October 7, 2008, 12:00 AM

Wary of the economy, holiday shoppers will go online for deals, study says

37% of shoppers polled by Harris Interactive and RetailMeNot.com will shop online; 32% to find deals and 24% to save gas.

Consumers plan to look online for bargains this holiday shopping season – and they’ll be using a variety of strategies to find them, according to a new survey. 85% of online shoppers polled will use online tools or web sites to find good deals online, according to the survey of 2,022 online adults from research firm Harris Interactive commissioned by coupon site RetailMeNot.com.

37% of consumers say they’ll shop online this holiday season. Many are logging on to find better deals, cited by 32%; and to save money on gas, cited by 24%. When looking for bargains online 56% say they use search engines to find them, 32% use price comparison sites, 25% online coupon sites, 23% online advertisements, 12% bargain tracking sites, and 5% shopping-themed social networks.

The most popular items for online purchase are books, cited by 71%; music, cited by 62%; and electronics, 55%. 53% buy gift certificates online, while 51% buy clothing, 50% make travel purchases, 39% buy office supplies and 34% buy health and beauty products.

Overall, consumers bracing for a tight gift budget this year will cut their spending by buying fewer gifts for fewer people, a strategy cited by 46%; 43% says they will buy a smaller number of gifts for the same number of people as last year, and 22% say the will make some gifts instead of buying them.

“As economic pressures mount, consumers are becoming more strategic in the way they look for deals and they are using online tools more than ever,” says Guy King, co-founder of RetailMeNot.

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