The busy holiday shopping season is fast approaching. Many of us are stocking up on inventory and getting ready for what we hope will be a profitable end to the year 2013.
We've done our research and know what holiday shoppers want to buy this year, but what else do they want? Which perks and benefits are they going to look for when they go online, and which incentives will get you the sale?
While it's still a tad early to access holiday surveys for the coming season, I turned to several past surveys based on last year's holidays, to get a head start on knowing what we might expect. It's my hope these results will serve as suggestions to improve your chances of getting holiday shoppers' attention.
Shipping and returns are top concerns
When it comes to shopping online, free shipping is the No. 1 factor that encourages a sale, and free return-shipping is close behind
When it comes to shopping online, it appears free shipping is the No. 1 factor that encourages a sale, and free return-shipping is close behind. An overwhelming amount of data seems to support this notion.
A study conducted by Lab42 showed 96 percent of consumers are more likely to shop on a site that offers free shipping, and 87 percent are more likely to purchase if free return shipping is available. Additionally, 79 percent said they would rather have free shipping than a discount.
Another study by Deloitte found that 71 percent are attracted to free shipping, while 56 percent like free return-shipping costs.
In a SurveyMonkey study, 48 percent of respondents were interested in shopping online. Of the other half who indicated interest in shopping in stores, 70 percent would be more interested in shopping online if free shipping and free returns were offered.
The Boston Consulting Group conducted a survey in which 74 percent of respondents said free delivery is important to them.
And still more data…
More recently, UPS and comScore conducted the second annual "Pulse of the Online Shopper" report, which showed 78 percent of those surveyed opt for the least expensive shipping option, and 75 percent will add items to their cart to qualify for free shipping discounts. As many as 44 percent abandoned their carts because their orders weren't large enough to qualify for free shipping.
Furthermore, 49 percent consider an estimated or guaranteed delivery date important when completing an online purchase. This is a priority during the holiday season because consumers need to feel confident their purchases will arrive before important holiday dates.
More consumers also take return policies into account when making a decision about purchasing from an online source. The Pulse report revealed an increase from last year—from 63 percent to 66—in the number of consumers who will review a retailer's return policy before making a purchase. And as many as 82 percent will buy something if free return-shipping or in-store returns are available, according to the report.
49 percent of consumers surveyed consider an estimated or guaranteed delivery date important when completing an online purchase
When it came to shipping options, the BCG study found that only 9 percent of respondents were interested in same-day delivery. In the same vein, 26 percent of respondents to the Pulse survey indicated they prefer to have expedited shipping options available.
Overall cost a factor
If so many consumers are interested in free shipping, then it stands to reason that overall cost of purchase is important to our shoppers.
The Lab42 study indicated 70 percent of consumers shop online to access better deals and 67 percent prefer shopping online because it's cheaper.
Deloitte found that 47 percent rank low prices as a priority when they are shopping online, while the BCG survey found 50 percent of its respondents are interested in low prices.
And finally, the Pulse report indicated 84 percent of online shoppers will use social media sites to find promotions and discounts. For example, 66 percent of Facebook users will like a brand to receive some sort of promotion.
Mobile access gets more attention
During the past year, it seems media has placed a lot of emphasis on the rise of mobile shopping. As our consumers acquire more mobile devices and place more trust in shopping on their smartphones and tablets, then we, as merchants, need to be sure our listings are mobile friendly.
Mobile commerce is still in its infancy, so the data can vary widely. For instance, when Lab42 asked about shopping on a device, only 4 percent said they use a smartphone or tablet to shop online. Yet a survey conducted by Baynote revealed 23 percent of respondents made one or more purchases using a mobile app. The survey also indicated 40 percent of tablet owners use their tablet to browse websites for products, and 28 percent use their smartphone.
The Pulse report showed 46 percent of consumers are less likely to do comparison shopping when they're using a mobile app.
84 percent of online shoppers will use social media to find discounts; 66 percent of Facebook users will like a brand to receive some sort of promotion
Convenience still a biggie
Most consumers shop online because of its ease. Indeed, the ability to shop from home while avoiding busy markets and aching feet is enticing. Plus, as we saw, you can find better deals online.
The Lab42 survey found 80 percent of consumers will shop online to access a broader selection of products. In addition, 67 percent agree online shopping is convenient, and 59 percent said it's easier to browse online as opposed to in-store.
Other things to consider
Customer reviews—and complete product descriptions, for that matter—also attract attention. The Lab42 survey found that as many as 81 percent of its respondents are influenced by customer reviews, while the Deloitte study indicated 55 percent of its respondents read online reviews before buying products online.
While free shipping, overall cost, mobile use and convenience are some of the most important aspects influencing an online shopper's decision, there are many other variables consumers take into account. That means we need to polish up every nook and cranny of our listings and even sweep every detail out from under the rug.
For example, e-commerce expert Lisa Suttora says local or "Made in the USA" products are rising in popularity among consumers, so if the item you're selling is American-made, say so.
Also consider product quality, clear photographs, gift wrapping services and other helpful customer service options that will give consumers more reasons to say "yes" with the click of a button.
I hope this article gives some insight into what holiday shoppers want, and helps you figure out what adjustments you can make to your listings this year to get your inventory sold.