Digital media empowers shoppers this holiday season, survey says

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Santa is going social, and mobile appears to be king when it comes to shopping this holiday season, according to a study conducted Oct. 11–14 by Shopper Sciences, a marketing consultancy unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies' Mediabrands.

The data, based on a survey of 1,055 Americans age 21 and older who are involved in making holiday shopping decisions for their households, revealed that digital media will play a prominent role in what promises to be a “digitally empowered shopping season,” Shopper Sciences CEO John Ross said in a statement on Nov. 3.

The ailing economy won't be keeping shoppers down this year: 41% said they plan to spend as much or more on gifts than they did in 2010. However, they will be savvier shoppers, according to the study, which found 42% of households said they plan to do more research online before making purchases.

Forty-eight percent of respondents said they anticipate using their smartphones more for shopping. Retailers are responding with apps that allow consumers to compare prices, access coupons, check inventory and make payments digitally.

Retailers will likely continue to woo shoppers with early Black Friday deals, flash sales, rewards points and free shipping, according to the study.

Social media will play a more prominent role. The study found that 37% of consumers are linked to a retail brand via a social networking site, mostly as a means of learning about deals not available to the general public.

The prominence of digital media will also impact the way shoppers behave on Black Friday. Only 8% said they will be online when doors open the day after Thanksgiving, while 15% said they will hit stores later in the day. Half of the respondents said they will skip the malls and big-box stores altogether.

Forty percent of respondents age 40 and younger said they intend to buy more gifts online this year than last, while 27% of those over 50 said they will do so.

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