October 7, 2013, 3:20 PM

65% of U.S. shoppers will browse online and buy in store over the holidays

65% of shoppers say they’ll do it during this year’s holidays, Accenture says.

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Nothing marks the beginning of the much–anticipated online holiday shopping season like a new industry buzzword, and this year’s is “webrooming,” courtesy, at least in part, of management and information technology consulting firm Accenture.

A new Accenture report on holiday shopping released today finds that 65% of online shoppers plan to “webroom” this holiday shopping season, that is, browse online and then head to a store to make their purchases. Survey respondents say that avoiding shipping costs (47%) and being able to touch and feel a product before purchase (46%) were their primary motivations for shopping this way.

The online survey of 500 U.S. consumers conducted in September also finds that about half (47%) of shoppers will make purchases through their PCs or laptops during the holiday season and that consumers will make purchases and research gifts via tablets more than smartphones. 19% of respondents say they will buy or research via tablets this holiday season, up from 15% last year. That’s compared to 18% who say they will take those same actions on smartphones, compared to 15% last year. 42% of those polled say they will spend at least half of their holiday shopping dollars online. And 50% of survey respondents say they will shop at online-only retailers, compared to 44% in 2012.

The line between store and web will further blur this year as 36% of shoppers plan to buy online and pick up in store, and 21% expect to see up-to-date information on product availability on e-commerce sites.  

“To be successful, retailers must be able to satisfy consumers who, more than ever, want to shop on their terms and expect every step in the journey to be a seamless one, whether they are online, shopping in a store or using their phones,” says Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice.  “The list of consumer expectations of how they should be able to shop—from finding the same prices and promotions in a store as they do online to buying online and returning to a store—is getting longer every day.”

Showrooming will also be a tactic deployed by more shoppers this year, with 63% of shoppers saying they will showroom, which Accenture defines as going into a physical store to see a product and then searching online for a better price and making the purchase online. That compares with 56% who said they would do so last year.

Additionally, one-third of those who say they planned to shop by smartphone say they will use their mobile phones to compare prices in a store. However, mobile security worries are still an issue for 28% of those polled. That percentage of respondents says that privacy and security concerns will deter them from using a phone to shop. 

In total, U.S. consumers intend to spend an average of $646 on gifts this holiday season, which would represent an 11% increase over the $582 they planned to spend, on average, in 2012, according to Accenture’s annual holiday shopping survey. 20% of consumers plan to spend more on gifts this year, compared to 14% who planned to increase their holiday spending in 2012. They also are more likely to overspend their holiday budget this year (46%, compared to 34% in 2012).

“The average dollar spend is trending up, and we are seeing a consumer mindset shifting from ‘cautious’ to ‘sensible,’ which is good news for retailers,” says Donnelly. “However, retailers are mindful that during the 2013 Thanksgiving-Christmas shopping period, they will have six days less in which to tempt shoppers through their doors, so many will go big and go early. Thanksgiving Day shopping is now a firm fixture in the holiday season. We will see more stores opening early on that day in order to capture their share of consumer spending. Although retailers’ main draw on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday will be ‘doorbuster’ deals, shoppers will be demanding discounts of 30% or more throughout the season.”

Indeed, despite more shoppers heading into the shopping season with an inkling that they won’t stick to their budgets, 94% say that discounts will be important to their purchasing decisions this holiday season, up from 84% in 2012, and 49% expect that three-quarters or more of their purchases will be for discounted or sale items. 62% of respondents say it will take a discount of 30% or more to persuade them to make a purchase, compared to 52% in 2012.

The survey also shows that bargain-conscious U.S. shoppers are tracking prices very carefully. 39% say that if they discover that an item they have already purchased is later offered at a lower price, they will likely return it and repurchase it. 45% say they plan to use competitor price-matching tools to track prices, and 24% say they will take advantage of extended return policies.

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