Online Shopping Boom

ComScore has just announced that US shoppers have broken the record for online shopping. The Monday after the US Thanksgiving holiday has come to be known as “Cyber Monday”, as online shoppers cash in on holiday specials. This year UK shoppers spent over $733 million in 24 hours. It was appropriately named report, “Holiday Season e-Commerce” has announced that since the 1st of November, 2007, over 10.7 billion dollars have been spent online.

The day was named “Cyber Monday” as it previously been recorded as the day when most US residents start doing their Christmas shopping. With the benefits of buying online, citizens have turned to the Internet to order their gifts online rather than going to the mall. ComScore, an online tracker company, estimates that the shopping craze will continue for the next few weeks, up until Christmas. There are expectations that expenditure will reach 800 million dollars on some days.

Cyber Monday’s online spending went up by 21% this year, beating last year’s record. The day is the most significant spike in all holiday spending. The number of online buyers grew by a total of 38% from the previous record. However the average amount a person spent online dropped by 12%.

It has been reported that the decrease in spending could be attributed to companies offering discounts and becoming more “internet savvy” with their advertisements and sales. A fair amount of the large companies in the US had Cyber Monday sales online for the new trend of online shopping.

The report showed that 6% of US internet users made online purchases on the Monday, with 60% of them coming from work computers. A few retail websites went down on the day, as the traffic surge caused technical problems with their sites. Error messages popped up on users’ screens instead of completed transaction notices. Yahoo reported that the traffic on their Yahoo! Merchant Solutions caused smaller retail companies’ websites to black out for several hours.

However, larger retail sites, such as Wal-Mart, Dell, Best Buy, Circuit City and Overstock.com jumped up their traffic scale by 100%. There was a 261% increase reported on the MSN Shopping site operated by Microsoft. However, it is not only websites that are finding the boom in traffic stressful; credit and house markets are also being buffeted by the extra strain.

The Friday after Thanks Giving is known as Black Friday. The National Retail Federation showed that, according to their survey, more than 147 million shoppers went online on Black Friday. This is up from last year, by 4.8%. Overall there’s been more than a 4% rise in holiday spending this year.

Black Friday was originally named due to the amount of high traffic on the day. Although it is not an official holiday, most UK citizens take the day off for a long weekend. Because it is also the start of Christmas shopping season, there is a large amount of traffic on the roads. As online shopping becomes popular, traffic on the roads is moving over to traffic on websites for the shopping.

With delivery times taken into consideration, online sales should relax and calm down as the festive season declines. However, sales at shops and malls should slowly pick up with Christmas now only a mere month away.

The Mobile Impact on Social Shopping and ECommerce

It is undeniable that social shopping and mobile are two of the largest and fastest growing segments of eCommerce and digital engagement today. It only makes sense that the two would find a way to converge and leverage the strengths of one another. So far we have only seen the tip of the iceberg, but we anxiously anticipate what innovative developments are soon to be at our fingertips.

Their recent study surveyed 1,004 adults, with the majority falling between 35-44 years old with a nearly even split of men to women.

The survey found that 92% of users purchase products online at least once a month and that nearly 75% spend over $500 a year online. These figures indicate a strong rise in eCommerce over the last few years, but where does mobile come into the picture?

While the mobile commerce is still looking to define itself, the idea of purchasing products from a mobile device is becoming less foreign to smartphone users as the mobile web becomes heavily integrated into their everyday lives. In fact, Forrester predicts mobile commerce to grow to $31 Billion by 2016.

Currently consumers most frequently use their mobile devices for product research/reviews as well as interacting with in-store marketing such as QR codes. The overwhelming majority of mobile use relative to shopping in centered on competitive pricing through search and third party applications. Smartphone users love to use their phones to check prices on the go to quickly ensure they are getting the best deal. This could mean good news for your eCommerce store as the mobile industry continues to grow.

When asked about the ways consumers are using their mobile phones for researching products and businesses online, surveyors responded as follows. Roughly one third of consumers use their phones for checking sales & specials, store information (hours, locations, map, etc), product ratings and reviews, and price comparison through Amazon.com. 31% of consumers used their phone to browse online stores looking for products of interest while 24% did so with the intent of purchasing a product.

These figures tell us that currently the majority of mobile devices are being used by consumers to research a product or store rather than to make purchases. However, with 25% of consumers willing to purchase online we can definitely mark a major leap for mobile commerce. As the mobile web continues to develop and more stores expand their mobile presence, eTailers can expect to see a big rise in mobile visitors and sales.

Surveyors were also asked how they use their mobile phones for research while in a brick and mortar store. The results showed that the majority of consumers are using phones to access promotions, compare prices, read reviews, and interact with in-store marketing such as QR codes. This indicated the growing importance of social engagement on your website through customer reviews and interactive marketing.

Today’s shoppers are smarter than ever. They are knowledgeable about the products they want to buy and have the resources to ensure they get the best deal and the best service. In order to win the sale and the customer your business must be an integrated part of their online experience from start to finish. Social engagement has never been so important to eCommerce success, and the future shows no sign of that slowing down.

