e-Retail Recommendations for Christmas 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011 | 3:55 PM

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108 days until Christmas and UK retailers are predicting a bleak midwinter for the festive shopping period. Government cutbacks, reduced household budgets and weakened consumer confidence are all factors in the industry’s low-key outlook for 2011.

Extra cost conscious shoppers and industry-wide apprehension are likely to make deep discounting and early festive promotions familiar hallmarks of Christmas 2011's trading activity. Within e-commerce, however, retailers can expect to see more users spend more time online as they hunt for the best deals, discounts and vouchers[1].

In greater contrast to some of the pessimism felt on the high street, analysis from Verdict, predicts that overall e-commerce will grow 16% y/y in Q4[2]. The era when online shopping was limited to only small entertainment items like CDs or books or to relieve the burden of shopping in store is over. Online is a sales channel as significant as it’s bricks and mortar equivalent, with potentially greater advantages this Christmas through its 24/7 availability.

There are 3 main themes which we recommend e-retailers consider in their Christmas campaign strategies:

1) Prepare early and be aware of the days most likely to generate the highest levels of interest in online shopping.

Readiness to quickly deploy keywords, campaigns and creative is as important as ever, if not more so with price sensitive shoppers this year. Forward planning should also extend to the type of messaging you choose to communicate to your target audience. Seeking to incentivise them with deals or emphasising particular offers should be effective techniques.

As part of the planning stage, knowing which days will generate the most interest for online shopping is crucial. In his post for the IMRG, Robin Goad identifies Cyber Sunday and Cyber Monday falling on the 4th and 5th of December this year, earlier than 2010 which should lead to new, record breaking traffic figures[3].

2) Reassurance of order fulfillment.

Last Christmas John Lewis demonstrated the strength of their multichannel offering during heavy December snowfall. A factor in their success was the Partnership’s reputation for reliability, a value which other e-Retailers and store groups can follow their lead in this holiday season. Stating delivery dates in your creative messaging, and covering bad weather queries in your keyword portfolio can help provide much needed reassurance to customers as the 25th approaches.

3) Mobile and Tablet

With greater innovation in mobile over the past 12 months, e-retailers have a better opportunity than ever to connect with customers and encourage sales. “Connected” customers use mobile devices to assist purchases while shopping in-store[4] while over a third will perform their complete Christmas shop on mobile[5]. Start to captialise on its potential by splitting out your mobile campaigns and serve targeted point of sale offers in your creative.

Tablet commerce will also be a major online trend for this festive period. Tablet users spend 50% more than PC web users on a device that delivers either equal or higher conversion rates[6]. As with mobile, retailers can drive increased performance through this channel by ensuring that their campaigns are separate from desktop and serve seasonal, tablet specific messaging.

[1]Google internal data
[2]Verdict Retail Futures, Quarterly Update H1 2011, May 2011
[3]Experian Hitwise August 23, 2011
[4]Mobile Commerce Daily, March 14, 2011
[5]Internet Retailing, August 24, 2011
[6]eBay Executive, Shopatron iPad Research, December 2010