Survey: Aggressive promotions spark strong sales online

Online retailers are reaping the benefits of aggressive, early promotions, according to the results of the 2005 Shop.org/BizRate Research eHoliday Mood Study. A total of 58 percent of online retailers are reporting year-over-year holiday sales increases of 30 percent or higher. The percent of online retailers feeling “very optimistic” following Cyber Monday and the Thanksgiving weekend increased to 31 percent compared to 24 percent when they were surveyed in late September. Seventy-six percent of online retailers are feeling “very optimistic” or “somewhat optimistic” about the holiday season.

Retailers are using a variety of marketing, promotions, and site tools to drive holiday sales, according to the survey, conducted by BizRate Research, a division of Shopzilla, Inc. The most popular marketing initiatives have been direct e-mail promotions (92.4 percent), paid search engine marketing (71.4 percent), natural search engine marketing (53.3 percent) and affiliate/loyalty programs (40.1 percent).

Free shipping with conditions reigns as the most successful promotion in retailers’ arsenal with 62 percent of retailers citing it as being most successful in driving holiday sales. As for the best site tools, retailers are having the most success with gift idea centers (52 percent), suggested items (39 percent) and featured sale item pages (32 percent).

The marketing and promotional initiatives are having the desired effect on Internet bargain hunters. Almost a third (30.3 percent) of consumers surveyed reported that they started their online holiday shopping earlier than last year.

Beyond promotions, the top reason why shoppers chose to shop online was avoiding crowds (73.4 percent). Convenience (66.6 percent), avoiding lines (59 percent), ease of finding items (51.6 percent), price comparisons (51.1 percent), and product comparisons (44.5 percent) are the other big draws for consumers.

Online shoppers are responding well to retailers’ continued efforts to improve the online shopping experience. This year, 96.2 percent of consumers were satisfied with their online holiday purchases through Thanksgiving weekend, compared to 95 percent in 2004.