Stores taking steps to click with online shoppers
Ameet Vyas showed Kohl's sales associate Charlene McHugh his online sales receipt on his iPhone screen. She scanned the bar code to locate his preordered socks that were marked 50 percent off in the store's stock room.
Ameet Vyas showed Kohl's sales associate Charlene McHugh his online sales receipt on his iPhone screen.
She scanned the bar code to locate his preordered socks that were marked 50 percent off in the store's stock room.
Another clerk then appeared at the online pickup counter with two packages of socks. McHugh bagged them, and Vyas was on his way home.
The transaction took less than 10 minutes - and was one that Vyas, 44, a chemist from Langhorne, said he would be repeating throughout this holiday season as he plans to do all of his shopping online, starting with Black Friday this week.
"I can find sales much easier online, including door busters, and I like the convenience of in-store pickup," said Vyas, who counts Kohls.com, Macys.com, Amazon.com, and Walmart.com as his favorites.
Shoppers like him are why online shopping has exploded in popularity.
And while there are a number of surveys with varying numbers, one thing was consistent: Online shopping will be hot this holiday season.
Retail experts are projecting 9 percent to 12 percent growth in online retail sales over last year. One survey has online surpassing the $100 billion sales mark for the first time.
Major department stores, including Kohl's, now have a designated parking spot near the entrance for online pickup only.
In 2014, total holiday retail sales were reported by the National Retail Federation as $616.1 billion - up 4 percent from 2013.
In October, the NRF released its 2015 holiday sales forecast and expects sales to top $630.7 billion, a 2.4 percent increase from last year.
The NRF also projected that as much as $105 billion will be spent online this year - a 6 percent to 8 percent increase compared with last year, excluding areas such as restaurants, cars, and fuel, which are not commonly purchased online.
U.S. consumers plan to do half of their shopping - including browsing or buying - online this year, and among those with smartphones, one in five will use them to buy holiday gifts, according to the NRF.
"To put total online sales in perspective, they have increased 110 percent over the last five years with annual increases ranging from 14.7 percent to 17.2 percent," said national retail consultant Howard Davidowitz.
However, "the significance of online cannot just be measured by sales, as it plays a major role in supporting and promoting sales of all kinds," Davidowitz said. "Untold numbers of consumers research products online before purchase, particularly for big-ticket items.
"Retailers and manufacturers use email and social media to reach, segment, and target consumers," he said. "Advertising dollars are increasingly channeled to online at the expense of print and broadcast media."
Frank Badillo, director of research for MacroSavvy, which provides insights about economic, demographic, or other macro-level trends, estimates that online sales could reach $77.6 billion in November and December combined, and that explains why retailers are "integrating" their in-store and online operations in time for the busy season.
They include in-store online signage and advertising, in-store pickup counters for online orders, or store-initiated online orders for in-store, out-of-stock items.
With his economic models, Badillo forecasts that online sales will represent about 12.5 percent of holiday retail sales this year, driven by double-digit sales growth and led largely by Amazon.com.
He said this will put online retail sales third in size behind sales in grocery stores, which are No. 1, and big-box/mass retail stores (which include Walmart, Target, and everything from supercenters to warehouse clubs, which rank No. 2.
Badillo said a broader spectrum of shoppers is becoming more sophisticated online.
"The shift online that began with younger, upper-income shoppers has been expanding to younger, lower-income shoppers as they have benefited from a reviving job market most of all," he said. "It's also expanding among older, upper-income households, as they have slowly regained their confidence to spend."
James Werner Jr., 19, of Bristol, who works as a security guard for a department store, stopped by the Oxford Valley Macy's online pickup counter last week to get his shirt order. He plans to do more than half of his holiday shopping this year on Amazon.com. "It's a lot less hassle," he said. "No crowds. No lines."
Marketing research company Adobe Digital Index conducted its own survey and found that mobile devices will drive the majority of online shopping visits (51 percent) for the first time on Thanksgiving Day, and will account for nearly a third (29 percent) of sales, representing a 12 percent increase year-over-year.
According to the NRF 2015 Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, here's how shoppers will be making dents in their holiday gift-giving lists:
About 46.9 percent will use an online search engine.
More than 35.4 percent will leaf through ad circulars.
About 30 percent will look in catalogs.
31 percent will use TV ads.
Reflecting the new world of retail, another tool was growing in influence, as well. "Facebook is the most likely place shoppers will look for inspiration [13 percent] when it comes to social media," said the NRF survey. Pinterest came in second, at 8.8 percent.
LET US KNOW
Have information about any great deals for Black Friday and beyond? Send your ideas to Suzette Parmley at SParmley@phillynews.com.