October 14, 2011

Online and mobile tools will help holiday shoppers keep the economic Grinch at bay, according to Deloitte’s 26th annual holiday survey of consumer spending intentions and trends.

Almost half of consumers surveyed (48 percent) say they most likely will shop for gifts online this holiday season – a double digit (13 percent) increase from last year. This makes the Internet the No.1 shopping destination, now tied with discount stores, for the first time since adding the channel to Deloitte’s annual study.

Online shopping no longer skews to the youngest consumers, according to the survey. While 18-24 year old respondents expect to do an average of 32 percent of their buying online this holiday season, this is only slightly higher than the 30 percent of those 45 and older who plan to do the same.

“Online channels will be the bright spot for retailers this year,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail & distribution leader, Deloitte LLP. “One of the effects of a stagnant economy and persistent inflation on consumers’ psyche is a laser focus on price, now the common denominator. Retailers need to capture consumers’ attention with convenience, wide merchandise selection and in-store and online product availability. The survey also indicates that digital shopping transcends all age groups, so retailers must ensure they have a targeted online strategy that is consistent with the in-store experience, regardless of the demographic they serve.”

Among consumers surveyed, nearly half (48 percent) indicate that competitive prices are the top reason to shop with a particular retailer online followed by free shipping among 20 percent of respondents. Additionally, seven out of 10 (69 percent) shoppers are more likely to shop online retailers who offer free shipping.

Shoppers are making a list and checking it online

Social media sites are turning into versatile holiday helpers as 44 percent of consumers plan to use them while holiday shopping. Among this group, 57 percent will seek discounts and half (51 percent) will read reviews and research gift ideas (49 percent) on social media sites. Nearly half (46 percent) will check with family and friends on the gifts they’re hoping to receive during the holidays.

While social media use cuts across all income groups evenly, high-end shoppers will be the most active online and on their phones this holiday season. Nearly nine out of 10 (87 percent) of survey respondents earning $100,000 or more expect to conduct online research this holiday shopping season, compared with seven out of 10 (71 percent) earning $100,000 or less. Among smartphone owners, 41 percent of respondents in higher income brackets plan to use their devices for holiday shopping, which drops to 24 percent among those earning $100,000 or less.

Online, mobile and in-store shopping converge

As consumers increasingly use digital shopping tools, the store continues to play an integral part in the shopping experience. More than seven out of 10 (71 percent) consumers surveyed engage in multichannel shopping – such as purchasing an item in a store after viewing it online – and nearly one-third (32 percent) believe it is important that retailers have both a store and a website.

Shoppers also rely on their smartphones while browsing retail stores. Among smartphone owners surveyed (42 percent) who plan to use their phones for holiday shopping (27 percent), nearly six out of 10 (56 percent) will check or compare prices specifically while in a store, and 38 percent will scan barcodes to locate product information. More than one-third (34 percent) will seek discounts, coupons and sale information from their phones while shopping in a retail store this holiday season.

“The survey data indicates that high-income consumers are the most active segment of online and smartphone shoppers,” continued Paul. “This group is driving consumer spending, so retailers should deliver tailored messages and incentives across multiple platforms to these customers. Retailers should also actively market their online and mobile capabilities in the store, so shoppers know they can instantly access that retailer’s merchandise and promotional information virtually anywhere.”
Holiday bonuses go to necessities

A stagnant economy and inflation continue to affect Americans’ confidence and household finances, particularly among low- and middle-income consumers. Nearly four out of 10 (37 percent) of survey respondents expect the economy to weaken next year, and nearly two-thirds (65 percent) indicate that merchandise prices seem higher than a year ago.

When asked how they would spend a holiday bonus this year, respondents earning over $100,000 say they are twice as likely to invest it (22 percent) compared with those earning less than $100,000 (11 percent). Those in the lower income brackets are much more likely to pay for everyday necessities (31 percent) with their bonuses versus 15 percent among those in the $100,000 income group.

For more information at http://www.deloitte.com/us/2011HolidaySurvey>

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