There has been much discussion of late about some rather stark monthly results and the implications for retail sales this holiday season. Last week we released to Shop.org Members the pre-holiday results of our annual Shop.org eHoliday Study (conducted in partnership with Shopzilla), which focuses primarily on the online side of the retail holiday season.
The pre-holiday study surveyed 2,040 consumers and 60 online retailers in late September and early October. A sampling of highlights from those findings:
- Over half (58%) of the online retailers surveyed expect online holiday sales to increase at least 15% over last year, though that is fewer than the three-quarters (77%) who expected these same results last year. As Scott Silverman, Executive Director of Shop.org, summed it up, “online retailers are resilient but not immune” to the current economic climate.
- Two thirds of consumers expect to use the Web for at least part of their holiday shopping, citing advantages such as 24-hour shopping convenience, price comparison capabilities, and, yes, free shipping offers.
- To that end, retailers have been busy all year investing in new or improved site features and services. Topping the list of focus areas were site search, product videos, cross-selling on the product page, and customer reviews. One fourth of retailers surveyed invested in a Facebook page this year.
- Two thirds of consumers indicate that they typically start their online shopping at a specific site, while another third note that a search engine or directory is a leading starting point. Once they have arrived at a given site, consumers told us they specifically look for clearance sale pages, customer product reviews and a shipping deadlines calendar, among other features.
- How do consumers choose to do business with a given online merchant? In rank order of importance, consumers told us that they want the ability to see the cart total prior to checkout, value for money, clear product descriptions, a free returns shipping offer or policy, and a strong merchant reputation (this list should sound fairly familiar to those of you who consulted the 2007 results). Only then do criteria follow such as guaranteed on time delivery and having the product available to ship immediately.
There’s much more in the full set of eHoliday study results, and I encourage Shop.org Members to take a few minutes to download the deck (log in required) and take a gander. The holiday season is well underway already, but perhaps you’ll find something in the research to help you tighten a message, highlight a feature, and otherwise fine tune your holiday marketing and merchandising plans even at this point. Additionally, Shop.org Members can download the 2008 Shop.org Holiday Strategy & Planning Guide (also log in required), released earlier this fall, and shouldn’t miss yet further resources in the Holiday Resources area on our site.
If you are a retailer and are interested in participating in our upcoming post-holiday retailer survey in January, please let us know at email@example.com and we’ll make sure to include you. In addition to receiving those results, you’ll also receive the 2009 Holiday Strategy & Planning Guide, due out next summer, which will draw on best practices and lessons learned from this holiday season to plan your efforts next year.
Finally, I’d very much like to hear your feedback on the eHoliday study and Shop.org research overall – please feel free to post a comment below or drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your thoughts.
Kind regards. –Fiona
Head of Research, Shop.org