Online Holiday Shopping Well Underway

The leaves may barely be turning, but for some it’s already time to start thinking about holiday shopping.

Consumers are likely to start shopping online earlier this year, and they’re likely to spend more than they did last year, according to research from The 2004 “Online Holiday Mood Study” reports 53 percent of online shoppers plan to start their online holiday shopping by early October. This early activity has the jump on merchants, only 14 percent of which will have launched some form of online holiday promotions in the same period. The majority of online retailers (53 percent) won’t start holiday season promotions until after Halloween.

“The consumer demand to start shopping earlier is ahead of where the merchants are in terms of when they are planning to start their marketing for the holiday season.” Executive Director Scott Silverman, told ClickZ. “It certainly seems like a missed opportunity for the retailers.” contacted 103 merchants and 1,722 consumers. Both are optimistic about online shopping this holiday season. Thirty-two percent of consumers plan to do more shopping online, and a very robust 98 percent of merchants anticipate holiday growth this year.

When Merchants Start
Their Holiday Marketing
Starting Dates Percent Start
10/3 – 10/9 14%
10/10 – 10/16 8%
10/17 – 10/23 13%
10/24 – 10/30 11%
10/31 – 11/6 20%
11/7 – 11/13 14%
11/14 – 11/20 16%
11/21 – 11/27 1%
11/28 – 12/4 1%
12/5 – 12/11 1%

Shoppers will continue to use online retail sites for research purposes, according to the study. Respondents noted they’d be using the Internet to comparison shop (89 percent), and to research gifts for other others (86 percent). The number of those actually buying gifts was a slightly lower 74 percent of respondants who indicated they buy gifts for others. Only 53 percent said they’d use the Internet to buy gifts for themselves.

While online retailers may wait until after Halloween to start holiday promotions, the effect of the Halloween holiday is already playing out. Consumer Demand Index statistics for the period spanning September 27 to October 10, 2004 show an increase in the number of searches for the keyword “costumes.” Despite the fact witches and goblins are increasing in popularity, Apple’s iPod remains a favorite top shopping search term.

Top 20 Shopping Searches
Rank Keyword Previous
1 ipod 1
2 nikon d70 9
3 sony 2
4 iriver pmp 120 3
5 digital camera 5
6 shoes 6
7 mp3 7
8 canon 8
9 canon 20d new
10 dvd 10
11 xbox 13
12 tv new
13 tires 20
14 gps 11
15 pda 14
16 cell phones 12
17 panasonic 16
18 halloween costumes new
19 laptop 15
20 speakers new

September Online Shopping Growth

comScore data for the week ending September 26th shows a 53 percent increase over the same period last year. This was the strongest growth reported for the year since April 11th (57 percent).

Not everyone is overly optimistic. Forrester Research is predicts online holiday sales will grow to $13.2 billion, a 20 percent increase over 2003. They consider that “a good, but not great year-over-year increase.”

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