For the first time, the web has surpassed the store as the preferred way for multi-channel shoppers to purchase holiday gifts, according to the e-tailing group’s third annual “Mindset of the Multi-Channel Shopper Holiday Survey,” sponsored by ATG, Retailer Daily reports.

Nearly half (49%) of those shoppers say they intend to do their holiday gift buying online, compared with 44% who plan to do so in-store, found the online survey of over 1,000 adults who shop online four or more times per year, spending at least $500 annually.

Reasons for shopping online start with saving time (88%), locating hard-to-find products (84%), greater selection (83%) and avoiding the crowds at the mall (83%) – all surpassing saving money, which is still an important factor (80%).

Although consumers plan to buy fewer gifts and spend less for those gifts, 72% (vs. 65% in 2007) are planning to research products online prior to purchasing.

Over 91% plan to purchase the same number or somewhat more gifts online; that’s equal to last year’s levels.