UK businesses are being urged to ensure that their online stores are up-to-date and competitive as a growing number of shoppers turn to the internet for bargains.
A recent survey for ISP Eclipse Internet found that, with the credit crunch biting down, 54 per cent of respondents will be spending less this year on presents, and one in 10 are expected to buy more online thanks to lower prices and greater variety.
Around one in five now buy more than half of all Christmas presents online, jumping to nearly a third for 25 to 44 year-olds.
"The rising importance of online shopping has been accelerated by the current climate of economic uncertainty, with people looking to reduce the cost of Christmas without compromising too much on the overall event," said Mark Thomas, head of sales and marketing at Eclipse Internet.
Price and convenience are the two biggest factors driving shoppers off the high street and onto their PCs, according to the survey.
Some 65 per cent of respondents rated easy price comparison and better deals as major draws, and 61 per cent cited easy delivery of purchases as another bonus.
Nearly half of online shoppers use search engines to find and compare prices for the goods they seek, and Eclipse is reminding businesses to make sure they are accessible on search engines and price comparison sites.
"Traditionally, a strong and effective web presence was considered the preserve of the big names with the buying power required to set up a professional-looking site and online payment facilities," said Thomas.
"This is no longer the case as small businesses increasingly take a share of the market. This can only benefit consumers in the long term."
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