Anticipating record-high sales for Mother's Day, a growing number of small businesses are shifting their marketing efforts  online this year.

Of more than 600 small-business owners polled, 73 percent said they are expecting strong Mother's Day sales, up from 66 percent last year, according to a survey by Constant Contact, a Waltham, Mass.-based e-mail marketing firm.

Eighty-three percent say the holiday, which falls on May 13 this year, is crucial to yearly earnings -- with a majority ranking it ahead of Valentine's Day, Easter, Father Day's, Independence Day, Halloween, Labor Day, and St. Patrick's Day.

They have reason to be optimistic. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are planning to spend an average of $139.14 on gifts this year, about $17 more than last year. That's nearly $16 billion in total -- a record high. Together, they're expected to spend as much as $1.6 billion on clothes and accessories, $2.1 billion on jewelry, $2.3 billion on flowers, and $3.1 billion on a special meal, the Washington-based trade group reported.

Popular gifts this year include greeting cards, gift certificates, books or CDs, housewares or gardening tools, and consumer electronics or computer accessories.

While most of these will be purchased at specialty stores, a growing number of consumers -- 20 percent of the more than 7,500 households surveyed -- are now doing their Mother's Day shopping online, the group said.

"As people find more creative ways to treat the women in their lives to something special, retailers of all types and sizes stand to benefit," National Retail Federation CEO Tracy Mullin said in a statement.

According to Constant Contact, 74 percent of small-business owners are expecting a significant rise in online gift purchases this year.

That's prompting them to move the bulk of their holiday sales and promotions online. Up to 86 percent said they are planning to use e-mail marketing to reach more Mother's Day customers, while 42 percent are using banner ads, paid search, and other forms of online market.

By contrast, just 20 percent said they're planning to run ads in local newspapers, TV, or radio.