By Daniel Hunter

Despite signs of spring in the economy, independent research from Rakuten’s Play.com revealed that British shoppers are planning a cost conscious Christmas, with the average shopper expecting to spend around £298 pounds on gifts, over half the £634 average spend predicted in 2012.

Women are expected to be most price sensitive, with over a quarter (27%) seeking to spend less this Christmas than last year, compared to a fifth of men (20%).

Even with shoppers exercising caution, Christmas sales could still generate around £22 billion in revenue for savvy retailers, highlighting the importance of a strong value proposition. Reinforcing this trend, research found free delivery was the most demanded retail service with 88% of shoppers stating it would influence a sale. When it came to special offers and vouchers women were most susceptible, with 58% stating this would encourage them to make a purchase compared to 44% of men.

“Around one in four shoppers said getting a good deal was very important to them at Christmas. However it’s important for retailers to remember a good deal is about more than a low price," Rakuten’s Play.com MD, Shingo Murakami explained.

"Retailers need to offer incentives and rewards to customers, send reminders around key delivery dates and ensure the sales experience is as seamless as possible whatever retail channel shoppers use.”

Research found the majority of consumers (42%) spend 30 minutes to an hour looking for the perfect gift for friends and family. Women are most likely to deliberate before buying, with nearly a third (29%) admitting a purchase can take days, as they browse for inspiration and weigh-up their options, highlighting the importance of a marketing strategy, which allows for discovery shopping through social media sites, forums, blogs, price comparison sites and beyond.

Overall, men were found to be more last minute in their approach to Christmas with 39% waiting until the final delivery days before Christmas to buy their final gifts.

Christmas Day may be the end goal for many shoppers, but research shows retailers need to think beyond Christmas Eve, especially with younger consumers. On average, a third of shoppers surveyed will continue shopping online on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and this rises to 50% for 18-25 year olds and 48% for 26-35 year olds.

Post Christmas sales are biggest drivers, with 42% looking to snap up a bargain. That said, 15% of consumers will be shopping out of sheer boredom at home and one in ten will be on the hunt for accessories to complement Christmas gifts received.

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