Consumer tip: Aggressively take advantage of matching policies, but read the fine print carefully, since exclusions apply.
3. Retailers are trying to fight "showrooming."
The term "showrooming" refers to shoppers using bricks-and-mortar stores to try out products and ask knowledgeable salespeople questions before they head home (or to their mobile device) to make their purchase through an online store. The practice is convenient for the shopper but costly for the retailer, who pays for all the overhead and expertise without making a sale.
According to the Accenture survey, more than half of shoppers say they plan to showroom this season. Donnelly says retailers are responding by offering exclusive products that aren't available online or that can't be easily compared (such as an exclusive version of a television or DVD player), offering lowest prices, and offering better service, such as generous return policies or delivery assistance.
Consumer tip: If you do plan to "showroom," make sure you're considering more than just the price. While online retailers might offer lower prices, they can lack the service that often comes with in-person purchases, and that extra expense might be worthwhile.
4. It's harder to compare prices.
Partly as a result of retailers' efforts to prevent "showrooming," it is harder to make apples-to-apples price comparisons this year. Wilson also notes that waves of staggered sales, such as three or four separate discounts over one weekend, can also make it more difficult for shoppers to figure out how to get the best deal. "It's confusing for consumers, but that's the point. [Retailers] are trying to obscure the ability to clearly make decisions," he says.
Consumer tip: Use all the tools at your disposal, including price-comparison websites and apps (such as RetailMeNot.com, BradsDeals.com, and PriceGrabber.com) to fight the challenge of comparing prices.
[Read: 10 Signs You Shop Too Much.]
5. More people are shopping on the go.
Tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices continue to gain steam as a shopping tool this year. The Accenture survey found that one in four shoppers plan to use such a device to buy holiday gifts this year, up from 17 percent last year. The ease of comparing prices is one reason why. The RetailMeNot.com survey noted that younger Americans were even more likely to use their mobile devices while shopping.
Consumer tip: Mobile devices are another tool that can help you find the best deal. Don't hesitate to pull one out while browsing aisles to figure out whether the best deal is online or right in front of you.
The bottom line: The holiday season has already kicked off, and retailers have released many of their best deals. That means you can plan your purchases around your own budget and convenience, instead of holding out for the day after Thanksgiving.