More retailers offering online deals (and duds) this holiday season

Surveys show that retailers are offering more online holiday deals as shopping patterns migrate to the Web.

Story highlights

  • More retailers are offering deals for online shoppers, experts say
  • National Retail Federation predicts Web spending will be up this year
  • Survey: Online shoppers just as likely to want a Kindle Fire as an iPad
  • While there are good deals to be found, look out for duds, as well
If your post-Thanksgiving shopping plans don't involve leaving the house, you're in increasingly good company. And Web sellers are saying, "Step right in."
As more people do at least some of their holiday shopping online every year, retailers are looking to take advantage of digital deal-seekers -- not just on the much-ballyhooed Cyber Monday, but on Black Friday and even Thanksgiving Day.
ComScore, the online analytics firm, is predicting that online spending is going to increase yet again this holiday season.
So far this November, $9.7 billion has been spent online, comScore estimated, marking a 14% increase versus the corresponding days last year. Wednesday, November 16, has been the heaviest online spending day to date at $688 million.
"With the persistent backdrop of macroeconomic uncertainty and continued high unemployment, consumers appear to be increasingly favoring the online benefits of convenience and lower prices," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.
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"Based on the expectation that these positive spending trends will continue for the season, this year promises to be a Merry Christmas indeed for online retailers."
The National Retail Federation says the average shopper plans to do about 36% of their holiday shopping online, up from 32.7% last year.
And retailers are going after them aggressively.
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In a survey, 33% of respondents told comScore they think they've seen more online sales and bargains this year, while 45% said it seems about the same. Only 7% said they've seen fewer sales or promotions.
The Retail Federation says that more than nine in 10 retailers plan to offer free shipping for online orders at some time this season. And more than one-third say they're offering free shipping earlier this year than last year.
Among digital shoppers, it's perhaps not surprising that electronic gadgets appear at the top of the shopping list.
Consumer-electronics site Retrevo's polling results showed that almost one-third (32%) of its respondents will be searching for a deal on a tablet computer this year.
In an interesting twist that might point to the future of the tablet market, the same number of people said they hope to get a Kindle Fire this year (10%) as said they want an iPad. The $199 Fire actually finished slightly ahead of the iPad, which starts at $499, among men in the survey.
High-definition televisions were next at 25%, with laptops and smartphones following close behind.
Retrevo hasn't just been polling shoppers, either. Their gadget folks have rounded up some lists to help with your online shopping this holiday -- particularly on Black Friday.
They've assembled a list of online deals to watch for, as well as a list of online "duds" that might not be so attractive.
They like a 55-inch Samsung LCD TV for $1,099 at Sears and the Acer Iconia tablet (running Android) for $299 from Staples, among other potential bargains.
Not so attractive? Retrevo says a 55-inch plasma TV going for $600 at Sears is already available for $100 less elsewhere, and a Toshiba blu-ray player being offered for as low as $39 on some sites requires a $49 adapter if you want it to run Wi-Fi.
And this year, bargains may be increasingly creeping in front of potential shoppers via social-media. Retailers are using their Facebook and Twitter accounts, among others, to reach out to shoppers.
Examples? CVS Pharmacy is hosting a quiz on its Facebook page, offering a 20-percent-off coupon for people who take it. In addition to listing specials, RadioShack's page has a "So Wrong, So Right" contest that lets fans submit a picture of a terrible give for a chance to win a much better one.
And Sears is using Twitter, as well as Facebook, to let customers vote on which items they'd like to see on sale on Black Friday.
"Brands are starting to see that this word-of-mouth scale really works and creates a bigger sense of urgency to purchase," Elisabeth Diana, a spokeswoman for Facebook, told USA Today.