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Five ways online retailers are preparing for Holiday 2013

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Shop.org recently asked retailers how early they start planning their online holiday season. Half of the respondents said they’ve been preparing for the holidays since April or May. This is one takeaway in the 2013 Shop.org Pre-Holiday Retailer Survey, conducted last month with Prosper Insights & Analytics. This year, retailers are investing in a multitude of site features and services, marketing programs, mobile initiatives and more to maximize Q4 results. Five highlights from this year’s survey:

  • Mobile weaves its way into all aspects of digital retail. Over half of retailers surveyed said that a mobile-optimized website is one of their most important investments this year. Smartphone and tablet adoption continue to rise, meaning that web sites need to work well on all touch points.
    • Search and email are key ingredients for holiday marketing.
    • Close to half (46 percent) of retailers are investing in Google Product Listing Ads for this holiday, while another third (38 percent) want to deliver personalized emails to their customers. As consumers open more marketing emails on their smartphones, retailers are smart to think about using location information to customize messages.
    • Free shipping will be alive and well again this holiday.
    • In late 2012 Google found that nearly half of shoppers will leave a site if it doesn’t offer free shipping. Retailers are approaching this problem head-on. Over one-third (38 percent) of retailers surveyed are analyzing and investing in free shipping offers that include a minimum purchase threshold. As SeeWhy has found in its research, offering free shipping at just the right hurdle rate can significantly reduce cart abandonment, meaning retailers should test those threshold rates carefully.
    • Product detail page enhancements are key.
    • Retailers are gearing up for the holidays by enhancing cross-selling on the product page (51 percent); customer ratings and reviews (42 percent); and suggested items (34 percent). However, as we learned at the recent Shop.org Merchandising Workshop, the concept of “best practices” is hard, as what is “best” for one retailer may not work for another. Instead, it all comes down to testing everything. Read more about the approaches National Geographic StoreCoach, and WiderFunnel CEO Chris Goward have taken toward website enhancements.
    • Video’s “break out” year is here.
    • The e-tailing group’s 2012 Mystery Shopping study found that 70 percent of retailer sites offered product video on their site, up from 59 percent in 2011. As consumers watch more videos for a wide range of products, retailers are embracing new short formats such as Vine and Video by Instagram. Brands are leveraging both to unveil new products, promote sale items, provide “behind the scenes” insight, show consumers “how to” demonstrations, and more.

    The full results of this pre-holiday retailer survey are included in the Shop.org 2013 Holiday Strategy and Planning Guide, released today to Shop.org members. Shop.org’s Holiday Planning 2013 webinar covered the highlights of the planning guide and much more. Members are invited to also listen to the playback of Wednesday’s webinar available on demand.

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