Online Shoppers to Spend 43 Percent of Holiday Budget on Web Purchases

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More than four out of 10 experienced online retail buyers will be doing at least some of their holiday gift buying online this year, according to a survey released Nov. 30 by Gartner Group Inc., Stamford, CT.

The study found that among those buying gifts online, Internet spending will account for 43 percent of their total holiday budget.

Gartner's survey also stated that U.S. consumers who have a year or more of experience in buying products and services over the Internet will spend $8.4 billion this year.

Worldwide online holiday spending this year is projected to reach $19.5 billion.

"Internet retailers will be selling to a much more experienced online shopper this year," said David Schehr, research director in Gartner's E-Business Services group. "This is both a positive and a negative for the more established online retailers. It's positive because online buyers tend to shop at sites with which they already have experience, so marketing efforts can be more effectively targeted. But expectations will also be higher, and it's crucial that Internet retailers fulfill customer requests this holiday season, or they risk losing those customers forever."

The top five categories most frequently listed as gift types to be purchased on the Internet this year are: books; CDs or cassettes; toys or video games; videos or DVDs; and computer software or games.

This is similar to the top-listed items purchased last year -- with the exception of clothes and shoes. Last year, the clothes and shoes category was ranked fourth, but this year only 8 percent of online shoppers surveyed said they are most likely to shop for clothes online.

Four out of five online shoppers said they plan to make most of these purchases at brick-and-mortar stores.

While other Gartner research has stated that clothing is a popular category among Internet buyers -- especially for those who are already comfortable with buying clothing through catalogs -- Gartner said that for most shoppers, even Internet shoppers, clothing is still something that requires the touch, feel and try-on process available through a brick-and-mortar in-store experience.

"But, clothing retailers can encourage online buying through idea and gift lists, such as a top-10 clothing gift wish list page for specific age groups," said Schehr. "Things that will help Aunt Mary pick the right gift for her niece or nephew have a real appeal."

The survey was conducted during September and October among a sample of 2,704 Internet users identified during a national mail survey. The respondents represent a cross section of the U.S. adult population.

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