With the Christmas 2015 season just weeks away, retailers are kicking their holiday preparations into high gear. For many big box stores, this means setting up Christmas displays, stocking shelves with holiday wares and running early seasonal sales. These initial activities are often enough to catch the attention of shoppers as they conduct their regular business in stores.
However, online retailers do not have the benefit of passers-by seeing these holiday shopping options as they do their normal shopping. For this reason, Internet stores must invest in more rigorous advertising campaigns to catch the attention of their potential customers. For many online sellers, these preparations have been happening for weeks or even months prior to the typical Christmas season.
The Difference in Online Shoppers
While there are still many people who prefer to do the majority of their shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, the population that is just as willing to never set foot in a store continues to grow. Marketing to this category of spenders is significantly different than the more traditional methods of television advertisements and printed media. People who spend significant portions of their time online finding goods are much more savvy when it comes to technology and eye-catching ads, and successful online retailers must pay attention to these preferences.
There are a few main reasons that consumers often prefer to shop online rather than in person that Internet businesses need to remember:
1. Convenience: It is often easier to shop from home, saving preparation and travel time, especially when consumers face other circumstances, such as taking children along.
2. Better prices: Many online retailers offer different coupons and rebates that are unavailable when purchases are made in-store.
3. Fewer extra expenses: Making a trip to the mall for one sale item can often turn into a more expensive trip after travel, eating out and other impulse buys are added into the equation.
4. Alone time: For people who hate large crowds and lines or who dislike customer sales representatives, shopping online in quiet privacy is much easier.
5. Variety: Online sellers can offer many different products much more easily than brick-and-mortar stores, and many shoppers looking for unique items or personalized gifts have more success on the Internet.
6. Comparison shopping: The Internet allows shrewd shoppers to compare the prices and reviews of potential purchases with a click of a button, a task that is much more difficult in person.
7. Geographic freedom: Rural shoppers or those interested in products not sold locally may find more freedom in purchasing through online channels.
The Profitability of Christmas
Even in an era of economic downturn, the holiday season is still a time of increased spending for most Canadians.
Online sales are at an all-time high, offering greater flexibility and more options than ever before. Many shoppers want to make their purchases without traveling to the store, and good Internet retailers need to be more cognizant of this desire when creating their marketing campaigns.
Most online retailers begin making their Christmas preparations months in advance, like AirMiles which begins putting together ideas for big holiday offers in early summer. Natasha Lasiuk, an AirMiles spokesperson, believes that this early preparation and brainstorming to find new marketing techniques can make all the difference in creating a truly memorable shopping experience, a strategy that has helped AirMiles to find success during the holiday season.
Other companies, such as WholesaleClearance, begin their talks even earlier at Easter time. Managing director Karl Baxter indicates that starting the marketing process this early allows the WholesaleClearance team to lay the groundwork for a solid holiday season of sales. Baxter finds that businesses that fail to produce high sales tallies at Christmas often do so because they have not done proper research about the best lines of products and the strongest marketing tactics for that year. With "70 per cent of a company's turnover of products occurring in the holiday season," bad research can be the difference between a strong Christmas sales period and a failure.
Announcing specialty sales and teaming up with other companies to create mutually beneficial promotions is one successful tactic that many online retailers employ, especially during the Christmas season. Owner of ArtificialPlantsandTrees.com, Doug Hopemaru, indicates that his company's intention to partner with Christmas.com to do an artificial Christmas tree giveaway came as a result of a year-long investigation for sales incentives.
Perhaps one of the most common methods for advertising online holiday sales is through social media. With an increased focus on sites like Facebook and Twitter, social media may be one of the fastest and most frequently employed ways that shoppers will hear about upcoming deals this year. AirMiles's recently announced refer-a-friend program is run directly through these social media giants, tapping into their continued popularity. Likewise, WholesaleClearance utilizes social media to link potential customers to its website, engaging shoppers with holiday good cheer, contests and blog articles.
Website Accessibility Matters More than Ever
However, no matter what kinds of sales or advertising campaigns are ultimately selected by retailers, most companies agree that "offering users a good mobile experience is critical," as Jason Owens, the owner of RainbowZebra asserts. When shoppers can more easily "access our products," Owens continues, "the better our opportunity for sales this Christmas, and year round" will be. TheCoverGuy owner Jay Labelle concurs, indicating that with shoppers "mad for mobile," his company has made sure that it's hot tub cover website is "fully mobile compatible this Christmas season."
It is no secret that Internet shoppers have different goals and preferences than most in-store consumers. Online retailers hoping to appeal to this crowd should be preparing for the holiday season now. With smartphones in the hands of the majority of the population, it is little wonder that mobile sites and easy accessibility is the key for a profitable Christmas in 2015.
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