Five Tips to Prepare E-Retailers for the 2012 Holiday Season

Five Tips to Prepare E-Retailers for the 2012 Holiday SeasonWith e-retail becoming an increasingly competitive field this is not the time to do business as usual. As you put together your strategic holiday business plan be sure to take complete advantage of the latest consumer behaviors and trends. Having an online presence that’s ready to handle both changing consumer habits and expectations is necessary not just to keep ahead of the competition, but to stay in business.

At overstockArt.com we have successfully used consumer behavior and trend research to adapt our business to better meet our customer’s needs. This proactive approach has provided us with competitive advantages in the field and allowed us to continue to grow aggressively and profitably.

The following list outlines five tips that incorporate consumer trends we recommend e-retailers integrate in their holiday business plans:

  • Implementing a mobile strategy is a must. According to an online study commissioned by Local and conducted by the e-tailing group in April, more than one in three shoppers made at least one purchase with their mobile devices during the past six months, and tablet shoppers have an even higher propensity to make a purchase on the device, with one in four having purchased six times or more in the past six months. The trend toward purchasing via mobile means that retailers need to keep their virtual doors open around the clock. And while the technology allows for unprecedented access, the limitations of space on mobile devices requires a simple, user-friendly interface that facilitates shopping. If you don’t have a mobile-optimized site you must create one now in order to stay relevant and be competitive.

    Already have a mobile optimized site? Be certain to update and revamp your mobile site as well as your website towards the holiday so your mobile shoppers will have the same holiday feel on their mobile device as well. Identify and show appreciation for your mobile shoppers by offering mobile-only promotions and discounts.

  • Get in the social media game. Far from being a generational fad, social media sites have largely become a new form of popular communication. In addition to sharing personal information, individuals can also share information, links, video and other media that can be directly tied to a business or specific product. It is more important than ever for e-retailers to connect with their initial customers, but also the friends of customers and the friends of friends of customers in this way.

    In the past year a lot has changed on the social media font, it is critical to understand these changes and adapt to them. Facebook has introduced multiple new marketing tools in the past year and marketers must beware that subtle changes behind the scenes mean brands will need to incorporate paid advertising in the mix if they want to get much traction using Facebook’s free services. Pinterest is now the third most popular social networking site and unlike Facebook and Twitter with their sponsored and promoted messages, retailers can get their brand and product in front of the social photo-sharing sites ever-expanding base for free.

  • Offer free shipping and an extended return policy. Consumers have come to almost expect to receive free shipping, especially during the holiday season. But offering free shipping doesn’t mean you have to do all orders, all shipments at all the times. We recommend starting out early with the free shipping campaign and then tapering it down as the holiday season culminates.

    Be sure to post your shipping cut-off and return policy prominently on your website and mobile site early in the season. Customers want to know that the gift they are buying will be there before the holiday. Customers also want to ensure their gift recipients will be able to return the gifts, so an extended return policy is a good idea.

  • Don’t forget the power of well-planned promotions. It may seem like a no-brainer, but many online retailers forget how powerful promotions are during the holiday season. Offer and publicize promotions throughout the entire holiday season, starting in mid-October. The National Retail Federation considers November 1 to be the official start of the holiday shopping season, but remember the early bird gets the worm. Take advantage of beginning your promotions earlier, by doing so you may gain an advantage while people are still deciding what gifts to give this holiday season. Your promotional campaigns should include e-mail promotions to your subscribers, social media promotions and sweepstakes, mobile promotions and sweepstakes, and a schedule of daily deals partnerships with a deal-of-the-day website such as with Groupon.
  • Focus on significant holiday dates. Although consumers can shop with e-retailers whenever they want to, they still pay attention to specific dates during the holiday season for shopping. Leverage off of the “buzz” created by popular culture on dates like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday to attract consumers to your site and brand.

By integrating consumer trends in to holiday business plans all online merchants can capitalize on the season of giving. These are just five of the trends that we feel will help you get a competitive edge. Enjoy the season and happy selling.

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