Internet will influence 1 in 4 holiday buys: NRF study

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From browsing to buying, the Internet will play a larger role than ever in holiday shopping this year, according to a new survey conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGresearch.

According to the NRF 2006 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, shoppers, who are expected to spend $791.10 each this year on holiday merchandise, said they would use the Internet for an average of one-fourth (28.9 percent) of their shopping.

Though nearly half (47.1 percent) of consumers plan to make at least one holiday purchase online this year, up from 36.0 percent three years ago, many will also use the Internet to browse before heading to stores to buy. According to the survey, most consumers (88.7 percent) regularly or occasionally examine products on the Internet before buying in a store.

The survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey, which polled 7,623 consumers, was conducted for Washington based NRF by Worthington, OH-based BIGresearch LLC from Oct. 4-11.

When it comes to researching merchandise, electronics are the most popular searches, according to the survey. In fact, more than one-third of online shoppers (39.3 percent) said they have browsed for electronics online before buying in a store within the last 90 days.

Other popular merchandise that shoppers have recently studied online before buying in a store is apparel (20.0 percent), appliances (19.6 percent) and home improvement items (18.0 percent). Consumers also said they have researched medicines, vitamins and supplements (16.2 percent) and shoes (16.1 percent) online before purchasing in a store.

The survey also found that shoppers use a variety of Web sites to research and compare products. Many consumers said they begin their online research at Google.com (23.6 percent), though Yahoo.com (7.2 percent), Amazon.com (5.5 percent) and eBay (3.7 percent) were other popular destinations for shoppers to begin searching for merchandise availability, prices and product specifics.

Similar online holiday buying trends were found by the Prospectiv Consumer Preference Index results released last week. Woburn, MA-based Prospectiv surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers finding that 73 percent of consumers will rely on the Internet to research and compare prices and products - up from 71 percent in 2005.

In addition the survey found that coupons, online offers and special discounts targeted to individual consumer preferences would encourage more spending both online (14 percent) and in-store (16 percent).

Sixty-two percent of the consumers surveyed said they conducted the bulk of their shopping in December, while 47 percent begin holiday shopping two-to-three months before the Christmas holiday. Online shopping begins before in-store shopping among 44 percent of responding consumers.

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