Shoppers demand holiday deals

It’s clear from several retailers’ reports that shoppers want a great deal this holiday season. One retailer says its referral traffic from coupon sites is up 229% for the holiday season compared to last year.

Katie Evans

While it may be the season of giving, increasingly price-sensitive shoppers are looking to score a deal.

“I believe shoppers seeking more deals,” says Ron Yates, president and director of e-commerce at online jeweler Yates & Co. Jewelers Inc. “We have seen higher shopping cart abandonments, and conversions due to retargeting these abandoners with a coupon code offer e-mail.”

The retailer says referral traffic from coupon sites is up 229% from Nov. 9 to Dec. 9 this year compared to same period in 2012.

The retailer, which says it gets most of its traffic from organic search engine results pages and offers free shipping all year long, says its average order value is up 20% so far this month compared to last December and its conversion rate is even, with desktop conversion rate up but tablet and smartphone conversions down in December compared to last year. Mobile sales also are down, through the retailer would not say by how much.

Home goods web-only retailer Wayfair.com was ready for shoppers looking for deals going into the holiday season. “With the shorter holiday shopping season, we recognized we needed to make an early push this year,” a spokeswoman says. 

The retailer, No. 52 in the Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide, began offering promotions and deals about two weeks earlier than last year, according to a spokeswoman for the retailer. In 2012, most of Wayfair.com’s promotions began running the week of Thanksgiving, but this year, it started launching deals on Nov. 11.

The strategy worked. Over Thanksgiving weekend Wayfair.com increased sales 56% compared to the holiday weekend last year to reach $25 million. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving was the biggest sales day in company’s history, surpassing $9 million. “On Cyber Monday, we sold one item every 1.3 seconds,” the spokeswoman says. Also during the holiday weekend, 30% of orders were placed through mobile devices, she says.

 Similarly, at fragrance retailer Scentiments.com LLC, shoppers have snapped up discounts quickly this holiday season.

“Consumers are savvier than ever, so we needed to be aggressive with our discounts,” says Howard Wyner, the retailer’s CEO and vice president of e-commerce. “We provided some additional savings to maintain our competitiveness. Consumers are like sharks when it comes to discounts.  It becomes a buying frenzy.” For example, it is currently offering free shipping on all items and 15% off site-wide.

So far in December, smartphone phone traffic is up 15% compared to the same time last year and traffic from tablets is up 45%, the retailer says.  Conversion rates for both smartphones and tablets are about the same as a year ago.

Web-only women’s eyewear retailer Rivet & Sway also is using discounts to try to boost sales. The retailer launched a campaign on Black Friday that sells one pair of glasses for $150 (down from the normal $199) two pairs for $250 and three pairs for $350. “The more, the merrier,” the retailer proclaimed near the top of its home page. Below that, on the home page, the retailer put such messages as “Find Your Holiday Style” and “Start With a Stylist” in a reddish ornament design.

The promotion aimed to encourage potential customers to view eyewear as a fashion accessory, says founder and chief marketing officer John Lusk. “Dropping our price point makes eyewear as an accessory more accessible,” he says. It also launched the tiered pricing structure because feedback from shoppers this year suggested it would resonate with shoppers.

The campaign also enabled Rivet & Sway to move beyond free shipping—which it already offers—to give consumers another reason to buy from the site during the holiday season. “I think e-commerce customers always expect free shipping,” Lusk says.

For men’s apparel retailer Hugh & Crye, this holiday season has been less about price-focused shoppers and more about a different type of customer buying from its site. Women have accounted for about 40% of its buyers, up from less than 5% a year ago says Pranav Vora, the retailer’s founder and CEO.

 “It seems like women are coming out of the woodwork in terms of buying gifts, gift cards, accessories and other gifts for significant others,” Vora says. One reason, he says, is that Hugh & Crye has been featured in a number of gift guides, including that of Real Simple, a magazine that focuses on topics like cooking and household organization that most often interests women, he says.

The online retailer is growing rapidly. Sales are three times higher so far this year compared to last year thanks in part to its average order value  rising nearly 60% to $160. The addition of more expensive blazers to the e-retailer’s collection of shirts and ties is the explanation, Vora says. Traffic is up about 50% over last year, while its conversion rate has remained steady around 4%.

The company advertises on Facebook and Google, and is active on a range of social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, Vora says. Consumers coming from social networks during the holiday season have accounted for about 30% of traffic to HughandCrye.com. (They haven’t yet evaluated the conversion rate on that social traffic versus other visitors.)

While plenty of shoppers have been looking for deals this season, that focus will likely wane as Christmas draws near, says Tom Cox, CEO of Golfballs.com.

“It takes promotions and discounts to drive business until about Dec. 10, then buyer panic sets in and it seems like customers aren’t nearly as deal sensitive,” Cox says. “They just want to ensure their gift is delivered before Christmas.”

Cox says one of Golfball.com’s advantages is that his company’s printing department can quickly print its customized items, which account for about 90% of its orders during the season. “We can assure them that we will print, gift wrap and deliver their order on time,” Cox says. Because Golfballs.com doubled its golfball printing capacity last year, Cox expects that the site will be able to take customized orders until midday Dec. 23 for delivery on Dec. 24.

Cox says the retailer’s overall conversion rate is up 15% year over year so far for the holiday season with number of transactions up 14%. But its average order size is down. Cox says that is likely a result of the retailer offering less expensive customized gifts this year. “We are offering customized ball markers and golf tees and even customized box tops this year. Last year it wasn’t in our lineup,” he says.  

Golfballs.com is also experiencing strong mobile sales for the holiday season, with a 30% jump in conversion rate, 24% increase in revenue and 49% rise in transactions.

While a lot of online retailers offer free shipping or percentage off discounts to entice shoppers, Cox finds that offering free imprinting or free embroidery work for the customized products that make up most of his sales works best for his company. “We do offer free shipping during the holidays, but we tend to mix our promotions up because different customers respond better to different types of free offers,” he says. Golfballs.com is No. 529 in the Internet Retailer 2013 Second 500 Guide.


2013 holiday e-commerce, e-commerce sales, Golfballs.com, holiday e-commerce, holiday online shopping, marketing technology, Rivet & Sway, Scentiments.com, Wayfair, Yates & Co. Jewelers Inc.