Are you prepared for the broadband shopping boom?

Web retailers will have to upgrade their Web sites to address the demands and needs of broadband shoppers or risk missing out on this potentially lucrative segment of the market, according to a recent series of reports by Forrester Research Inc.

Forrester estimates that the number of broadband households will reach 40 million by 2004, up from 19 million in 2002. Consumers with broadband Internet access spend more time online, visit more Web sites and buy more merchandise online than users with dial-up Internet access. A total of 20 percent of consumers who signed up for broadband access in the past year say they have increased the amount of money they spend online since using a high-speed connection.

Forrester analyst Carrie Johnson advises retailers to begin ramping up their offerings online to attract more broadband shoppers. While it once may have been possible to satisfy a customer by showing a thumbnail image of a product, Johnson says retailers will have to attract broadband shoppers with bigger and better images, tools that allow users multi-angle views of a product and even streaming media clips.

On the higher end, sophisticated retailers will offer chat-based customer service and real-time inventory lookup capability. Johnson says that companies that sell computers and electronics, media, toys and apparel will be the first to prime their sites for broadband shoppers.