July 29, 2014, 12:36 PM

Many e-retailers plan to start holiday marketing in September

42% of e-retailers will begin their marketing push in September and 23% plan to start in October, according to a survey of online retailers by ChannelAdvisor.

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In the world of online retail, it’s never too early to start thinking about the holiday rush. That sentiment is especially true leading into the 2014 holiday season after delivery failures plagued online retailers in 2013.

The majority of online retailers plan to start their marketing push in September (42%) and October (23%), according to a survey of retailers by ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps retailers sell on some 20 online marketplaces. 12% say they will get started in August and 14% will wait until November. 7% of retailers planned to start in July, and 1% in June or earlier. 41% of retailers plan to offer free shipping, 33% say they’re going to stock more product inventory than last year and 37% say they’re going to discount products as part of the holiday shopping season.

The online survey was completed in June 2014, and 219 respondents— 111 in the United Kingdom and 108 in the U.S.—participated.

The fastest-growing sales channel for ChannelAdvisor clients during the 2013 holiday season was Google Shopping, the Google service that lets retailers upload product data to be presented to consumers, largely through the image-heavy Product Listing Ads that appear on Google search results pages. ChannelAdvisor clients, on average, experienced over 100% year-over-year sales growth on the channel on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the weekend following Thanksgiving. ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo says that growth in likely to continue in 2014 because Google Shopping is still relatively new. “We’re still seeing retailers adopting it, and Google is still rolling it out,” Wingo said on a webinar yesterday.

Google first introduced Product Listing Ads, or PLAs, in the summer of 2012. PLAs, which feature prices, reviews and other data prominently in the central area of a Google search results page, replaced the search engine's free comparison shopping listings. Google began charging for PLAs in October 2012. Google announced in April plans to phase out its original PLA ad-creation and bidding method and incorporate PLAs into the Shopping Campaigns ad-management dashboard. Shopping Campaigns build on PLAs, allowing advertisers to manage and bid on ads for many products at once by creating custom product groups.

ChannelAdvisor clients also experienced sales growth on Amazon’s marketplace during the 2013 holiday season. “Because of the success of Amazon’s marketplace, we’re seeing an explosion of marketplaces,” Wingo says. That includes marketplaces from retailers, such as Sears Holding Corp. and Best Buy, as well as other shopping portals. According to ChannelAdvisor data, 90% of retailers responding to its survey are selling on marketplaces, but only 15% are selling on such newer marketplaces as those operated by retailers Best Buy, Sears, Tesco and Newegg.com. Wingo says that means there’s still an opportunity for new marketplaces to grab market share.

About 85% of retailers are selling on Amazon’s marketplace, while more than 60% sell on eBay.com Inc.’s marketplace. Less than 20% sell on the marketplaces from Sears, Tesco, Newegg, Rakuten and French fashion marketplace La Redoute.

Wingo thinks the next group to get into the marketplace game will be social networks. ChannelAdvisor is working with several social networks to launch marketplaces, but the company is under non-disclosure agreements and cannot provide specifics. However, Wingo specifically noted Pinterest’s new Rich Pins feature, which allows retailers to include the title, price, availability, brand name and logo with a product image. Rich Pins also lets retailers send price notifications to users that pinned a product alerting them of a price drop. The next step for Pinterest, Wingo says, might be a marketplace.

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