November 29, 2012, 11:04 AM

Retailers boost online holiday marketing budgets

E-marketers anticipate a big increase in holiday web sales, a new study says.

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Retailers are spending a lot more this holiday season than a year ago on several forms of online marketing and, as a result, they’re expecting to ring in big increases in sales, according to a new study conducted by research and advisory firm Retail Systems Research for Bronto Software, a provider of e-mail marketing services.

Just over a fifth of retailers surveyed in the study said they will “significantly” increase their spending on social media, mobile and e-mail marketing during this year’s holiday season, the study says. The study, “Loading the Sleigh: Marketers’ Plans & Expectations for the Holiday Season,” also found that 18% of retailers plan a “slight” increase social marketing; 20% plan a “slight” increase in e-mail marketing. 40% said they planned to increase their overall mobile marketing spending.

The study is based on a survey of 179 retailers conducted in August and September. It doesn’t spell out exactly how much retailers plan to increase spending in each marketing channel.

The study notes, however, that just over 20% of retailers will allocate more than 50% of their holiday online marketing budgets to social, mobile and e-mail marketing campaigns.

When including all forms of online marketing, including search marketing and display advertising, 39% of retailers said they will allocate 21% or more of their total 2012 marketing budget to the holiday season; 26% said they will allocate 31% or more to the holidays; and 21% said the holidays will get more than 50% of their online marketing spend.

As a result of their marketing campaigns, as well as overall trends in online shopping, 42% of retailers said they expected their 2012 online holiday sales to rise 21% or more compared with a year ago; 51% expect their online holiday sales to rise 11% or more; and 67% said they will see at least some increase. 10% said they expect a decrease in online holiday sales, and 23% said they expect no change from 2011.

The study also found:

● 31% of retailers planned to send their first holiday-related e-mail marketing messages this week; 59% planned to send them by the first week of November; and 20% planned to send them by the first week of October.

● 35% of retailers planned to offer free shipping with no minimum purchase required throughout the season, and 39% planned to offer free shipping with no minimum purchase at select times during the holidays.

● In e-mail messages designed to to win back shoppers who abandoned online shopping carts during the holidays, 43% of retailers planned to include a free shipping offer, and 35% planned to offer a discounted price on the abandoned order.

● 53% of retailers said they planned to send more holiday season marketing e-mail this year compared to last year.

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