During this holiday season, for the first time, consumers are expected to spend more money shopping online than at traditional brick-and-mortar stores, according to Deloitte’s annual holiday survey. Though retail spending habits have been trending in this direction for some time — last year’s survey forecast an even 47 percent split between online and brick-and-mortar spending, with the remaining spent via catalog or mail order — this year marks the first time in the poll’s 32-year history that online spending tops the list.
For 2017, the Deloitte survey, which polled more than 5,000 consumers about their holiday spending habits, shows that 51 percent of purchases will be made online, while sales at physical locations will account for 42 percent of the total.
The data shows a clear generational divide: Seniors reported plans to spend 33 percent of their holiday budget on online purchases, as opposed to Generation Z, the youngest group polled, who expect to spend 61 percent of their budget through online retailers. Boomers are split about evenly between online and in-store spending (48 percent online vs. 46 percent in-store), while Gen-Xers will spend the majority of their holiday cash — 52 percent — via click, touch or thumbprint.
The survey also found that the richer you are, the more likely you are to make more of your purchases online: Those with annual salaries exceeding $100,000 said they’ll do 57 percent of their holiday spending online, and just 39 percent in-store.
With the shift toward online spending only accelerating, Cyber Monday sales are expected to grow as well. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the best and most convenient deal this Cyber Monday, when you hunker down in front of your screen and let your fingers do the buying:
See if free shipping is available. While some companies offer free shipping on all orders, others make you spend a certain amount before qualifying. You might not find out an actual cost until you go to check out.
Check return policy. Some will offer free returns, but you may have to drop it off at a specified mailing location. Others may only offer free returns if the product is defective — in that case, ask that they arrange for it to be picked up at your house.
Determine whether you can return items to a store. If free returns aren’t offered, you may be able to return your purchase to a retail store, free of charge.
Consider using a third party. Some companies partner with third parties like PayPal and ShopRunner. These providers specialize only in shopping and returns. While a qualifying transaction or subscription may be required, it could be worth it — depending on how much you shop. You could be eligible for quicker shipping and free returns. Be sure to read the fine print before joining these sites; you could qualify automatically.