It’s not all bad. Research analysts at eMarketer are predicting a 10.1% increase in online holiday (non-travel) sales over last year. That’s half the growth of recent years, but well beyond the 1 to 3 points many experts expect for overall retail growth in 2008. Why are consumers expected to shop online? And, what can eCommerce interests do to take advantage of it?
According to a survey published October 15, 2008 by the e-tailing group (“Mindset of the Multi-Channel Shopper Holiday Survey”), 81% of respondents list “saving money” as one of the top two reasons they shop online. “Shipping ease” and “saving on gas” were also listed on the list of top two reasons respondents gave. Additionally “A Study About Shopping Habits” conducted by Harris Interactive for RetailMeNot.com found that 32% of respondents will “Shop online for better deals” and 24% will “shop online to save money on gas.”
Many ecommerce marketers are offering free or reduced shipping to take advantage of these expressed consumer intentions. Online-only sales, free shipping upgrades and percentage-based discounts are also tactics likely to be popular this holiday season.
In September, Daniel Butler, Vice President for retail operations at the National Retail Federation, said, “During the next three months [small retailers] need to maximize the one-on-one personal relationships that they have with customers. That is the secret weapon that small independents have against big national chains.”
I agree with Mr. Butler. But, I’d like to expand on that idea by adding that the “big nationals” can develop these relationships online, too. Using personalized and relevant content for all online interactions builds relationships. In fact, any online retailer should be able to benefit from forming better relationships with customers online, and a tough economy may be exactly the right time to improve your relevance. The National Retail Federation stated that it doesn’t expect an economic turnaround until the latter half of 2009, so it’s definitely not too late to get started improving your customer relationships. When the economy recovers, consumers will spend money – and they’ll remember who as communicating with them throughout the tough times.