To combat a slow sales forecast, many online retailers will be looking to boost their digital presence this holiday season, per Shop.org's annual eHoliday Study conducted by BIGresearch.
A majority (60.3 percent) of retailers have already made enhancements this year to their Facebook pages, as well as Twitter pages (58.7 percent). Another 65.5 percent have incorporated updates to their blogs and RSS feeds.
Web site functionality was also taken into account. Enhancements were made to shopping carts (45.2 percent), search capabilities (44.3 percent), suggested items (42.9 percent), customer ratings and reviews (40.6 percent) and featured sale pages (37.1 percent).
Online retailers will attempt to play into consumers' desire to extend their budgets via discounts. Roughly 36 percent have increased their free shipping budgets this year. Almost 80 percent will offer some form of free holiday shipping, while 57.4 percent will offer free shipping without any attached conditions. Thirty percent will begin free shipping earlier this year than in previous seasons.
"Retailers know that times are tough, so they have created promotions and incentives to help Americans save money this holiday season," said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, in a statement. "From free shipping to Facebook, online retailers are combining new initiatives with tried-and-true tactics to make their companies stand out."
Almost half (45.8 percent) of online retailers expect their online sales to grow by at least 15 percent from 2008 totals, and another 33.9 percent forecast growth of up to 14 percent.
Their expectations may very well be on target as 26.7 percent of consumers plan to devote more of their holiday budgets to online shopping this year. Their motivation is to better compare prices (34 percent), take advantage of free shipping (33.1 percent) and convenience (32.4 percent), avoid crowds (24.9 percent) and because it's easier to find items (16.7 percent).
"It ties in to the overall situation with the economy,"said Silverman. "Online has benefited from the down economy because people think of the Internet as a place to get bargains so they are drawn to online shopping as a way to save money."