Survey: Internet to influence nearly 30% of holiday purchases

From browsing to buying, the Internet will play a larger role than ever in holiday shopping this year, according to a new survey conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGresearch. Shoppers, who are expected to spend $791.10 each this year on holiday merchandise, said they will use the Internet for 29 percent of their shopping. 

“While many shoppers plan to purchase holiday gifts online this year, others are using the Internet to look for gift ideas, research products and compare prices before heading to the store,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, the online retail division of NRF. “Retailers’ ongoing efforts to make their stores and Web sites work hand-in-hand will create more sales and happier customers.”

Though nearly half (47.1%) of consumers plan to make at least one holiday purchase online this year, up from 36 percent three years ago, many will also use the Internet to browse before heading to stores to buy. According to the survey, most consumers (88.7%) regularly or occasionally examine products on the Internet before buying in a store.

Nearly 40 percent of online shoppers said they have browsed for electronics online before buying in a store within the last 90 days. Other popular merchandise that shoppers have recently studied online before buying in a store is apparel (20.0%), appliances (19.6%) and home improvement items (18.0%). Consumers also said they have researched medicines, vitamins and supplements (16.2%), and shoes (16.1%) online before purchasing in a store.

“Companies view the Internet as a marketing opportunity, not only a sales channel,” said Phil Rist, vice president of Strategy at BIGresearch. “Retailers see their Web sites as the first connection they make with many consumers and will be sprucing up their sites to give holiday shoppers ideas and information on popular gifts.”

The survey found that shoppers use a variety of Web sites to research and compare products. Many consumers said they begin their online research at Google.com (23.6%), Yahoo.com (7.2%), Amazon.com (5.5%), and eBay (3.7%).