By Michelle Graff
Washington--Consumers looking to find free shipping deals for their holiday shopping won’t have to wait much longer.

According to the eHoliday survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for, the National Retail Federation’s digital division, 16 percent of retailers will roll out their free holiday shipping offers by the week of Oct. 28.

The survey also found that an increasing number of retailers are offering free shipping year-round. More than one-third--35 percent--already offer the convenience, up from 23 percent last year.

Retailers seemingly are starting their holiday marketing earlier every year, as they look to get a jump on connecting with their shoppers. also surveyed online retailers about when they plan on starting their holiday promotions, and more than half (51 percent) of those surveyed indicated that they would begin by Halloween.

Nearly three-fourths also said that by July, they had begun at least planning for the holidays.

Though some consumers say that it’s too early to begin holiday marketing, more than one-fourth of retailers surveyed indicated that they were offering free shipping earlier in the season as a result of the struggling economy. Approximately 32 percent also will offer discounts earlier than they did last year due to the economy, and the same amount will step up their daily deals this season.

“Retailers have been preparing for the holidays for months, smartly investing in what’s important to online shoppers: value, free shipping, a user-friendly site and flexible returns, among other features,” said Executive Director Vicki Cantrell. “Retailers understand that holiday shoppers also look for merchandise selection and quality, and have boosted inventory to offer ample selection and exclusive products to help customers find just the right gift for everyone on their list.”

As an increasing number of consumers are shopping on the go and mobile continues to play an important role for retail, many retailers also are improving their mobile sites to drive e-commerce. Top mobile marketing tools found among those surveyed include mobile email optimization, smartphone paid search campaigns, texting campaigns and QR codes or other barcode scanning methods.

Prosper Insights & Analytics’ study for surveyed 47 online retailers from June 10 to 27 and 44 brick-and-mortar retailers from Sept. 4 to 23.

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