September 26, 2012, 4:55 PM

Web and other non-store holiday sales will increase 15% to 17% this year

75% of those sales will stem from the web, Deloitte predicts.

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As research firms began taking their first sneak peeks into the holiday sales stocking, it is looking like the web and other non-store sales will once again outpace total holiday retail sales growth.

A new holiday spending forecast from Deloitte LLP predicts that non-store holiday sales will increase 15% to 17% this year compared with 2011. Web retailers will account for nearly three-quarters of non-store sales, with the rest coming from catalogs and interactive TV merchants, Deloitte says.

The Deloitte projection is in line with what research firm eMarketer predicted earlier this month. It forecast online shoppers in the United States will spend $54.47 billion this holiday season, up 16.8% from $46.63 billion last year.

That sales growth is significantly larger than the 3.5% to 4% Deloitte forecasts for total retail sales growth for November through January (excluding motor vehicles and gasoline). Deloitte expects total holiday sales to increase more slowly than last year’s total retail holiday sales, which grew 5.9% over 2010.

"Non-store sales continue to outpace overall growth, but increasingly influence consumers' experience with the retail store, from trip planning, to in-store product research, and post-purchase reviews and sharing," says Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail and distribution sector leader.  "This holiday season, retailers' most lucrative customers may be the ones they engage across physical and virtual storefronts."

Mobile will matter—even, or perhaps especially, in stores—this holiday season, Deloitte says. Mobile-influenced retail store sales such as product research, price comparison or mobile app use will account for 5.1% of retail store sales over the holidays, Deloitte predicts.    

"Retailers that welcome the smartphone shopper in their stores with mobile apps and Wi-Fi access—rather than fear the showrooming effect—can be better positioned to accelerate their in-store sales this holiday season," Paul says.   Showrooming refers to consumers checking out products inside stores before buying online from other retailers.

Shoppers armed with smartphones are 14% more likely to make a purchase in the store than those who do not use a smartphone in the store, according to Deloitte. "The mobile channel is a powerful customer engagement tool, enabling retailers to capture a shopper's attention at the point-of-purchase, while gleaning valuable information about shopper behavior regardless of the shopper's location," Paul says.

In recent months retailers including Wal-Mart and Best Buy have moved to embrace the use of the mobile web in their stores rather than trying to it ward off for fear of showrooming. Just last week, Best Buy Co. announced it is using a new feature in eBay’s comparison shopping app RedLaser called In-Store Experience that uses a smartphone’s GPS to tell when a shopper is in a local store and then customizes what it shows her based on that store.

As part of RedLaser’s deal with Best Buy stores, the two have specified the geographic coordinates of Best Buy’s 1,100 locations—a process called geofencing—so that shoppers can see special offers once they step in a store, including discounted and open-stock items in that store. The geofence detects the presence of a smartphone with a Best Buy app through the GPS built into the phone.

That’s a change from RedLaser’s original function that lets consumers scan bar codes and QR codes on packages in stores and then look for lower prices for the same goods online.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart in late May launched a store-focused shopping app with a feature called in-store aisle location that tells store shoppers the aisle where they can find each item on their shopping list.  As a customer adds an item to her mobile shopping list, she will see the aisle where she’ll find the product. 

Another feature in the app called In-Store Mode enables store shoppers to scan bar codes on products to see the price or get product information, and also scan QR codes for offers and discounts and for access to local ads and general store information. When consumers open the Wal-Mart app while in a store, the app will detect that they are in a store and prompt them to choose the In-Store Mode, Wal-Mart says.

Wal-Mart also added a tool to its app that lets consumers select the store they visit most often and create a shopping list at home by scanning, typing, or speaking items to buy.  The app then pulls the price for each item from the selected store and calculates the total price for all items on the list.

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