Saturday, October 23, 2010

Survey: Online Retailers Expect Improved Holiday Sales

According to a recent article from Pet Product News, The majority of online retailers expect strong sales this holiday season, according to a survey released today by the National Retail Federation’s digital division,

The eHoliday Study, conducted by BigResearch, found that nearly two thirds, or 63.8 percent, of the 51 online retailers surveyed expect their company’s online sales to increase 15 percent or more compared to last holiday season. Last year, 45.8 percent of the retailers surveyed had those expectations.

Online retailers may have good reason to expect better sales this holiday season. Overall holiday retail sales are expected to increase at least 2.3 percent over last year, according to forecasts made recently by NRF and Kantar Retail, a consultant group in Columbus, Ohio.

“Retailers continue to see the web as a bright spot in the industry and are putting the finishing touches on new site features so their customers will have good experiences when shopping online this holiday season,” said head of research Fiona Swerdlow. “In addition to using websites to bring in sales, retailers are leveraging the Internet to encourage shoppers to head to nearby stores, featuring store locator information, product availability and store circulars on their websites.”

Although it’s only October, 40 percent of the retailers surveyed said they will begin holiday marketing by Halloween, while another 40 percent said they plan to begin marketing the first week of November.

To attract customers, most of the retailers surveyed, 84.8 percent, plan to offer free shipping at some point during the holiday season, according to the survey. Nearly one-third, or 31.4 percent, said these offers will begin earlier this year than a year ago, and 36.7 percent of retailers said their budget for free shipping is higher than last holiday season.

The majority of retailers surveyed said they are investing in site features and services to maximize their holiday sales. About 72 percent said they have invested in the company’s Facebook page in advance of the holidays, 54.9 percent said they have invested in cross-selling on product pages, 54.9 percent said they have invested in site search and 52.9 percent said they have invested in customer ratings and reviews, according to the survey. Another 43.1 percent of retailers said they have invested more this holiday season in a Twitter campaign or Twitter feed.

“Online retailers know shoppers care about low prices and free shipping, but they also appreciate the ability to easily find gift ideas or shop around the clock,” said Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategic initiatives for BigResearch. “Instead of trying to entice shoppers to come to them, retailers will be leveraging social media in an even more vibrant way this holiday season to reach consumers where they already are: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.”

As part of the survey, BigReserach polled 2,583 consumers about their holiday shopping plans. About one-third, or 32.2 percent, of the shoppers surveyed said they’ll make more of their holiday purchases on the Web this year, listing 24-hour convenience (35.1 percent), easy price comparisons (33.1 percent) and a lack of desire to fight the crowds (30.8 percent) among the main reasons why they’re shifting a portion of their spending.

Of 6.1 percent of online shoppers who said they’ll spend less of their holiday budget online than a year ago, 19.2 percent cited issues with expensive shipping charges, 13.9 percent said they’d prefer to see or handle an item before purchasing it and 5.7 percent said they did not want to wait for the item to be delivered.

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