Survey: Retailers to use social media and offer earlier discounts this holiday

Washington, D.C. According to results of Shop.org’s eHoliday Study, conducted by BIGresearch, shoppers will see changes in retail marketing and promotions this holiday season in response to economic uncertainty.

With an understanding that many of today’s shoppers use Facebook and Twitter regularly, and because these tools are more cost-effective than traditional advertising, 47.1% of retailers surveyed will be increasing their use of social media this holiday season. More than half of retailers said they have added or improved their Facebook page (60.3%) and Twitter pages (58.7%) this year, while two-thirds (65.6%) have added or enhanced blogs and RSS feeds.

In addition, to provide consumers with an extra incentive to start shopping, one-third of retailers (34.3%) say they will offer holiday deals earlier this year.

As another sign of the times, free shipping offers will abound this holiday season. Four out of five online retailers (79.4%) will offer free shipping with conditions at some point during the holiday season, while more than half (57.4%) also plan to offer free shipping without conditions. More than one-third (35.7%) said their budgets for free shipping are higher than last year, and nearly as many (30.0%) said free-shipping offers will start earlier than a year ago.  

While online growth is expected to slow this holiday season, it remains a bright spot in retail. According to the survey, 45.8% of online retailers expect their holiday sales to increase at least 15% over last year, while one-third (33.9%) expect sales to grow as much as 14%.

In addition to a strong focus on sales and free shipping, many online retailers have revamped their Web sites this holiday season to make it easier for people to shop. According to the survey, many retailers have added or revamped their sites’ shopping cart (45.2%), search capabilities (44.3%), suggested items (42.9%), customer ratings and reviews (40.6%), and featured sale pages (37.1%).

With online retailers diversifying payment options, customers have more ways than ever to pay for holiday gifts. According to the survey, two-thirds of shoppers (67.3%) will use a credit card for some online purchases this holiday season, though one-third will also use a debit card (35.6%) and PayPal (33.9%) for purchases. In addition, 11.5% of shoppers plan to use a gift card or gift certificate to pay for holiday items online this year.