E‑Retailers Looking Ahead to the 2013 Holiday Season

For most e‑retailers, the 2012 holiday season was a success. In general, these marketers reported higher sales increases than traditional retailers. However, e‑retailers also Wedding presentsnoted that specific marketing tactics had a lot to do with this success and they’re already planning their strategies for the coming season.

Most analysts predicted that the recent holiday season would result in a 2–4% retail sales increase. But a close look at the expected results shows an interesting picture. Online retail sales likely increased by 14%. Overall sales may have actually only moved up by 0.7% which means that the Christmas season wasn’t kind to some retailers.

Online sellers report that one of their most successful promotional tools is free shipping. These marketers are finding they must offer and advertise free shipping, not only at the holidays, but on a year-​round basis. This tactic helps them compete against Amazon which has won the loyalty of so many consumers who belong to the Prime shipping program.

Retailers who operate in multiple channels experimented with online-​only discount promotions right before Black Friday. The idea was to attract consumers who don’t want to shop in crowded stores on that day. Some marketers, like CVS Caremark, experienced huge growth as a result. Email was one of the most effective ways to spread the word for retailers engaging in this type of promotion.

Mobile marketing also made a huge difference, especially for e‑tail only marketers. Retailers like Shoebuy​.com attributed 10% of holiday traffic to mobile and another 10% to tablets. For these marketers, laying the ground in advance of a busy shopping period is crucial. Good performance on mobile sites is key. Some of these marketers also promoted specials to mobile-​only customers including tactics like giving subscribers 10 minutes to buy certain items at a special price. For the first time, retailers also noticed a spike in tablet-​driven traffic from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. during the holiday season – a trend which indicates that some shoppers would prefer to search for items from the comfort of home instead of going out to fight traffic and bad weather.

Retailers also noted tougher price competition across the board as their top rivals move into the online space.  The bottom line for the upcoming season may be that retailers will need to start planning their marketing strategies early and make sure their mobile sites are up to the peak loads they are likely to experience. For now, the most creative pricing and promotional strategies, coupled with a time limit, seem to be generating positive consumer response.

[Source: Moore, Stefany. How e‑retailers boosted holiday sales. 7 Jan. 2013. Web. Internetretailer​.com. 15 Jan. 2013] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.