Online holiday shopping up, up and away

Shoppers plan to spend over half their holiday budgets on the Net, a new study shows.
Written by Dinesh C. Sharma, Contributor
Online shoppers plan to spend 53 percent of their holiday budgets on the Web this season, overtaking traditional retail channels for the first time, according to a survey released Tuesday by America Online.

Shoppers also plan to boost online spending by 6.5 percent, reaching an average of US$295 this year, compared with US$277 last year, AOL said. The survey was conducted for AOL by Opinion Place, an online research site operated by DMS. Opinion Place surveyed 6,250 consumers from Aug. 19 to Sept. 9.

Several other recent research studies have pointed to higher online spending this holiday season. According to Jupiter Research, about 86 million Americans are likely to make purchases online this season, compared with 73 million last year. ComScore Networks recently said that online sales are likely to rake in revenue of more than US$15 billion this holiday season.

Not everyone agrees, however. Forrester Research has offered a more tepid analysis, predicting that shoppers will spend US$13.2 billion online this holiday season, 20 percent more than they did last year. The company notes, however, that such a rate would be down compared with last year's growth of 31 percent, and predicts that as e-commerce becomes more mainstream, online sellers will get more of the same lukewarm responses that their brick-and-mortar counterparts do.

AOL, meanwhile, said that online shoppers are using the Internet more frequently to research and comparison shop. Top gift categories this holiday season will include music and videos, apparel, books, toys and gift certificates, the company said. The clothing and apparel category has overtaken books for the first time, AOL said.

"These findings confirm that shopping online has truly come of age," Bob Hayes, general manager of AOL e-commerce, said in a statement. "Online shopping is no longer just about completing a transaction over the Internet; we're now seeing sophisticated shoppers using comparison-shopping tools and shopping search engines to find the best deals--whether that's online or off."

Also on Tuesday, Visa International predicted that 2004 worldwide e-commerce sales will be more than US$150 billion, up from US$96 billion a year ago. Cross-border transactions now account for 16 percent of all Visa e-commerce transactions, up from 15.2 percent a year ago, the company said said.

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