If you’re like me, you noticed that on Nov. 1, right after the bags of Halloween candy were pulled off the supermarket and drugstore shelves, the holiday items began to appear.
Folks, the holiday shopping — and selling — season has begun.
This year, there’s actually some good news leading into the holiday season. For starters, on Nov. 5, major retailers announced their best sales in months.
What’s more, U.S. online sales are expected to rise 8 percent this holiday season, according to a recent report from Forrester Research. Online retail sales in November and December are expected to reach $44.7 billion this year, up from $41.4 billion a year ago, according to the report, providing a bright spot to a retail industry that could still see total sales for the season fall.
So, how are online retailers planning to increase sales this year? Through social media and free shipping promotions, at least according to the results of Shop.org’s eHoliday study, conducted by BIGresearch.
Since many shoppers today use Facebook and Twitter regularly — and because these tools are more cost effective than traditional advertising — 47.1 percent of online retailers surveyed for the study are increasing their use of social media this holiday season.
More than half of the online retailer respondents have updated their Facebook pages (60.3 percent) and Twitter pages (58.7 percent) this year, while two-thirds (65.6 percent) have added or enhanced blogs and RSS feeds.
As for the multitude of free shipping offers expected during this holiday season, 79.4 percent of those retailers surveyed said they will offer free shipping with conditions at some point during the holiday season. More than half (57.4 percent) also plan to offer free shipping without conditions. More than one-third (35.7 percent) said their budgets for free shipping are higher than last year, and nearly as many (30 percent) said free shipping offers will start earlier than a year ago.
Many online retailers have also revamped their websites this holiday season to make it easier for people to shop. Many, for example, have added or revamped their sites’ 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), according to the study.
So, are you ramping up your use of social media or free shipping promotions this year? Doing anything else you’d like to tell us about? Leave a comment here.