Christmas may be right around the corner, but retailers can still do a lot in the final weeks leading up to the big day by making last-minute tweaks that can impact how and where consumers shop this season. Thanks to the flexibility of the Web, e-commerce, mobile and social networking channels are rich with opportunities for retailers to lure shoppers in and keep them coming back for more.
U.S. consumers are expected to be cautious with their holiday spending this year, as 72% expect their gift giving to be “controlled” in 2011, according to Accenture’s annual consumer holiday shopping study. Discounts, sales and prices are still top-of-mind this holiday season, with 40% of consumers saying an item being on sale is the single most important factor in their decision to purchase.
Lauren Freedman, president of Chicago-based the e-tailing group inc., said that companies can cash in on shoppers who are looking around for the best deals by making small additions to marketing strategies. For example, it’s key to reinforce value proposition through email campaigns.
“Retailers should send emails to shoppers that promote value, such as touting 300 gifts for under $25,” Freedman said. “Make it very simple for budget-minded customers by packaging that information before they have a chance to navigate away.”
Research shows that email marketing is still an effective way to drive traffic and sales to sites. According to data from a study conducted by Petaluma, Calif.-based e-commerce solutions provider MarketLive, shoppers are indeed receptive to receiving emails from retailers, with 39% wanting it weekly and 13% wanting it up to six times a week. In fact, 8% are open to daily emails from merchants.
Meanwhile, the majority of consumers said they are most likely to respond to emails this holiday season if they include free shipping offers (80%), sales and markdowns (79%), and coupons (73%).
With many consumers reading email on mobile devices these days, Freedman noted that messages should be easy to read on smartphones and provide a direct link to a retailer’s mobile site. From a mobile site design perspective, retailers should display familiar logos that fit well on screens so shoppers know they’re on the right site. In addition, pages should be simple and uncluttered, allowing consumers to navigate through products and find the information they need.
Finally, the mobile checkout process should have as few clicks as possible to make sure shoppers don’t get frustrated and navigate away.
“There are still some big challenges for retailers in the mobile category,” Freedman said. “Smartphone usability isn’t always seamless, and shoppers need to feel comfortable when making a purchase. Make it easy on shoppers by keeping mobile sites simple and playing up the convenience factor.”
Once shoppers have made their way on to e-commerce and mobile sites, it’s the retailer’s duty to ensure they find what they need and get all of their questions answered. Even pages that retailers often overlook can be utilized during the holiday season to make a difference.
“The customer service page is often a place for missed opportunity,” Freedman said. “Take advantage of that real estate by touting gift cards, providing a calendar with shipping cut-off dates and always list contact information.”
Retailers also should be well aware of the major online shopping days of the season. Ranking second to Cyber Monday, “Green Monday” — the second Monday in December — is the most popular day for online shopping. The first Monday in December ranked third, followed by “Free Shipping Day,” which falls this year on Friday, Dec. 16.
“Those that offer free shipping — even if it’s just for a promotional period — should definitely get that information out as much as possible to target audiences,” Freedman said. “People love free shipping, and it helps retailers better compete during the holidays.”
Finally, consider two-dimensional quick response (QR), which gives consumers access to related digital information on the Web. When an image of a QR code is captured by a quick-response scanner or mobile phone camera, the user’s device is directed to a website where companies provide shoppers more information about products and services.
“Retailers can use QR codes in stores by placing them next to products or tout them in catalogs and newspaper circulators,” said David Javitch, VP marketing for New York City-based Scanbuy. “It takes about a minute to create a QR code, so if merchants have content to link a code up to, it’s a no-brainer and very fast way to reach customers.”