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Shop.org: Digital Picking up Steam for Holiday Marketing

WASHINGTON - After learning more consumers plan to do their holiday shopping online this year than last, many etailers said they expect their 4Q to grow 15% or higher compared to last year.
     Many have already invested in new technologies and site and service features, according to Shop.org's recent "eHoliday" survey. More than half - 51.0% - said they have significantly invested in mobile-optimized websites and 19.6% have invested in tablet device apps.
     Furthermore, 35.3% said they have significantly invested in QR codes in offline advertising, such as magazine ads and billboards. Among those who regularly use social media platforms, nearly three-quarters said they have invested already in their Facebook (72.5%) and Twitter (41.2%) accounts in advance of the holidays.
     When asked why they plan to spend more online this holiday season, four in 10 shoppers (43.2%) said 24-hour convenience is a main consideration. More shoppers this year are also interested in shopping online as a direct result of free shipping offers - 36.3% will spend more online this year if shipping comes free. Other reasons include their lack of desire to fight crowds in the stores (37.2%) and the ease of comparing prices (29.6%).
     Consumers will get information about retailers' sales and promotions from a variety of channels. The survey found nearly three in 10 (29.2%) will check out a company's Facebook page for more information and about two-thirds (65.1%) will read customer reviews on the company's website.
     The survey, conducted by consumer research firm Big-Research, found that nearly seven in 10 retailers - or 68.0% - said they expect their company's online sales to grow at least 15% or more compared to last holiday season, up from the 63.8% who had those expectations last year.
     The survey is supported by new data from another recent survey by the National Retail Federation, which found the average shopper plans to do about 36.0% of her holiday shopping online, up from 32.7% last year.
     "One of consumers' most anticipated and favorite holiday promotions, free shipping offers will be hard to miss this holiday season as nine in 10 online retailers (92.5%) said they plan on offering the service at some point, up from 84.8% in 2010," Shop.org said. "Eager shoppers can also expect these offers to start soon, as nearly one-third (31.4%) of those surveyed said their free shipping offers would start earlier in the season compared to last year."
     Additionally, 56.3% said their budget for free shipping promotions specifically is somewhat or significantly higher than last year.
     "Online retailers will also leverage their social media and mobile platforms for savvy shoppers on the go, knowing how important customer reviews and comparison shopping applications are to holiday shoppers," said Shop.org head of research, Fiona Swerdlow.
     Like their brick-and-mortar store counterparts, online merchants said they will begin promoting the holiday season earlier this year. The survey found more than half, or 52.9%, plan to start their online holiday marketing and promotions by Halloween, a 40% increase from last year. Another 37.2% will begin marketing by mid-November.

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