According the the results of the 2005 Research eHoliday Mood Study, conducted by BizRate Research, a division of Shopzilla, Inc., online retailers are reaping the benefits of aggressive, early promotions. With the holiday season just getting started, 58.0% of online retailers are reporting year-over-year holiday sales increases of 30.0% or higher. Online retailers feeling “very optimistic” following Cyber Monday and the Thanksgiving weekend increased to 31.0% compared to 24.0% when they were surveyed in late September. Seventy-six percent of online retailers are feeling “very optimistic” or “somewhat optimistic” about the holiday season.

Retailers are using a variety of marketing, promotions and site tools to drive holiday sales. The most popular marketing initiatives have been direct e-mail promotions (92.4%), paid search engine marketing (71.4%), natural search engine marketing (53.3%) and affiliate/loyalty programs (40.1%). Free shipping with conditions reigns as the most successful promotion in retailers’ arsenal with 62.0% of retailers citing it as being most successful in driving holiday sales. As for the best site tools, retailers are having the most success with gift idea centers (52.0%), suggested items (39.0%) and featured sale item pages (32.0%).

The marketing and promotional initiatives are having the desired effect on Internet bargain hunters. Almost a third (30.3%) of consumers surveyed reported that they started their online holiday shopping earlier than last year.

“Following a strong Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday, the 2005 online holiday season is off to a great start,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of “Effective marketing vehicles, desirable promotions and site features that help shoppers find the best gift seem to be the right combination for another great holiday for online retailers.”

Beyond promotions, the top reason why shoppers chose to shop online was avoiding crowds (73.4%). Convenience (66.6%), avoiding lines (59.0%), easy ease to of find ing items (51.6%), price comparisons (51.1%), and product comparisons (44.5%) are the other big draws for consumers.

Online shoppers are responding well to retailers’ continued efforts to improve the online shopping experience. This year, 96.2% of consumers were satisfied with their online holiday purchases through Thanksgiving weekend, compared to 95.0% in 2004.

“Retailers understand that last minute shopping is just part of the holiday shopping ritual,” said Chuck Davis, chairman of Shopzilla “Multi-channel retailers are making sure consumers are able to shop as late as possible, from work or home, day or night, whenever or wherever they want to shop without the annoying crowds.”

Consumers seeking to ensure gift delivery by Christmas should place their orders at most online retailers by December 15 or 16. One-fourth of retailers will guarantee Christmas delivery using standard shipping for orders placed by December 16. One-third of retailers will guarantee Christmas delivery for orders placed by December 15 or earlier.