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Sixty-eight percent of retailers expect their company’s online sales to grow at least 15 percent or more this year, according to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey conducted by BIGresearch. Compared to last holiday season, that's up from the 63.8 percent who had those expectations last year. The survey is supported by new data from the National Retail Federation, which found the average shopper plans to do 36 percent of their holiday shopping online, up from 32.7 percent last year.
Free shipping offers will be the norm this holiday season as 92.5 percent of online retailers say they plan on offering it at some point, up from 84.8 percent last year. More than 30 percent retailers surveyed say their free shipping offers would start earlier in the season compared to last year. Additionally, 56.3 percent say their budget for free shipping promotions specifically is somewhat or significantly higher than last year.
“There’s no question consumers are eager to hit the Web this holiday season, and online retailers are prepping by optimizing their sites, beginning their marketing and promotions early, and planning plenty of free shipping promotions as they aim to provide value and convenience for their shoppers,” said Fiona Swerdlow, Shop.org head of research. “Online retailers will also leverage their social media and mobile platforms for savvy shoppers on the go, knowing how important customer reviews and comparison shopping applications are to holiday shoppers.”
Like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, online merchants say they will begin promoting the holiday season earlier this year. The survey found 52.9 percent plan to start their online holiday marketing and promotions by Halloween, up from the 40 percent who planned to do so last year. Another 37.2 percent will begin marketing by mid-November.
When it comes to online retailers’ holiday season priorities, many have already invested in new technologies and site and service features. Fifty-one percent said they have significantly invested in mobile-optimized websites and 19.6 percent have invested in tablet device apps. Additionally, 35.3 percent said they have significantly invested in QR codes in offline advertising, such as magazine ads and billboards. Of those who regularly use social media platforms, 72.5 percent say they have already invested in their Facebook and while 41.2 percent have invested in Twitter.
When asked why they plan to spend more online this holiday season, four in 10 shoppers cited 24-hour convenience. More shoppers are also interested in shopping online as a direct result of free shipping offers – 36.3 percent will spend more online this year if shipping comes free. Other reasons include their lack of desire to fight crowds in the stores (37.2 percent) and the ease of comparing prices (29.6 percent).
Consumers will get information about retailers’ sales and promotions from a variety of channels. The survey found nearly three in 10 (29.2 percent) will check out a company’s Facebook page for more information and about two-thirds (65.1 percent) will read customer reviews on the company’s website.
Now in its ninth year, the eHoliday Study provides a snapshot of the holiday activities of large and small online retailers, many of which have been in business for at least 10 years, and also includes the sentiments of online holiday shoppers. BIGresearch for Shop.org surveyed 1,685 consumers from Sept. 19 – Oct. 7 and 51 online retailers from Sept. 22 – Oct. 14.