Ensure that your businesses is doing everything it can to connect with users by expanding your web presence, incorporating reviews into your site, leveraging promotions, and increasing social engagement through mobile and social selling on Facebook. It is important for consumers to see your products/services and from a variety of channels and to connect with them through reviews before they are fully comfortable making a purchase. This is where the value in a social and mobile presence for your business lies.

Visit our blog to read last month’s article about a Social Shopping Study on eCommerce, Social Media, and Customer Reviews from the e-tailing group.

Post-Holiday E-Commerce Shopping and Retailer-Driven Sales Strategies

Continue your success after the holiday season by learning how to target the dollars still out there! Many online retailers will relax their sales and marketing efforts, believing that they cannot overcome the so-called post-holiday slump. However, for those retailers savvy enough to target the substantial sales still to be made, continued success can be achieved.

Here’s an outline of post-holiday sales expectations, in perspective.
$23 Billion Dollars. That’s how much consumers spent online between November 1st and December 16th 2007. From January 1st until the end of October, consumers spent $93.6 billion. Roughly 20% of the year’s online business was done in six weeks.
The average for the weeks after Christmas is expected to be about $2 billion (per 2006’s numbers plus the 18% increase seen over last year’s numbers to date). While this is only about 60% of the holiday shopping average of $3.25 billion per week, it’s still a sizable amount.

Why the post-holiday season is a great time to continue marketing efforts

The good news is: People still buy after Christmas. This is due both to retailer efforts and seasonal customer behavior.

1. Suppliers must get rid of holiday overstock. Many suppliers load up with inventory in the weeks leading up to the holiday season. They are forced to clear out excess inventory after the holiday buying rush has ended.

2. People are looking for complementary products. People bought and received a number of big ticket items over the holidays, and will be looking for the accessories that go with them. Customers who bought gaming systems look for games and controllers. Customers who bought home electronics need cables. DVD, HD, and BluRay players need DVDs, HD, and BluRay disks to play. Think about what products you can carry that complement the products you sold.

3. People receive cash as holiday presents. This is money that they now have available to spend on the big ticket items they didn’t get – or products to complement the ones they did. Or, they may look for interesting products they didn’t know they wanted before Christmas.

4. Hot products – the products that were in the highest demand – were invariably marked-up in price by suppliers and retailers. Those hot products are now priced to clear… or at least back to normal levels

Tips for successful post-holiday marketing

There is still a lot of money out there to be spent, but what can you do to attract the spending to your site? Here are some tips on getting started with your post-Christmas marketing.

1. Send your customers an email inviting them to return to your site. Keep in touch with your existing customer base. Let them know about any promotions your store is running. Existing customers have already purchased from you – they are more likely to buy from you now that they have had a positive shopping experience. Winning their trust means you can work on getting them to buy more.

2. Create coupons or offers that will attract business. People love a deal. For example, a reputable sandwich company just held their “Christmas Special”: two six-inch subs for $6 – which looks like a good deal. Then, you look up at the menu and see that a twelve-inch sub is $5.99. While we don’t recommend perpetuating false economy, this example shows how the prospect of a “deal” can motivate sales.

3. Continue to advertise and drive online traffic. Keep up your efforts. The pool of active online consumers decreases after Christmas, so you’ll have to make sure your store retains visibility. In the process you’ll attract the more passive, “window” shoppers. Consider using pay-per-click advertising.

4. Provide additional support for your website visitors. You have to be willing to give your customers those little extras. Sales in the post-Christmas period are more elusive than during the holiday frenzy. It will be the extras that keep customers coming to you. In addition to giving a little extra help to your visitors, adding services like Live Person’s Live Call to your online store act as trust marks to consumers.

Do your research.

The information you need in order to be successful is available to you – often free of charge. You just have to look in the right places. You can pay to get industry information, or you can try out the following ideas to get that info for free.

1. Products that sell after the holidays are different than the pre-holiday best sellers. Visit as many of your competitors’ sites as possible to see what they are selling. Check out the big box websites that are selling similar products to your store. Take advantage of the research that your competitors have done in their product selection.

2. Talk to friends and family. Nothing beats talking to people when you want info. Word-of-mouth puts you in touch with what consumers want.

3. eBay and Amazon both publish the best-selling products on their systems. That information is free. Have a look and be in the know.

4. Keep your eye out for seasonal products. Those miniature MLB pennants sold fairly well… but baseball season ended months ago. Keep your product line in line with seasonal variations.

5. Christmas isn’t the only holiday with sales spikes. Find products that correspond to upcoming holidays. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, 4th of July, et cetera, are all great sales opportunities.

6. Read high-level industry research. Sites like comScore.com offer raw data and interpretation of online sales trends. Visit and have a look at what the market is doing. You’ll get a first-hand look at retail: Leverage that information to tweak your sales strategy. If sales numbers are in a trough Internet-wide, you know that consumers just aren’t as active – so you’ll have to be more active in driving sales. If online sales numbers are at a peak, and your sales are not, then you know you’ll have to make some changes to your marketing tactics or your storefront (new products, more content, etc.).

Conclusion

To sum it all up: Don’t stop marketing just yet. If you stop your efforts now, you’re missing out on your part of the estimated $100 billion in next year’s pre-Christmas online sales. Sales are an all-year event. Follow the tips above, and get active in developing your sales strategy for the New Year.

(All sales figures taken or extrapolated from http://comScore.com/)

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