Online retailers have plenty to be joyous about this holiday season as new research shows companies are adjusting their holiday plans based on expected growth and strong demand from holiday shoppers. According to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey conducted by BIGresearch, nearly seven in 10 (68.0%) retailers say they expect their company’s online sales to grow at least 15% or more compared to last holiday season, up from the 63.8% who had those expectations last year. The survey is supported by new data from the National Retail Federation, which found the average shopper plans to do about 36.0% of their holiday shopping online, up from 32.7% last year.
One of consumers’ most anticipated and favorite holiday promotions, free shipping offers will be hard to miss this holiday season as nine in 10 online retailers (92.5%) say they plan on offering the service at some point, up from 84.8% in 2010. Eager shoppers can also expect these offers to start soon, as nearly one-third (31.4%) of those surveyed say their free shipping offers would start earlier in the season compared to last year. Additionally, 56.3% say their budget for free shipping promotions specifically is somewhat or significantly higher than last year.
“There’s no question consumers are eager to hit the Web this holiday season, and online retailers are prepping by optimizing their sites, beginning their marketing and promotions early, and planning plenty of free shipping promotions as they aim to provide value and convenience for their shoppers,” said Shop.org head of research Fiona Swerdlow. “Online retailers will also leverage their social media and mobile platforms for savvy shoppers on the go, knowing how important customer reviews and comparison shopping applications are to holiday shoppers.”
Like their store counterparts, online merchants say they will begin promoting the holiday season earlier this year. The survey found more than half (52.9%) plan to start their online holiday marketing and promotions by Halloween, up from the 40% who planned to do so last year. Another 37.2% will begin marketing by mid-November.
When it comes to online retailers’ holiday season priorities, many have already invested in new technologies and site and service features. More than half (51.0%) said they have significantly invested in mobile-optimized websites and 19.6% have invested in tablet device apps. Additionally, 35.3% said they have significantly invested in QR codes in offline advertising, such as magazine ads and billboards. Of those who regularly use social media platforms, nearly three-quarters say they have already invested in their Facebook (72.5%) and Twitter (41.2%) accounts in advance of the holidays.
“Consumers today are far from one-track minded when it comes to finding holiday gifts,” said Pam Goodfellow, Consumer Insights Director, BIGresearch. “These days, most people want to shop around all season long, using their smartphones to scan items in stores and compare prices, retailers’ websites to find store locations to scope out gift ideas, and tablets or laptops to shop from the convenience of their home.”
When asked why they plan to spend more online this holiday season, four in 10 shoppers (43.2%) said 24-hour convenience is a main consideration. More shoppers this year are also interested in shopping online as a direct result of free shipping offers – 36.3% will spend more online this year if shipping comes free. Other reasons include their lack of desire to fight crowds in the stores (37.2%) and the ease of comparing prices (29.6%).
Consumers will get information about retailers’ sales and promotions from a variety of channels. The survey found nearly three in 10 (29.2%) will check out a company’s Facebook page for more information and about two-thirds (65.1%) will read customer reviews on the company’s website.[Source: "eHoliday survey." Shop.org/BIGresearch. 24 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.]