Two overriding themes this holiday season have already been talked to death: the growing importance of e-commerce, and consumers' unyielding expectation for low prices.
But are the two mutually exclusive?
With shoppers turning more and more to the Web—Citi predicted digital sales will rise 15 percent this season—discount retailers are lagging behind their full-priced counterparts in their digital presence.
In the off-price arena, TJX made its second attempt at an e-commerce site in September, but only for its TJ Maxx brand. Department store/discounter Kohl's only recently revamped its site in the second quarter. Ross Stores executives are still pushing back against the platform entirely, saying it does not want to enter the digital realm because of prohibitive shipping costs.
Despite this hole—and analyst opinion that e-commerce is critical for all retailers—experts still do not think discounters are at a disadvantage this holiday season.
"If there's one trend for holiday that I believe in, it's value and getting a good deal," said Citigroup analyst Oliver Chen.
(Read more: A tale of two consumers as consumer sentiment dives)
Traditionally, discounters haven't taken to the Web as aggressively as higher-priced retailers, Chen said. That's because it's harder for lower-priced stores to make a profit when accounting for shipping costs, and because shoppers focused on lower price points may not go online to make purchases in the first place.
Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said another challenge lies in the type of goods that are offered by stores such as Wal-Mart or Dollar General, which sell consumables and groceries—categories that see dramatically lower online sales than consumer electronics or apparel do.
A recent report by former Citi analyst Deborah Weinswig broke down last year's e-commerce sales penetration among retailers. High-end department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks and Nordstrom led, ranging from around 20 percent to 11 percent of their sales coming from the e-commerce channel. In contrast, Kohl's online sales came in at around 7 percent, Target at an estimated 2 percent and Dollar General at an estimated 0.3 percent.