Ecommerce sales growth this holiday season will be similar to or even surpass last year, according to first-half 2011 online sales estimates and the consensus view of a panel of digital marketing experts interviewed by eMarketer. That means online sales growth will reach double digits for the second consecutive year, even though the economy remains shaky and consumers are keeping tight budgets.
PRICE-CONSCIOUS SHOPPERS WILL SHIFT SPENDING TO WEB
This year’s gains will be fueled by changing consumer behavior. Price-conscious shoppers will shift some of their spending on gifts from physical stores to the web because of the ease of finding deals online. Many will time their holiday purchases around retailers’ key promotional dates and free shipping offers. They will look for retailers’ promotions on social networks and rely on daily deal sites to find experiential gifts that they can enjoy with friends and family. Smartphone owners will use their devices while shopping in-store to compare competitors’ prices, read customer product reviews and retrieve product coupons.
STRONG FIRST HALF BODES WELL FOR HOLIDAY SEASON
Despite an economy that remains sluggish, online sales have shown strong growth in the months leading up to the holiday shopping season. As of July 2011, MasterCard Advisors’ “SpendingPulse” report estimated online retail sales growth of 14.0% year-over-year from all payment forms, not just the company’s own credit card.
“First-half ecommerce sales estimates are strong and industry experts have reasons to be optimistic about the 2011 online holiday shopping season, but the volatile global economy could cause consumers to cut back on spending,” said Grau. “Affluent consumers, who account for a high share of online sales, spend freely when their stock portfolios are healthy. But market downturns have historically undermined their sense of financial security, causing them to pull back on discretionary spending.”
RETAILERS: BE PREPARED
Retailers must be prepared to adjust their merchandising and promotional strategies for various consumer-demand scenarios, to ensure they get their share of holiday spending from such savings-savvy consumers. This means promotional emails must be relevant and have a clear call to action. They need to be prepared to modify paid search campaigns on the fly to account for changing inventory levels and conversion rates on their sites. They also have to have a mobile commerce strategy in place to accommodate a growing number of mobile shoppers. And they will be missing an opportunity to engage their loyal customers if they fail to use Facebook and Twitter to announce their Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions.[Source: Grau, Jeffrey. “Online Holiday Shopping Preview: What Retailers Need to Know.” eMarketer. 12 Sept. 2011. Web. 16 Sept. 2011.]