October 23, 2012, 4:57 PM

The holiday season starts now

Roughly half of consumers are starting their holiday shopping this month.

Lead Photo

Retailers, take heed. The calendar, like a rearview mirror, is wrong. Christmas is way closer than it appears, at least for the 50.1% of online shoppers who have either started their holiday shopping or plan to do so in the coming days. Only 6.6% of consumers plan to wait until December to start shopping for gifts, decorations and all the other items that make the holidays more than just a few days off from work.

That’s according to a survey of 2,988 consumers conducted between Sept. 26 and Oct. 11 for Shop.org, the digital division of the National Retail Federation trade group. Earlier this month, the National Retail Federation said that 51.8% of U.S. consumers will shop online this holiday season, up from 46.7% last year.

According to the new survey, released this morning and conducted by BIGinsight, retailers will start early in their quest to sell to these shoppers. Roughly 60% of the 40 online retailers surveyed said they would start their holiday marketing programs no later than Halloween, up from about 53% in 2011.   

“For retailers, there is no better time to shine than the holiday season, and it’s evident that online retailers are already planning to go the extra mile for their customers this year,” says Shop.org executive director Vicki Cantrell. “Consumers can expect even more of an integrated shopping experience this holiday season with companies also looking to enhance their mobile marketing efforts to capture the attention of the millions of holiday shoppers who are already thinking about their holiday shopping lists.”

The survey results suggest the central role that free shipping will play during the 2012 holiday shopping season. Nearly 90% of the surveyed retailers say will offer some form of free shipping for online shoppers.

When asked what promotions they would emphasize the most during the holiday shopping season, 37.5% of retailer respondents said free standard shipping with conditions such as a minimum purchase amount. That’s down from 49% who said the same in last year’s survey, according to Shop.org.

30% of retailer respondents in this year’s survey will emphasize free standard shipping without conditions to attract holiday shoppers, up from nearly 16% in last year’s survey.

The survey also found that:

• 47.5% of responding retailers will “heavily emphasize” discounts that include a specific percentage off purchases. That’s up from 43.1% last year.

• 12.5% of retailers this year will offer coupons that offer “dollars-off” purchase discounts, down from 13.7% in 2011.

• 30% of retailers said they would offer free shipping earlier than they did during the 2011 holiday shopping season.

• Social media will play a bigger role this year: 57.5% of responding retailers anticipate marketing more through Facebook this year than last; 45.0% say the same about Pinterest and 40.0% about Twitter.

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