As ecommerce pros have seen from their calendars, there is less time this holiday shopping season to get a lot of work done. Six fewer shopping days at a time that for many retailers is a make or break period means prudent and effective means of getting shoppers to buy matters most.
Such online shoppers turn to various methods to find the items they want. Some settle for search, some delve deeper and turn to comparison shopping engines like PriceGrabber to browse and compare deals.
Recent research by PriceGrabber regarding mobile shoppers finds more people planning to use their portable, connected gadgets to shop and buy. PriceGrabber has invested in this growing behavior, as shown by the company’s August acquisition of Snapette, a mobile fashion app.
Whether the consumer is on a phone, a tablet, or a PC, they have exhibited notable trends in shopping and selling behavior. One important takeaway for online sellers in PriceGrabber’s view – free shipping has become virtually the norm for this holiday season.
That and other items of interest came from our interview with PriceGrabber’s Sharon Banfield, director of public relations and marketing communication. We discussed not only the holiday shopping season, but the impact of Google Product Listing Ads, which themselves have become a norm in online advertising. Our interview appears here:
EcommerceBytes: How has Google Shopping’s shift to a paid advertising model (Product Listing Ads) affected online merchants?
Sharon Banfield: Google’s shift to a paid advertising model has made the entire marketplace more competitive.
Now all merchants and ecommerce sites have to bid to showcase their products on Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLA). Competition among merchants is always good for consumers. Today retailers are more inclined to provide clean product specifications, images and other attributes to improve click-through rate on their PLAs.
EcommerceBytes: Bing replaced Bing Shopping with Product Ads, has that had any impact on merchants?
Sharon Banfield: Bing’s Product Listing Ads is still new. Therefore, the coverage and impact on merchants has not been significant in the recent months. But as Bing’s coverage in PLA grows, hopefully it’ll provide merchants with options in terms of traffic acquisition channels. Competition between Google and Bing’s PLA will provide merchants with more options to acquire quality traffic.
EcommerceBytes: How would you characterize the importance of search engines and comparison shopping engines to sellers for holiday advertising online this year?
Sharon Banfield: As most consumers plan to research their holiday gift purchases in advance, it’s highly important for sellers to communicate their deals to shoppers early, or they risk losing customers. Whether consumers are searching for holiday gifts via search engines, comparison shopping sites, or mobile apps, digitally connected shoppers have the tools they need to find a bargain. PriceGrabber’s mobile app makes it easy for shoppers to compare prices on products in stores (aka showrooming). In order to maintain customer loyalty, many retailers are adapting to showrooming by offering price-matching.
EcommerceBytes: Which categories and products will be the hot ones for online shoppers?
Sharon Banfield: To ensure PriceGrabber is on the cutting edge of consumer sentiment, every holiday season we conduct an online seasonal shopping survey. The survey indicated that clothing was the most popular item this holiday season; followed by gift cards and then toys/electronics. Toys/electronics that are educational, interactive and engaging will be particularly hot this season.
EcommerceBytes: What kind of holiday promotions for early shoppers, those who may have started in September and October, worked well for online sellers?
Sharon Banfield: It’s important to note that all indications point to the fact that shoppers are stretching out their holiday shopping purchases over a longer period of time. According to the PriceGrabber Holiday Survey, many consumers started to financially prepare for the gift giving season long before they started to purchase gifts. 21 percent of survey respondents said they started saving money before June. The majority of survey respondents planned to start shopping for the holidays in October and November.
Early holiday shoppers are taking full advantage of the benefits of shopping online. Free shipping offers have almost become the norm this season. Big Box retailers have also streamlined the online checkout process to make it easy and fast for consumers to select their products and purchase their items.
Other holiday promotions that early shoppers utilized this season are mobile “push” notifications, online promo codes, “one-day only” unannounced sales and instant rebates. The PriceGrabber survey also indicated that shoppers are looking for convenience and they will return to their “go-to” retailers if they have received great customer service in the past.
EcommerceBytes: With the shorter holiday shopping season this year (6 fewer days than 2012), what types of promotions stand out as ones we’ll see frequently this year?
Sharon Banfield: As retailers have less time to compete for the consumer dollar this year, the retail industry will see sales on popular products, free shipping offers, extended hours of store operations, promo codes that offer a certain percentage off of products, mobile coupon codes, and door busters with deep discounts on lower cost items to draw in the purchasing crowds. We are also seeing free layaway plans and bonus points from retailers that offer a loyalty/rewards program.