PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- For seasoned online holiday shoppers, this is the time of year the doorbell keeps ringing, the cardboard boxes pile up and the local couriers curse your name -- if you're lucky. The National Retail Federation's digital branch, Shop.org, found that 51.5% of the consumers it surveyed will shop online for gifts this year, about the same amount as last year. The average person will complete about 39.5% of their shopping on retail and other company websites, up from 38.8% last year and the highest amount in the survey's history. Shop.org is forecasting that online holiday sales will grow between 13% and 15%, to as much as $82 billion, though it fell way short of its prediction of a 12% increase to between $92 billion and $96 billion last year. Meanwhile, online shoppers expect to spend an average $884.55 on gifts, decorations, food this holiday season, compared with an average $737.95 among all holiday shoppers More than 40% of online shoppers started checking off those holiday gift lists in October or earlier, with two-thirds doing so to spread out their budget. Another half want to avoid the stress of last-minute shopping and late-season crowds. That same retail agoraphobia has driven a 59% uptick in online shopping within the past year, according to a survey by Google ( GOOG). This would all be great if online shopping had turned shipping into a flawless system. Shipping costs can still get fairly high, packages arrive when the carrier deems it necessary and those shipped goods are handled with all the delicacy of an open-field tackle during a bowl game. For those looking to keep delivery hassle to a minimum this holiday season, we offer the following three pillars of online shopping:
Market research group ComScore ( SCOR) found that 78% of all online shoppers will go with the cheapest shipping option. A full 75% of them are willing to add items to their cart just to get free shipping. That's right, they'll spend more just to get "free" shipping. Retailers are finally starting to get it. Nearly 35% of all retailers told Shop.org they offer year-round free shipping, up from 23% who said the same. last year. Roughly 16% who offer holiday-specific free shipping started doing so before then end of October, while 27% will offer it just because the economy isn't growing fast enough for their liking. Even if your retailer of choice still falls into that maximum-density category of shops that just absolutely refuse to send packages for free, don't worry: They'll usually take part in Free Shipping Day on Dec. 18 and have that present on your doorstep by Christmas Day.