Holiday Cheer Forecasted for Online Retailers

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ADOTAS – The holiday season is a time of year to bring friends and families together, to enjoy a plethora of calorie-suffused foods and to buy the perfect gifts for your mom, dad, sister, brother, husband, wife, kids, best friends, co-workers, dog walker, neighbors, etc. You get the point. It’s the season of giving.

So, where will consumers be spending all of their holiday dollars? Are retailers expecting consumers to tighten their online wallets? On the contrary, despite the economy, online retailers can continue to sing, “’Tis the season to be jolly.” According to eMarketer, online sales have shown strong growth in the months leading up to the holiday shopping season. Many industry experts are expecting online holiday sales to either be on par with or surpass last year’s results ($32.6 billion, up from $29.1 billion in 2009), which translates into growth of at least 12 percent.

What is driving this stable growth? Consumers are relying on the internet more than ever, particularly with the economic slowdown, to help them make “smart” decisions this holiday season. They are conducting extensive research to find the best products online, reading reviews, comparing competitive products and finding the best deals and promotions online to help them make their final purchases. Consumers are committed to finding the biggest bang for their buck. They are not afraid of doing upfront research if it leads them to high-quality, valuable merchandise.
They will conduct research and collect holiday information in numerous ways, including on the go, in stores with smartphones, in the comfort of their homes with their tablets or PCs, or at the office. They will also frequent social networks to find the most talked-about items of the season and the best places to find them. The online space offers endless options and resources, and the convenienceand headache-free experience (i.e., dodging of the holiday crowds, shipping incentives) is an added bonus. These sought-after qualities are driving more shoppers online.

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey:

The average holiday shopper plans to do nearly 40 percent of their shopping online – whether they’re comparing prices, researching products, or actually making a purchase.

More people will seek out holiday deals on the internet this year. Nearly half (46.7 percent) of shoppers will buy online, up from 43.9 percent last year.

Adults aged 25-34 will complete nearly 45 percent of their holiday shopping online, the most of any age group. Many of these adults have small children.

The average holiday online shopper will spend about 22 percent more than the average adult (i.e., not considered an avid online shopper).

Online retailers need to ensure they have a strong presence online right now while consumers are pro-actively searching for their “perfect” gifts. They should not only heavy-up around the Thanksgiving holiday, but also ensure they have strong visibility throughout the season. According to the NRF survey,

Nearly 40 percent already began shopping prior to Halloween.

40 percent of respondents indicated that they will begin shopping in November.

Nearly 22 percent will begin shopping in December.

Additionally, it’s important for online retailers to include creative messages that emphasize valueand quality, since consumers are trying to make the most with their stretched dollars. They should ensure they deliver emotional and enticing messages along with complete shopping experiences. Online retailers need to generate awareness, evoke interest, offer consideration options and then leadconsumers to a final action. Without a consistent and intuitive path to purchase, online retailers could risk losing their consumers to a more prominent and consistent competitor (i.e., lose out on significant sales).

When and where will your consumers be shopping for their holiday gifts this season? Will they be actively shopping in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Or, will they take their time and shop throughout the holiday season? One thing is certain: They will more than likely rely on the internet for multiple steps in their shopping experience. Will they find you?

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