If you’re like me, I’m always ready for some good economic news and I got some recently from Internet Retailer.
Here’s an optimistic headline from the article - or at least not a negative one: “Web shoppers are less pessimistic than they were in the fall.”
The quote mentioned above comes from a recent survey by PriceGrabber, which the article highlights. Why are people “less pessimistic” about online sales than they were last Fall? People are increasingly cutting back and looking for deals, and the Internet is a great place to find them.
What deals are important for online shoppers? Free shipping. Most sites don’t charge sales tax combined with free shipping, it can be a big savings. Seventy-five percent of people look for sites that offer both free shipping and don’t charge sales tax. Another 54 percent say they are avid coupon hunters.
My favorites are stores like Eddie Bauer who will take returns from Web sales at their physical store. It takes away a lot of the risk of not being able to try on their shoes or clothes.
Even if you don’t have a strong Web presence it’s wise to invest in your online store. In the survey, 54 percent say they search for coupons and discounts online even if they plan to purchase offline.
What does this mean for your online store? If you have free shipping, be sure it’s displayed prominently on your site - especially the home page. Also, be sure your best deals easy to find. Consider how social media can help you market your products, coupons and best deals. You can hope people find your deals or actively tell people about them on sites like Twitter and Facebook.
More of the top retail brands are using Facebook and Twitter to build their brand. They use the sites to tell their online community about exclusive deals and to interact with them. Out of 100 major retailers, 59 had Facebook accounts in September 2008. That was almost double the number just four months earlier, according to Rosetta, a market research firm based in Princeton, N.J. I bet the number will be closer to 100 percent by next year as brands see the benefits.
Some of your most loyal customers are your Facebook fans. They make the ideal focus group and help create new evangelists.
Twitter is also popular with big brands. Not only are people finding deals online but they’re creating buzz by passing along great deals to their friends. Recently, Burger King offered free Whopper coupons to anyone who deleted 10 friends from Facebook. Not only was it a good deal - but it made people talk (everyone has friends on Facebook that they need a good excuse to cut ties with, right?).
Dell traced $1 million in revenue over the past year and a half by telling people about sales through short messages posted on Twitter.
Twitter and Facebook are not just for big brands either - small businesses are using twitter and Facebook to get the word out. A local restaurant that I used to frequent is on Twitter. I found my wedding photographer (that’s me!) through a Facebook ad.
Here’s an example of a recent “tweet” from a local restaurant:
“Get 20% off breakfast tomorrow @guruscafe! Tell the cashier the code word: “kangaroo”, and you’ll get the discount!”
Here are other findings from the PriceGrabber study (which has some good news for electronics retailers in particular):
- “Spending is down on big ticket items, but 30 percent say they have purchased or plan to purchase a TV set or other consumer electronic product, 20 percent home improvement products, 12 percent kitchen appliances or furniture and 12 percent indoor furniture.
- “Electronics is demand is strong. 40 percent of consumers aged 18 to 34 (which are the age you can reach through social networking sites like Facebook) say they have made or plan to make a major electronics purchase, compared with 26 percent of those 55 and older.”
Unfortunately, people don’t think they’ll be back to their prior level of spending any time soon. Only eight percent of respondents said they thought the economy will improve enough in six months that they’ll be able to resume their prior spending. Instead 21 percent thought it would take one year, 34 percent two years, 15 percent three years, 7 percent four years and 15 percent five years or more.
Still if you’re like most retailers right now you’re looking for silver linings. Here they are: social media and ecommerce. Are you ready?
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About the Author: Janet Meiners Thaeler is an Evangelist for OrangeSoda Inc. and the principal blogger for their corporate blog and Twitter account. She regularly advises clients on blogging and social media strategies. Her own blog is Newspapergrl.com (Twitter account @newspapergrl). She is passionate about online marketing and is always looking for new insights, resources and trends to help her clients.