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Nearly Half Of All Holiday Shopping Will Take Place Online This Season: NRF

Amazon prepares by hiring 100,000 seasonal workers

More shoppers — 46.1 percent — will be browsing for and buying gifts online this holiday season than in any Christmas past, the National Retail Federation (NFR) reported.

According to the trade group’s latest consumer spending survey, the number of cyber Santas will grow 3.8 percent from 2014, hitting the highest level since NRF began tracking online holiday shopping intentions 10 years ago.

The figure is even higher for buyers: 52.9 percent of respondents said they expect to make a holiday purchase online, making ecommerce the third most-popular distribution channel after discount stores (55.9 percent) and department stores (55.6 percent).

CE specialty stores ranked fourth, cited by 27.2 percent of consumers.

The trend hasn’t been lost on Amazon. com, which announced this morning that it is creating more than 100,000 seasonal jobs — in addition to 25,000 recent fulltime hires — to man its more than 50 fulfillment centers and 20 sortation depots across the U.S.

But of those NRF survey respondents who will take to the web, 46.5 percent want something that Amazon can’t provide: multichannel retailers’ “buy-online, pick-up-in-store” and “ship-to-store” options.

Still, the most popular online asset appears to be free shipping, with 93.1 percent of e-shoppers expecting to use a free-shipping offer.

And while computers remain the favored online shopping platform, smartphones are steadily catching up. According to the survey:

• 21.4 percent of smartphone owners will use their device to purchase holiday merchandise this year, the most since NRF began asking in 2011;
• 37.9 percent will use their smartphones to research products and glean store information; and
• 20.3 percent will use their smartphones to look up product availability in a store.

Tablet owners are no slouches either. Nearly half (47.5 percent) will use their devices to research products; 34.5 percent will use their tablets to make a holiday purchase of some kind; and nearly one-quarter (23.5 percent) will check for in-store availability from their tablets.

The survey also suggested that regardless of mobile platform, millennials are the most impatient when it comes to online fulfillment, with 16.7 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 15.9 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds planning to use a same-day delivery option, compared with just 7.8 percent of the rest of the population.

Other findings, covering both online and in-store shoppers, show that:

• sales or price discounts hold the most sway with consumers (73.1 percent), compared with the 60.7 percent who said quality of merchandise most influenced their purchase decisions;
• about 40 percent will begin their holiday shopping before Halloween; and
• gift cards remain the most requested holiday gift item, cited by 58.8 percent, followed by apparel (52.2 percent); books, music, movies and video games (40.5 percent); and CE or IT devices (31.1 percent).