229,130 and HSBC by 34 per cent to 374,500.

Declines were recorded in movie, event ticket and travel booking sites as people opted for in-home pursuits over out-of-home entertainment and travel, Nielsen/NetRatings said, with, for example, suffering a 24 per cent decrease of users to 108,100.

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