More than half of U.S. consumers will shop e-commerce sites.

51.8% of U.S. consumers will shop online this holiday season, according to survey results released this morning by the National Retail Federation. That’s up from 46.7% last year, and represents the first time that this annual survey shows more than half of shoppers plan to buy gifts and other items via the web. The trade group for the retail industry based its findings on an online poll of 8,899 consumers conducted between Oct. 2 and Oct. 8.

On average, those consumers planning to shop online for the holidays will complete 38.8% of their shopping on e-commerce sites, up from 36.0% last year. Earlier this month, Shop.Org, the trade group’s digital division, forecast that online holiday spending this year would increase by about 12% from 2011 to reach between $92 and $96 billion.

The ongoing growth of e-commerce is one reason for the growth in the percentage of consumers shopping for gifts online, a spokeswoman says. Another reason is the slow economic recovery for many consumers, which drives them to the web to compare prices and find discounts. 52.3% of survey respondents say the state of the U.S. economy will affect their holiday spending plans. That’s lower than last year’s 62.2%, but still historically high.

“More than half of Americans this holiday season will feel the impact of the economy and will compensate by doing what they’ve been doing for several years—looking for ways to cut any corners, comparative shop online and in stores more often, and even planning to travel less or not at all,” says Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation.

The state of the economy will drive 31.4% of respondents to compare prices online more often, down slightly from 32.1% last year. 6.0% of respondents will do their comparative shopping more often from mobile devices, up from 5.7% last year.


The survey found that 46.1% of respondents owned smartphones while 22.4% owned tablets. Less than half of respondents—46.2%—owned neither, the National Retail Federation says. Of those respondents who do own mobile devices, 52.9% of smartphone owners and 64.1% of tablet owners will use their devices to research products and buy.

The survey also found that:

• 24.9% of smartphone owners will use the devices to look up such retailer information as store locations, hours and directions, virtually the same rate as  last year. 17.6% of smartphone owners will use apps to research or buy products; there is no comparative data from last year.

•  19.8% of tablet owners will use the devices to redeem coupons, down from 21.5% from 2011. 27.6% will look up retailer locations and hours, down from 33.8% last year.

•  Overall, respondents this year will spend an average of $749.51 each on holiday products such as gifts, decorations and greeting cards, up 1.2% from $740.57 last year.