November 22, 2010, 11:19 AM

Why 72% of shoppers will buy online this holiday

Internet Retailer-exclusive research details the who, what, when and why of online holiday shopping.

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72% of U.S. online consumers say they will shop online for holiday gifts this season, and 40% of those shoppers say they’ll spend from $100 to $300 for gifts at e-retailers. Another 24% say they’ll spend up to $500, according to exclusive research conducted for Internet Retailer. More than a third of online shoppers (34%) will buy gift cards this season.

The Internet Retailer Holiday Shopping Survey, conducted online in mid-November by Lightspeed Research, a market research firm, measured the opinions and intentions of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers about shopping online. The findings can help e-retailers refine their holiday strategies.

When they’ll buy

35% of shoppers had made at least one holiday purchase online by Nov. 15. Of consumers who hadn’t yet made a purchase, 33% say they expect to start buying online the week after Thanksgiving. 14% will wait until early December and just 2% will wait until mid-December to start shopping online. 23% say they are waiting until they start seeing holiday promotions from e-retailers.

Where they’ll buy

67% of online shoppers say they will buy holiday gifts from two to four e-retailers this season. 23% will shop at five to seven. Consumers cite low prices (69%) as the most important factor when choosing a store. Free or discounted shipping is next (65%), followed by selection (42%), site recognition or previous experience with a site (32%), quality of customer service (29%), flexible return policy (26%), customer reviews of the store (20%) and free gift with purchase (14%).

What they’ll buy

Consumers expect to buy gifts from the books/video/music category most often (54%), followed by electronics (50%), toys (41%), apparel/shoes (38%), video games (35%) and gift cards (34%). Fewer say they will shop online this holiday for jewelry (18%), furnishings or home décor (14%) and food (12%).

Why they’ll buy

The 72% of U.S. online consumers who will buy gifts online this holiday say they will shop online for the time saving and convenience it brings (79% of those planning to shop online). 72% say they go online to avoid crowds and long lines. 63% say it is easier to compare prices online and 61% say prices are lower on the web. More than half cite online for having a larger selection of items (51%). 49% like saving on gas costs and 36% cite paying no or less sales tax as a reason they will shop online for holiday gifts this season.

Why they won’t buy

The 28% of U.S. online consumers that say they won’t buy online say the No. 1 reason why they’ll stick to bricks-and-mortar stores is that they want to see items in person before buying (40%). 34% say they just don’t want to shop online and 25% say they like the experience of shopping in stores during the holidays (25%).

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