Live From Internet Retailer: Lessons Learned From Holiday 2008

Jan 22, 2009 3:10 AM  By

Miami — What did online industry watchers learn from this past holiday season, aside from the fact that sales for many were lagging? Plenty. In her session at Internet Retailer’s Web Design conference on Jan. 21, Lauren Freedman detailed several e-commerce customer service initiatives her consulting firm, The E-tailing Group, is seeing more of. Here are just a few:

–In-your-face-merchandising: In tough economic times, Freedman said, “Putting product first — and in the front of the customer — will inspire them to reach into their wallets.”

–Time saving tools: From quick views to express checkout to multistore shopping simplicity, these tactics appeal to time-starved consumers, she said.

–Endorsements: Media influence drives consumer purchasing today, Freedman said, citing new First Lady Michelle Obama’s love of J. Crew. How to capitalize on this? The apparel merchant’s Website uses the heading “All politics aside…” for a dress worn by Obama.

–Outlets: You need to merchandise the sales or clearance section of your Website, Freedman said. “This is a very important spot, and it will continue to be in these times.” She cited Land of Nod’s “just added” head, and Sports Authority’s “Outlet deal of the week” as good examples.

What other trends did The E-tailing Group uncover? Video continues to grow in popularity; it was used by 65% of the merchants tracked this past year vs. 45% in 2007.

Blogs are gaining traction: More than a quarter (26%) of merchants had them in 2008 vs. 10% in ’07.

A lot more companies — 42% in 2008 compared to 18% in 2007 — are using a limited time offer with promotions such as free shipping.

And use of in-store picked increased from 19% the prior year to 24% in 2008. “How do we drive customers into the store was a big question this year,” Freedman noted.

Indeed, getting consumers to shop — and spend — has been and will continue to be a challenge for multichannel merchants, thanks to the incredibly grim economy, Freedman said. “Maybe we should ask for [bailout] money — like the porn industry,” she joked.