Virtual shopping: buying virtually can be as much fun as going out shopping the real way. Drawn by convenience and the prospect of a bargain, the Swiss consumer is beginning to follow the trend.

AuteurSethi, Aradhna

"I do most of my basic monthly shopping of toilet paper, kitchen rolls, oil, cleaning materials, UHT milk and some other things, online," says Maria B., a mother of three and part-time web designer for a small company.

"It's so easy. I've got my personal monthly list stored on the system and I just click on it and place my order. I don't need to make a new list each time. If I have to add something, I just insert it there for this time. The rest is there already! I trust Migros and I know what I want. They charge a few francs extra for delivery, but it's worth it. I don't have to carry all the bags up to my apartment on the fourth floor along with the kids!"

Says another: "I buy all my Victoria Secret garments online. The quality is great and since I've shopped at the stores in the US before, knowing the right size is not a concern."

Others don't go in for clothes and daily groceries but buy books and electronics such as iPods or digital cameras. "Why pay so much more in Switzerland for something that is one-third the price--including shipping charges on ebay or amazon?" says a regular web shopper.

For the shopoholic who loves the touch-and-feel experience of the store, an online shop may not offer the same thrill, but practical and convenient it is!

"I like the thrill of going to shopping malls and seeing for myself, but net browsing is not all bad," says Ann Turner who moved from Australia to Switzerland a few months ago. "At least you get a general idea of what's available. And sometimes the online deals are way better. And then, I could always go and window-shop, without really buying more. But that takes a lot of will power, for me at least."

Facts and figures

According to the bi-annual ACNielsen Global Online Consumer Confidence Study, in 2005, Europe and North America have the most online shoppers per capita. Germany, Austria and the UK top the list, with at least 95 per cent of Internet users having made at least one online purchase. In the UK and Germany, about two-thirds of people with Internet connections had made a purchase in the past month.

A 2004 study showed that 70 per cent of Japanese like to shop online. This is followed by the United States, Korea, Germany, and Switzerland, where the proportion falls between 56 per cent and 60 per cent. For Swiss, the most popular online purchases are electronic goods like computer memory sticks, music systems, cameras, CDs and books. Many people who work full-time shop for basic food...

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