Little Holiday Cheer Ahead for Online Retail

Little Holiday Cheer Ahead for Online Retail

Ken Cassar, Vice President, Industry Insights, The Nielsen Company

Although retailers have been thinking about the 2009 holiday season since last January, consumers are just starting to think about their holiday plans. As we do every year, Nielsen fielded its annual holiday retail survey at the beginning of this month to get an understanding of consumers’ holiday shopping plans.  While the economy appears to be improving at a snail’s pace, it’s apparent that many consumers intend to spend less and save more this holiday season. In fact, some 42 percent of respondents stated that compared to a year ago they were planning on spending less money on holiday gifts, compared with only 4 percent who intend to spend more.

An even more surprising trend is that of the money that consumers plan to spend this holiday season, a smaller percentage will be spent online: 63 percent of survey respondents said that they would do at least some holiday shopping online, down 10 points from two years ago. Meanwhile, 7 percent of respondents said they would not do any shopping online compared to just 1 percent in 2007.


Consumers Expect to Spend Less Money Online this Year

Among those that do plan to shop online this holiday season, many consumers expect to spend significantly less than last year. In 2008, 42 percent answered that they would spend more than $300 online during the holiday season. This year, that percentage has dropped to just 31 percent, while 22 percent of respondents said that they are going to spend less than $100 online.

So why do some consumers shop online? Interestingly, the main reason is not to save money, but for convenience. Respondents said the top reason they would shop online was the ability to shop whenever they wanted, followed closely by the ability to avoid the large crowds associated with holiday shopping.

While consumers appear to no longer view the Internet as a value channel, they still see it as a place to do comparison shopping, find coupons and do research. And it’s not just consumers coming from lower household incomes–shoppers of all ages and income levels rely on the Internet to inform their in-store purchases. In October 2009, over one-third of the U.S. online population visited at least one deal-oriented Web site.

Although many consumers don’t feel that they save money by making purchases online, they do view the Internet as a deal-seeking venue. When asked how they use the Internet before going shopping in physical stores, 55 percent of respondents said they use the Internet to compare prices across retailers and 49 percent answered that they use the Web to learn about sales and promotions available in physical stores.

It is clear that while the majority of all purchases continue to take place offline, the Internet has an important role to play—deals found online impact holiday purchase decisions and drive purchases at brick and mortar locations.


For more information and insights on the 2009 holiday season, download our recent webinar,2009 Holiday Retail Season: What Consumers Have in Store for Retailers this Season.