Washington - Nearly seven in 10 online retailers expect their holiday sales to grow at least 15 percent or more this year, a new Shop.org survey shows.
To generate those gains, more e-tailers (92.5 percent) will provide free shipping on holiday purchases, up from 84.8 percent last year; nearly a third plan to launch the offers earlier in the season, and more than half said they have significantly invested in mobile-optimized websites.
The data come courtesy of a new e-tailer and consumer poll by Shop.org, the online arm of the National Retail Federation (NRF), and BIGresearch.
E-tailers' seasonal optimism is supported by NRF's own findings that the average shopper plans to do about 36 percent of their
, up from 32.7 percent last year.
"There's no question consumers are eager to hit the web this holiday season, and online retailers are prepping by optimizing their sites, beginning their marketing and promotions early, and planning plenty of free shipping promotions as they aim to provide value and convenience for their shoppers," said Shop.org research chief Fiona Swerdlow. "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."
The survey found that more than half of e-tailers (52.9 percent) plan to start their online holiday marketing and promotions by Halloween, up from the 40 percent last year, while 37.2 percent said they will begin marketing by mid-November. Additionally, 56.3 percent said their budget for free shipping promotions is somewhat or significantly higher than last year.
More than half (51 percent) of online merchants have also significantly invested in mobile-optimized websites, the survey showed, and 19.6 percent have invested in tablet apps. Additionally, 35.3 percent said they have significantly invested in QR codes in offline advertising, and of those who regularly use social media platforms, nearly three-quarters say they have already invested in their Facebook (72.5 percent) and Twitter (41.2 percent) accounts in advance of the holidays.
Conversely, the survey found that nearly three in 10 (29.2 percent) of shoppers will check out a company's Facebook page for more information, while about two-thirds (65.1 percent) will read customer reviews on the company's website.
"Consumers today are far from one-track minded when it comes to finding holiday gifts," said Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director at BIGresearch. "These days, most people want to shop around all season long, using their smartphones to scan items in stores and compare prices, retailers' websites to find store locations to scope out gift ideas, and tablets or laptops to shop from the convenience of their home."
When asked why they plan to spend more online this holiday season, four in 10 shoppers (43.2 percent) said 24-hour convenience is a main consideration. Free shipping offers also resonate with consumers, 36.3 percent of whom said they will spend more online this year if shipping comes gratis.
Other reasons include respondents' lack of desire to fight crowds in the stores (37.2 percent) and the ease of prices comparisons (29.6 percent).
The eHoliday Study, now in its ninth year, was conducted for Shop.org by BIGresearch, which surveyed 51 e-tailers and 1,685 consumers in September and early October.