Posted by: Laura Hills, VP Marketing
Facing the shortest holiday selling season in quite some time, many U.S. retailers are already well into their holiday promotions and special offers to get shoppers into their stores and placing their online orders as early as possible. Traditionally, U.S. merchants have focused on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, to get their holiday sales season underway. Black Friday is followed by Cyber Monday when the best online deals are typically offered.
Kimberly Greenberger, an analyst with Morgan Stanley predicts this year’s holiday season to be the most promotional-oriented and discounted since 2008 with eCommerce sales accounting for between 12 and 13% of overall retail sales. Last year’s eCommerce figure was 11% of total sales.
This year, Black Friday is November 28th and Cyber Monday is December 2nd, which are both late in the holiday shopping game. Hanukkah is early this year and all of this has prompted many retailers to get a big jump start on this critical selling season. Wal-Mart has already kicked off its online deals, starting with an online sales event on November 1st – a full month earlier than usual. They offered some of the lowest prices to be found this season along with free shipping on 99% of online items – more typically the type of promotions that were previously reserved for Cyber Monday.
Wal-Mart isn’t the only major retailer to get an early start. Toys R Us started their holiday ads earlier than ever before and even offered cash back incentives to loyalty rewards customers who purchased specific toys by October 31 – Halloween. They’ve added another incentive and are offering their Black Friday deals to their loyalty rewards members on the day before Thanksgiving. Target is also spending more on holiday advertising, extending its price-match policy and expanding its buy online/pick up in store service. Best Buy has run Holiday Kickoff sales via email and in the stores while L.L. Bean and Lands End are offering early discounts as well, both online and in store to attract this year’s budget conscious shoppers. Many retailers have even opted to open on Thanksgiving this year to give shoppers more time for their holiday shopping.
So how can you as an SMB retailer attract customers to your site to do their holiday shopping? Follow the lead of the big box retailers and get out there early and often. Look to promote your products in the online and social media places where you know your customers will be congregating. Take advantage of social media channels that your shoppers will likely be visiting this season and become highly visible. This could be the time for Our Staff’s Holiday Picks Pinterest page.
Use third party sites to feature your items and associated promos. Many customers time their purchases according to coupons and other promos that you can easily distribute. Keep in mind that mobile device usage for product and gift research as well as actual ordering is growing rapidly so be sure to make your offers attractive and easy to read on all platforms. The larger retailers will continue to use Free Shipping, often with a minimum purchase, to entice customers which means you should too, if at all possible. After a decade of offering free shipping on orders of $25.00, Amazon has raised their limit to $35.00 for orders to receive free shipping. If free shipping isn’t possible for you, link your order management and fulfillment system directly to your carrier so that you can provide the lowest shipping price options.
Higher visibility helps lead to higher sales and there are ways to attract large numbers of motivated and ready-to-spend holiday shoppers. Incorporate a third-party service, such as buySAFE, to verify that you are a reputable merchant and all information shared over your site is guaranteed secure. According to buySAFE, displaying this seal has resulted in a six-percent increase in conversion rates.
Study shopping abandonment data on an ongoing basis and reach out to those shoppers. Consider running targeted campaigns to drive consumers back to your site to complete their orders – sweeten the deal, if needed with additional incentives. Come up with catchy headlines and text to cut through the deluge of holiday promotions out there. Help your shoppers by counting down the shopping days and devise promotions that tie into time, such as a gift a day promotion, featuring different items each week, or play off the 8 Days of Hanukkah or 12 Days of Christmas. Consider a Wrap It Up Early theme or ‘Tis the Season to Be Shopping with special items and prices offered.
For additional tips to help you have a great holiday selling season, access our on-demand webinar, “The Top 5 Insights to Help Prepare for Seasonal and Holiday Rushes”. There’s no such thing as over reaching your customers this holiday season, especially with targeted and enticing promotions and offers.
Happy Holiday Selling!