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Online holiday sales outlook: Shoppers will spend on family, friends – and themselves

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As many of you saw earlier this month, released its first-ever holiday forecast, projecting a healthy 12% year-over-year revenue growth for online sales in the U.S. this holiday season. As much as $96 billion in online sales is expected through the months of November and December. As a follow up to the Holiday '12 forecast, NRF and our research partner BIGinsight asked what online shoppers are thinking about when it comes to their holiday purchases in its annual holiday consumer survey. You can download the full results here, and also visit NRF's Holiday Headquarters for an in-depth look at what's ahead for the winter holidays. As usual, I’m pleased to see that shoppers continue to look toward digital retailing for options to stay within their holiday budgets. Read on below for a few highlights from the study conducted earlier this month:

    • 52% of U.S. shoppers who plan to celebrate the winter holidays expect to make at least one holiday purchase online this year.
      • These same shoppers will spend a combined average of $900.86 across gifts, cards, food, and decorations for the occasion – 20% more than the combined average for all holiday shoppers.
        • Even before the end of October, close to half of Americans will have already have started their holiday shopping, while another 2 out of 5 plan to start next month. These shoppers will undoubtedly be tuned in to messages from retailers around sales and price discounts, as well as both selection and quality of merchandise.
          • Many consumers will also take advantage of the closing months of the year to reward themselves. Of those intending to make additional personal non-gift purchases for themselves and their families, Americans expect to spend an average of $167.91, compared to less than $140 of all U.S. shoppers during the same period.
            • What takes the top spot for the most sought after gift this year? Two-thirds of respondents resoundingly say “gift cards”, underscoring the need for a well-honed gift card marketing and merchandising strategy, and preferably, online gift card purchase and redemption functionality. Retailers should analyze every opportunity across their site, marketing and social media outlets to find ways to strategically offer and merchandise their gift cards.
              • Finally, it’s important to remember that cross-channel functionality is important for shoppers both online and in-store. Over two-thirds expect to make holiday purchases in discount and department stores; close to another 3 out of 5 will buy in grocery stores; and nearly half anticipate shopping in clothing and electronics stores. Per Deloitte’s recent “The Dawn of Mobile Influence” study, smartphone shoppers are 14% more likely to convert and purchase in-store than customers who aren’t carrying a smartphone. This finding points to the need for retailers to court, not frustrate, the growing number of mobile-equipped customers with a great in-store experience by utilizing in-store Wi-Fi and services such as inventory checking and click and collect.

              This is only the beginning of our online-focused holiday research. Stay tuned for’s eHoliday 2012 pre-holiday study results coming soon!