Comparison Shopping the 'New Normal'

Holiday buyers are expected to spend more time seeking deals online.

by staff writer
- Oct 20, 2009

If Santa is anything like this year's holiday buyers, he will likely fill his goody bag with bargains found online after comparing prices on several sites.

According to Experian Interactive, a global information services company, 70 percent of consumers will log onto their computers to compare prices this year before they make purchases—a 32 percent increase compared to 2008.

"This new focus on frugality, and especially on the deferral on purchases for things that aren't needed right now, is the new normal," notes Mike Duke, Wal-Mart's President and CEO. "People are putting a tremendous emphasis on shopping smarter. I don't believe this will change as the economy gets better. The customer will use every bit of intelligence, comparison shop and do lots of research on the Internet."

Fifty-seven percent of respondents also said they will not buy gifts for acquaintances and 53 percent will take co-workers off their shopping lists this year.

Most shoppers are expected to spend between $100 and $499 on presents. Twenty-eight percent plan to spend $500 to $999, and 30 percent will spend more than $1,000, Experian reports.

"To ease the impact of holiday spending," shoppers are expected to begin shopping in late October, the research firm notes. Some sites have already seen an increase in traffic. According to Nielsen Online, eBay had about 2,000 more unique visitors in September 2009 than in September 2008. Amazon saw an increase of about 5,000 unique visitors during the same time period.

Consumers are much more savvy about how they attack their holiday lists

"The difference between this year and last is the inventories are lower, so there won't be as much on the store shelves or in warehouses—which means deep discounting won't be as prevalent as a year ago," says MarketLive Inc. Chairman Ken Burke.

But there are other reasons shoppers will go online. In a survey by MarketLive and The E-tailing Group, 85 percent say they'll visit online stores to save time, 82 percent say they'll do so to find hard-to-find items and 38 will shop online to read consumer reviews.

According to this survey, 55 percent of shoppers this year plan to do most of their holiday shopping online, a 6 percent increase over 2008. And 26 percent will buy more gifts online than they did a year ago.

Customer service will prove important this year, the survey also finds. In fact, 88 percent of shoppers are willing to pay full price for hard-to-find products, "customer conveniences" and good customer service. While shoppers say they would like to stay loyal to stores they have frequented in the past, 70 percent said they would shop at competitors' Web sites.

"Consumers are slightly more optimistic about the economy and are much more savvy about how they attack their holiday lists," says Thom Blischok of Information Resources.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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