Holiday Shoppers Storming Online

With time running out on all but the most determined procrastinators, a new survey from the National Retail Federation reports that shoppers are counting on e-commerce to save the day. Nearly 50% say they intend to buy online to help wrap up their shopping, the highest percentage in the poll’s 11-year history.

The survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, also found that as of Dec. 9, when the study was fielded, 32 million hadn’t even begun their seasonal spending.

Additionally, 45% of the respondents say they plan to visit department stores for additional gifts, 37% discount stores, 24% electronic stores, 24% clothing and accessory stores, 15% grocery stores, and 14% outlets. And while most say they plan to finish shopping by Dec. 18, a rugged 10% say they won’t even start until Christmas Eve.



So far, half have brought clothing as a gift, 40% have purchased toys, and 34% have picked up a gift card, the season’s most requested item.

And Experian Marketing Services, in an analysis of data it collected from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, says it’s noticed some big changes in how retailers are drawing shoppers to their sites. Social media is more effective, with networking sites showing dramatic year-over-year increases, both in terms of consumers using them for shopping research, and also as a key driver of traffic to retailers. One example: A YouTube video promotion of an in-store Black Friday event vaulted Hollister, the teen clothing chain, into the top 20 most-visited retail sites on Thanksgiving.

It says it also noticed that retailers offering unique offers and dramatic discounts got the most traffic, including Walmart’s one-hour in-stock guarantee. That guarantee “was the number 10 search term driving traffic to on Black Friday,” Experian says. “Additionally, Old Navy, which typically ranks as the third or fourth most-visited apparel retailer online, leapt to the top spot on Black Friday by offering "50% off everything."  

Finally, a new study from Citi indicates that, despite some downbeat forecasts, consumers may actually be spending more than many retailers expect. The survey, based on the responses of more than 1,800 adults and conducted by Hart Research in mid-November, finds more Americans planning to spend more, and fewer who intend to trim the fat this year. Only 35% plan to spend less this year than last, the lowest percentage since the financial crisis began in 2008. Sixty-three percent plan to either spend more (11%) or the same. And 29% say will be spend more than $1,000 this holiday season, up from 22% in 2011.

"Online Shopping" photo from Shutterstock.

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