While forecasts are calling for big increases in online spending this holiday season, fears about slow-to-buy shoppers are sparking a bit of an Internet frenzy.
Nine out of 10 online retailers are offering special deals Thanksgiving weekend, with 51% offering specials that are specific to Thanksgiving, and 80% linking them to Cyber Monday, according to Shop.org, the online arm of the National Retail Federation. All together, 92.2% will offer some kind of promotion during the holiday weekend.
It’s not that stores are worried, exactly: While brick-and-mortar spending is expected to be tepid, Forrester expects U.S. holiday season online retail sales to grow a hefty 15% from last year. The concern is that shoppers are so deal-focused that it will be easier than ever to lose share.
“While the possibility of a double-dip recession remains, consumers are continuing to increase their use of the Web through new devices, on key dates, and with the explicit intention of saving money,” Forrester reports. “Retailers must execute around these key trends and touchpoints to maximize their holiday sales.” (comScore, which tracks online spending around the world, is scheduled to release its holiday spending estimates this week.)
And retailers are doing just that. About 45% are offering coupons/percent-off deals, says Shop.org, and 37.5% say they intend to have limited-time promotions. About 30% will offer free standard shipping with conditions, and many major chains, including Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, are already trumpeting free-shipping promotions. And 15% of retailers say they plan to feature a free gift with their purchase.
Retailers are also rethinking the way they’ll reach these online shoppers. BDO’s recent survey of top retail CMOs finds that 28% are counting on email as the most effective promotional tactic this season, 26% say it’s search engine marketing, and 23% say it’s free shipping. Social media, although up 80% from last year’s poll, is seen as most effective by just 18%. “While social media is growing, it’s clear that retailers still rely on the action triggers that email promotions and free shipping offers provide,” BDO says in its report.
Cyber Monday, a term coined in 2005, is viewed as the online equivalent to Black Friday, and it continues to grow in importance. The NRF’s CyberMonday.com will feature a “Deal of the hour” on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.