Future online shoppers will not be wooed by price, instead, customer care will be the factor that pushes them to part with their cash.
The Yankee Group's online shopping survey, Internet Commerce Trends, which analysed US online shopping habits, shows that price of goods is still critical today but other factors are catching up.
In 1998, about 64 per cent of online shoppers said price was a reason to choose one merchant over another. In 1999 that figure increased by just two per cent to 66 per cent.
Customer experience is becoming more important. Having shopped with an online retailer before and having had a good experience more than doubled people's preference for that site. The figure shot up from about 18 per cent in 1998 to more than 40 per cent in 1999.
Better customer service will also become crucial - growing from just over 10 per cent in 1998 to nearly 20 per cent in 1999.
Melissa Bane, director of Internet market strategies at the Yankee Group, said: "Price will become less important as not just commoditised goods such as books are sold. Good experience will become the most important factor and had the most dramatic increase for 1999."
Bane said that fulfilment will continue to be a problem over the next five years and this issue will favour companies with brand names and a high street presence.
"Companies that can leverage their bricks and mortar presence will benefit. It is immediately easier for customers to return products," she explained.
A separate report published yesterday, the second annual Internet report by Which? On-line, shows similarities in habits between US and UK online shoppers.
According to Are You Being Served? - The Growth of an E-nation, one in 10 British Internet users are now regular online shoppers - double the number since 1998 and one of their biggest concerns shared with the US is fraud. Some 51 per cent of UK users regard it as a major issue.
Security may now be less of a concern in the US with just over 50 per cent of online shoppers saying it is an obstacle - but is still the largest deterrent. However, it has shrunk from its 1998 figure of more than 80 per cent.
Bane said: "Customers have had a positive experience and overcome initial concerns."
UK and US consumers share a love of buying books online, according to the surveys.
Last year in the UK computer software and hardware were the main purchases online. This year books (13 per cent) and flights and holidays (12 per cent) have taken over.
In the US books are also the number one choice, outstripping software, compared to last year when they were at level pegging.
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