(Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Staff Writer
If you decided to avoid the crowds at stores Thursday and Friday, there will be plenty of deals to be found online today.
And with more consumers using their smartphones and other mobile devices to buy gifts this holiday season, Cyber Monday is becoming the day of choice for many people looking to get their shopping done.
"Everyone is so busy these days that shopping online is an easy way to get everything done that you have to do at the holidays," Manheim Township resident Shirley Watts said.
As president of the Lancaster Area Computer Club, Watts is comfortable browsing for online deals - a trend that seems to be growing as cyber sales have crept up.
While online sales on Cyber Monday in 2005 were $484 million, according to digital research agency comScore, by 2012 they had more than tripled to $1.46 billion. And this Cyber Monday could be the biggest on record with comScore predicting sales topping $2 billion.
Wanda Gardner will be one of the millions surfing the Internet for the perfect gifts at the best prices.
"I'm probably going to do about 80 percent of my shopping online this season so I can avoid the crowds while I hunt for deals," the Lancaster Township resident said.
Kae Kohl of Kiwi Marketing Group, a local firm that advises companies on presenting themselves well online, said she can see the attraction of what some are calling "couch commerce."
"People like the comfort of being able to shop in their PJs and the convenience of being able to compare prices easily," she said.
But Gardner said the appeal goes beyond that, although she is excited that she can shop while wearing her slippers and sipping hot cocoa.
"There's more diversity online - more sizes, more colors, and just more to choose from in general," she said.
Manheim resident Taryn Millette, who will do about half of her holiday shopping online this year, agrees.
"Shopping online makes it much easier to find what you're looking for without having to travel from store to store," she said.
Denise Sensenich said the decision to buy online depends largely on her shopping list.
The Mount Joy resident said the Internet is a great place to find deals on CDs, DVDs, books and other "one-size-fits-all" items. But when it comes to clothing and electronics, it's better to try them out before you take them home, she said.
One person you won't find making online purchases anytime soon is Phyllis Matlock. The New Holland resident said online shopping just isn't for her.
"I enjoy shopping, especially at the holidays when all the Christmas decorations are up and everyone is thinking about giving gifts," she said. "Going to the store is part of the experience, and I'd miss that too much."
Kohl, a strong supporter of shopping local, is happy there are still people such as Matlock out there this season.
The number of consumers who shop from the couch grew nearly 350 percent between 2011 and 2012, according to e-commerce business PayPal.
Kohl said there's a lot to lose for smaller retailers who don't offer mobile purchasing apps, where consumers do 30 percent of their online shopping.
"It can be a little concerning for local shops because the need to compete against that is only getting worse," she said, adding that small businesses are trying to capitalize on their specialized gifts and attention to customer service.
Kohl said highly personalized marketing tools are becoming essential for large retailers, who can drive online sales by focusing on special holiday apps, innovative social media campaigns and free express shipping for last-minute shoppers.
For all those reasons and more, Watts said that's why she and many other shoppers in Lancaster County will be logging in today rather than venturing out.
"If you know what you're shopping for and you know the vendors, you're going to find some great deals," she said.
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