WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct 24, 2012/ — Looking to get ahead of the expected holiday “crowds,” online retailers are ramping up their efforts to attract eager shoppers with free shipping deals and other exclusive online promotions.

According to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey conducted by BIGinsight, six in 10 (61.6%) online retailers will start their online holiday marketing promotions by Halloween, up from 52.9 percent in 2011. Thirty-eight (38.4%) will begin marketing their online promotions by mid-November or later.

Online retailers have good cause to start earlier, too: NRF’s recently-released holiday consumer spending survey found more than half (51.8%) of shoppers will shop online in the coming weeks – the highest amount in the survey’s 10-year history – and 22.1 percent specifically stated they would begin shopping in October, up from 20.3 percent last year.

Quickly becoming the rule and not the exception for retailers, free shipping offers will abound. According to the survey, nine in 10 (89.7%) retailers plan to offer some form of free shipping for online shoppers. When asked which promotions they will emphasize most heavily during the holiday season, 37.5 percent plan to offer free standard shipping with conditions (e.g. minimum purchase), and three in 10 (30.0%) will offer free standard shipping without conditions.

In addition to free shipping offers, retailers will impress holiday shoppers with promotions that include coupons, limited-time only deals, and discounts on specific purchases. Nearly half (47.5%) said they plan to heavily emphasize promotions that offer discounts that include a specific percent off their purchase and12.5 percent plan to offer coupons with select dollars off their purchase. Additionally, nearly one-third (32.5%) said they would offer limited-time only promotions.

Those looking to get a head start on their shopping lists won’t have to wait too much longer for those free shipping deals: three in 10 (30.0%) online retailers said their free shipping offers will start earlier than last year.

Many companies now offer free shipping options every day of the year. Specifically, when asked when they would launch their first free shipping deal of the holiday season, nearly one-quarter (23.1%) said they already offer free shipping year-round. Of those who don’t, 26.6 percent said they would launch their first free shipping promotion by Halloween, and by Thanksgiving – more than three-quarters (76.6%) of online retailers will have offered the promotion.


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