November 21, 2008, 12:00 AM

Convenience drives more holiday shoppers online, according to a new study

Despite the economic turmoil, convenience trumps price as the top reason more consumers are shopping online this holiday season, according to a survey by Nielsen Online. That means e-retailers need not compete solely on price, the research firm says.

While many consumers are worried about the economy, it’s still convenience more than low prices that’s driving them to the web, according to a survey by market research firm Nielsen Online.

76% of consumers surveyed say they mainly buy online because of the convenience of being able to shop whenever they choose, and 74% say online shopping saves time. While only 53% cite price as a reason to buy online, that was up from 46% in last year’s survey.

Consumers surveyed project spending 41% of their holiday budgets online, versus 39% in last year’s survey. And 36% plan to do a majority of their holiday spending online this year, up from 32% last year. Nielsen conducted the survey Nov. 6-11 among 1,300 online shoppers who shopped online last year and/or planned to do so this year.

“Based on our survey findings, we believe holiday online sales will grow from 2007, but likely at a single-digit rate and representing the smallest increase we’ve seen since the online commerce market was born,” says Ken Cassar, vice president of industry insights at Nielsen Online, a unit of The Nielsen Company. “If there is a silver lining in these results, it is that consumers continue to view the online channel’s principal value proposition as convenience, more than price, allowing retailers the opportunity to differentiate on service and selection. We expect consumers will be comparison shopping, particularly in categories where goods are high-priced. However, in moderate and low-priced categories, retailers may be able to offer prices that are simply competitive, potentially preserving some of the margin that might otherwise be lost this year.”

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