Online Holiday Shopping Up in Major Cities

Approximately three quarters of Internet users plan to do as much or more of their holiday shopping online this year as they did last year, even as many plan to cut back on overall spending, according to a new poll of Internet users in the top 20 U.S. markets.

Overall, 74 percent of poll respondents plan to do at least some holiday shopping online and a considerable number, according to an AOL Shopping/Zogby Interactive poll. A total of 26 percent of respondents plan to spend at least half of their holiday shopping dollars online. Top online purchases: books, music or movies (57%); clothing, shoes and accessories (32%); and gift cards (23%).

The survey found that more than a third of holiday shoppers in these cities plan to cut back their gift-buying budget this year. The main reasons cited were: lower income this year (28 percent), general economic concerns (25 percent), and increasing energy prices (19 percent). Forty five percent plan to spend under $500, and only 16 percent plan to spend more than $1,000 on holiday gifts this year.

Even if they choose to purchase an item at a retail store instead of online, 69 percent of in these cities plan to use the Internet to browse or check prices before heading to the store.

“The poll findings are a clear indication that consumers, on tighter budgets this holiday season, recognize the many benefits of shopping online, including the ability to save time and money,” said Robert Hayes, VP/GM of AOL Commerce. “Online comparison shopping—whether from your home computer or from your mobile phone—will continue to grow as an essential element of any holiday shopping plans.”

According to the poll, more than 70 percent of respondents cite convenience and time saving as a primary reason for shopping online. Other top reasons include: easy comparison shopping (40 percent), free shipping (35 percent), and the ability to get products not available in local stores (35 percent).

Seven out of 10 Internet users in all 20 cities said they are more likely to shop at Web sites that offer free shipping compared to those that do not. And most big-city Internet users expect Web sites to offer special discount codes for items during the holiday season.

The survey also showed that consumers are warming to the concept of using their mobile phone’s Internet features to comparison shop while on the go—more than 40% of respondents who have used their mobile phone to access the Internet have used the feature to comparison shop online or to find a retail location.