December 9, 2005, 12:00 AM

Retailers report strong start to holiday shopping season

Early marketing and promotion initiatives helped online retailers get the holiday season off to a strong start, with 58% reporting 30% or higher year-over-year sales increases for the Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday.


Early marketing and promotion initiatives helped online retailers get the holiday shopping season off to a strong start, with 58% of online retailers reporting year-over-year sales increases of 30% or higher for the Thanksgiving weekend and the following Monday, according to the 2005 Research eHoliday Mood Study.

The percentage of online retailers who felt “very optimistic” after the five-day period increased to 31% compared with 24% in September. 76% of retailers polled reported feeling “very optimistic” or “somewhat optimistic” about the holiday season, the study said.

The most popular marketing tools retailers used to drive holiday sales were e-mail promotions (92.4%), paid search engine marketing (71.4%), natural search engine marketing (53.3%) and affiliate/loyalty programs (40.1%).

Free shipping with conditions proved to be the most effective promotion, with 62% of retailers citing it as the most successful tool for deriving holiday sales, according to the study. In the case of site tools, retailers reported having the most success with gift idea centers (52%), suggested items (39%), and featured sale item pages (32%).

Although promotions helped fuel sales, 73.4% of shoppers said they chose to shop online to avoid crowds, the study found. Other reasons cited by shoppers for shopping online were convenience (66.6%), the ability to avoid lines (59%), ease of finding items (51.6%), and the ability to make price comparisons (51.1%) and product comparisons (44.5%).

Consumer satisfaction with the online shipping experience also increased, with 96.2% of shoppers saying they were satisfied with their online purchases through the Thanksgiving weekend. That compares with 95% in 2004.

The eHoliday Mood Study is based on data provide directly from online retailers and consumer data. polled 113 online retailers-all members of 3,730 online buyers.


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