March 29, 2013, 10:02 AM

Web retailers hunt for Easter sales

Several send e-mails aiming to entice shoppers to fill their Easter baskets online.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Lead Photo

While shoppers probably stop short of purchasing hard-boiled Easter eggs online, just about every other item a consumer might desire to celebrate the holiday this year has been available online—and likely on sale, too.

E-retailers kept busy this month showering consumers with Easter greetings and incentives to buy their holiday gear with them.

Payless ShoeSource sent an Easter-themed e-mail on March 21 offering free shipping for one day only on all orders of $30 or more. Apparel and shoe retailer Piperlime.com, meanwhile, hit consumers’ inboxes with a message just days before the holiday promoting special occasion shoes for children. “Hop, hop, who's there? New special occasion shoes for kids,” the subject line read. A click to open the e-mail revealed images of footwear for boys and girls with a few decorative bunnies thrown in to round out the scene.

Barnes & Noble Inc. featured a variety of Easter items in a March 21 e-mail ranging from storybook classics such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit to children’s DVDs that aren’t quite classics yet such as Max’s Chocolate Chicken. For the adults, the message also highlighted 25% off rich Godiva Chocolate.

Ghirardelli, another chocolate maker that sells online, aimed to grab the attention of the shopper with a sweet tooth with a catchy subject line: “Give a bunny a break & save 15% on Easter treats.” Shoppers could save 15% by entering the code “Basket” at checkout. The message, sent on March 21, also featured a handy summary of shipping deadlines for arrival before Easter. Shoppers could order as late as March 28 and select next day delivery to get their goodies in time for the holiday.

Another earlier message from Ghirardelli sent on March 17 appealed to shoppers’ curiosity with the subject line: “Secret Easter surprise savings on Ghirardelli chocolate!” After opening the message shoppers could click a button to find their sweet surprise on the retailer’s e-commerce site. At least one click led to discounts on various chocolate packages. In that same e-mail, Ghirardelli also promoted its stores with the message: “We’re in the neighborhood! Visit your nearby Ghirardelli ice cream and chocolate shop to experience our delectable fountain creations.” It was accompanied by the address for a nearby Ghirardelli store.

Other retailers took a religious tone to promote Easter sales. Dancewear e-retailer All About Dance sent a message on March 6 promoting liturgical dance apparel for religious performances. It featured 15% off such items for one week and free shipping and returns.

Pro Flowers, meanwhile, aimed to appeal to shoppers longing for the spring-like weather that usually accompanies the holiday with a series of Easter-themed e-mails beginning on March 13. They began with 43% off Easter Tulips and finished up with a more urgent call to action with a subject line: “Only 3 Days left for guaranteed Easter Delivery! Make Mom =)” in an e-mail sent on March 27.

A study released last week by trade group the National Retail Federation suggests improving prospects for such online Easter promotions. More U.S. consumers will shop online this year for Easter gifts than last year, it finds, with 21.1% planning to visit web merchants, compared with 18.7% in 2012. And, it notes that shoppers plan to be especially mobile in their Easter shopping endeavors.

The trade group, which bases its findings on an online survey of 5,050 consumers conducted by BigInsight between March 5 and March 11, finds at least 14.8% of those surveyed who own a smartphone plan to use those devices to buy Easter items, with 25.9% expecting to use the phones to research products and compare prices. 19.6% of respondents with smartphones plan to use them to look up such information as retail store hours and location.

Meanwhile, 34.7% of survey respondents report owning tablets. Of those consumers, at least 22.1% say they will use the devices for Easter-related purchases, with 34.0% planning to conduct product searches and compare prices. 13.9% of tablet owners say they will use apps to research or buy items and 10.7% of smartphone owners say the same. When it comes to getting deals, 16.3% of tablet owners say they will redeem coupons via their devices and 16.9% of smartphone owners say the same.

Payless is No. 320 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Piperlime is owned by Gap Inc., No. 128; Barnes & Noble is No. 32, and Pro Flowers is owned by Liberty Interactive Corp., No. 7. All About Dance is No. 927 in the Second 500 Guide.

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