April 6, 2012, 2:10 PM

Nearly half of consumers are buying more items online this year

Much of the gains are coming from relatively affluent consumers, Deloitte says.

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Nearly half, or 47%, of consumers are buying more online this year, up from 38% last year and 33% in 2010, according to the new Deloitte Retail & Consumer Spending Survey. Deloitte based its findings on an online survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted between March 5 and March 7.

The survey suggests that relatively affluent consumers will account for significant e-commerce gains this year. 63% of respondents who said they earn at least $100,000 annually say they are buying more items online this year, compared with 44% of respondents earning less than $100,000. Those income groups have differing views of the economy’s health. Of respondents earning at least $100,000, a third of them, 33%, say the economy remains in recession, compared with 44% for lower-income consumers.

For all consumers, shopping the web is becoming an increasingly popular way to find low prices, according to the survey. 58% of all respondents said they often find lower prices online than in bricks-and-mortar stores, compared with 53% who said the same last year.

Online shoppers also are becoming more demanding, Deloitte says: 30% of respondents expect retailers to provide shopping information via mobile apps and alerts, and social media; 24% said the same last year. And 19% of shoppers expect to interact with retailers via mobile devices while inside stores, up from 16% last year.

In fact, 50% of consumers have used their smartphones while inside retail stores to assist in shopping, up from 43% last year, Deloitte says. But 37% of respondents say connectivity issues—for instance, no Internet service or slow connections—have prevented them from using their phones inside stores, the same percentage as last year.

At the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012, the theme will be Connecting with the 21st Century Consumer. Among the sessions that will highlight the latest in online shopping behavior is “Leveraging a commerce platform in the era of the anywhere, anytime, any device consumer,” by Brian Walker, vice president and principal analyst, e-business and channel strategy, Forrester Research Inc.

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