Roll out your cybershopping carts, the holiday blitz is here

Online shopping will be bigger than ever this holiday season.

Pay no attention to all the talk about Black Thursdays, Fridays or Cyber Mondays; the season has already begun. I wasn't the only one to notice Christmas trees in stores not long after the back-to-school season ended. And television commercials featuring early-bird specials and holiday jingles that stick in your head began on Halloween.

Free shipping is the biggest lure for online shoppers this year, according to a recent survey of U.S. shoppers conducted by market research company Vizu, sponsored by buySafe (, a leading trust and safety company for e-commerce transactions.

Results of the survey, which compare 2006 shopping to shoppers' plans for the 2007 holiday season include:

• Seventy-three percent said they will spend more online this year because of lower shipping costs.

• More than 30 percent plan to do more online shopping.

• Forty-six percent said they'd shop online to avoid the hassles of malls and the high price for gasoline.

• Merchant performance is the most important factor when buying online. This is more important than price or selection.

• Half the respondents said they have experienced at least one serious problem when buying online -- such as items not arriving -- and nearly one-third of those have had at least three or more problems with online purchases.

• Two-thirds would spend more online if all online purchases were guaranteed.

• Thirty-four percent said procrastination is the reason they plan to shop offline this holiday season.

No matter how much people plan to buy using mouse clicks this season, the World Wide Web is still a valuable resource for researching in-store buying. Web-to-store activity continues to grow, as more shoppers have high-speed Internet connections at home, making it easier to scour sites for product details or read customer reviews of products.

Those wanting to get a jump-start on the "official" start of the holiday season should visit Black Friday 2007 ( The site includes "AdScans," an area with Black Friday sales fliers from more than 20 national merchants.

Understand that prices for the same an item from a merchant will vary by location. The site includes this warning:

"Please note that the posting of these scanned advertisements in no way confirms the advertisement is official. We have seen faked scanned advertisements before, so unless explicitly stated, the advertisements below are to be regarded as nothing more than a rumor."

Online shoppers should bookmark DealNews ( for the latest specials. Its Black Friday Calendar features sales starting before Friday.

See you at the cybermall.

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