Consumers split on whether to find best deals online or in-store

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Consumers are nearly evenly divided on whether to find the best deals online or at retail stores, according to research from StrategyOne, a consulting firm.

The third part of the firm's annual Holiday Shopping Index, released December 8, revealed that 52% of consumers believe the best deals can be found through Web-based purchases, while 48% said they can find the best deals in bricks-and-mortar stores.

StrategyOne also found that 59% of respondents prefer to shop in stores. The fact that stores are lengthening the holiday shopping season by offering earlier – and longer lasting – promotions may be influencing shoppers' behavior, the firm said.

“The 60-meter sprint from Black Friday to Christmas has become a two-month marathon,” said Bradley Honan, SVP of StrategyOne. “One of the questions we're going to be looking at is the number of people actually putting off their holiday shopping until after Christmas to hold out for those really deep discounts.”

Holiday spending numbers are up across the board this year, with consumers spending more than $17.5 billion, according to a December 8 report from market research firm comScore. It added that those numbers represent an 8% increase over last year's spending, and noted that free shipping is now a part of 51.4% of all online holiday purchases, compared to just 43.8% in 2009.

Yet shoppers are still eager for more deals. StrategyOne found that nearly seven in 10 (69%) are waiting for bigger discounts before they buy more gifts. Sixty percent said they have not seen enough deals so far this season, according to the firm.

“The fact that the public is so evenly divided means going head-to-head with online merchants on price is going to be tough,” said Honan. “A better option is to emphasize the holiday shopping experience that you're just not going to get in front of a computer screen.”

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