Online Shoppers, Your Ship(ping) Has Come In

November 17, 2008 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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According to the National Retail Federation, many retailers make 25 to 40% of their annual sales during the “winter holiday season,” defined as November and December. Incidentally, according to an NRF survey, last year 93% of consumers celebrated Christmas, five percent celebrated Hanukkah, and two percent celebrated Kwanzaa.

This year, the retail forecast for the season is not the sunniest – the NRF predicts a 2.2% increase over last year, which sounds like even less in the pretty wrapped boxes when you consider price increases. Online sales, which have climbed as if gravity had no hold on them in the past, are predicted to increase just 12%, their smallest jump ever, according to Forrester Research.

So how are marketers going to overcome these bleak predictions? Online retailers are going to break out a tried and true promotion offer: free shipping. Yes, 78% of online retailers intend to laugh in the face of fluctuating fuel prices, offering free shipping to deal-seeking shoppers. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders make the offer with a minimum purchase of $25, while Apple, Target, and Staples ship your $50 purchases at no additional charge. Timelines vary by retailer, but Williams-Sonoma has stated their free shipping offer, only available on select items, will continue through December 24, and Staples’ offer is good through December 26.

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How will shoppers respond to these free shipping offers this year? When the wrapping paper has been recycled and the cats have shredded the bows beyond recognition, retailers will regroup and begin to evaluate their success. Between handling exchanges and returns, that is.

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