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comScore offers e-commerce retailers holiday advice

Armed with facts and figures, comScore offers e-commerce retailers advice on attracting reluctant shoppers this holiday season.

With the dour economy playing grinch this holiday season, e-commerce retailers may want to focus on offers of free shipping and online coupons, according to a recent survey by comScore.

In a survey of more than 1,000 consumers taken in mid-October, comScore found 73 percent of respondents planned to save money this holiday season by buying fewer gifts and 69 percent by buying less expensive presents, while 37 percent planned to use coupons.

comScore also found that in the third quarter, 25 million Americans visited coupon sites, up 26 percent from the previous quarter. And it's not just the low- and middle-income folks who rely on these money savers, either.

The number of users visiting these coupon sites, with an annual salary of $100,000 or more, increased by 37 percent in the third quarter, compared with the same time last year.

Electronic coupon clippers who earn $50,000 to $99,999 saw the number of users turning to such sites increase by 25 percent, while those earning less increased their reliance on such sites by 16 percent, according to the report.

"Clearly this is an activity that is coming to the online world and smart retailers will pay attention to this trend," Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman, said during a conference call to discuss the survey results.

And in another cost cutting move, survey respondents noted that if an e-commerce site eliminated free shipping, 72 percent noted they would use another e-commerce site that did offer free shipping.

"Free shipping is a game changer," Fulgoni said, who advised e-commerce sites to find other cost-cutting means this holiday season, than eliminating free shipping offers.

And with one less weekend in the critical holiday shopping period between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas eve, online retailers, as well as brick-and-mortar retailers, are jumping the gun in this weak economic climate. Online jewelry sites like Blue Nile greats users with snowflakes, a red ribbon and diamonds, while offers up a Christmas present nesting in a tree at the top of its page.

And who among the various economic groups actually plan to spend more this holiday season? Yup, those earning $100,000 or more.

The survey found that 54 percent of survey respondents in this economic bracket plan to spend more this holiday season that last year, where as 37 percent of the middle-income folks indicated similar plans and 39 percent for those users earning $50,000 or less.

Retail e-commerce growth rates climbed a modest 6 percent in the third quarter compared with a year ago--far below the double-digit growth of 18 percent to 20 percent in the fourth quarter.

In the third quarter, video games, consoles, and accessories, in part aided by strong sales of Wii and Xbox, increased a whopping 60 percent in the third quarter over last year, but consumer electronics, excluding PCs, came in as a blip with a 1 percent gain. Computers, peripherals and PDAs where flat.