Research Sets Sites on the Season

Nov 06, 2008 8:53 PM  By

Is your site set for the holiday season? It better be, because the spike in traffic is going to come sooner than you think, at least according to a survey released today by digital marketer Oneupweb.

The study of the actions of more than 1 million shoppers shows that traffic at e-commerce sites hit a spike right after Election Day in 2007, and had a 70% jump in customer conversions a week before Thanksgiving.

And traffic and conversion rates were lower as both Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit, according to the survey. It also showed that even though the week of Dec. 10 to Dec. 16 2007 was the highest week of conversions, it wasn’t the greatest week for traffic.

“What this information reaffirms is that the online landscape changes rapidly according to economic sentiment and current events,” said Oneupweb founder/CEO Lisa Wehr in a release.

What’s Wehr’s advice for holiday 2008? Be proactive, start your online marketing campaigns early and following through with time-sensitive sales and continuous communication such as e-mail and social media marketing.

And if you think a down economy is going to mean less traffic and sales, you may be wrong. According to a survey released last month by JupiterResearch, online retail sales in the U.S. are expected to increase 12%.

What does JupiterResearch determine to be the driver? There will be an 8% additional wallet shift by existing online buyers, plus 4% growth by new Web buyers.

Jupiter also expects consumers will be seeking more free shipping promotions than ever. Fifty-one percent of online holiday buyers and 33% of overall Web users said that free-shipping offers will motivate them to buy online during the holiday season.

And according to a survey released yesterday by Shopzilla for Shop.org, many online merchants are gearing up to dangle free S&H. Despite an increase in transportation costs, 78% of retailers polled plan to offer free shipping with conditions at some point during the holiday season, which is consistent with last year’s levels.

So how are retailers planning to compensate for increased shipping costs? Forty percent say they are renegotiating terms with shipping providers, while a third will be closely managing company headcount, and 16% will be reducing other promotions.

One-fifth of the retailers surveyed say they will require a higher purchase amount for customers to be eligible for free shipping, and 11% will cut back on usage of free shipping with no conditions.
“Online retailers are resilient, but not immune, to the challenges of this holiday season,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, in a statement. “Retailers will be heavily promotional to attract shoppers on a budget, but have also invested in new site features to improve the online buying experience.”

So what are merchants doing to try to enhance the shopping experience? According to the survey, 43% have worked to improve site search since holiday 2007. About 43% of those polled are using product videos, and 33% are including customer reviews to give shoppers more information to make buying decisions.

Retailers are also continuing to experiment with social networking, as 25% of online retailers surveyed have added a Facebook page this year.