Strategies to Help Retailers Prep for Holiday Success - eMarketer
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Strategies to Help Retailers Prep for Holiday Success



Scot Wingo
President and CEO
ChannelAdvisor

August 13, 2010

ChannelAdvisor provides software and services to retail and manufacturer clients to support online sales. President and CEO Scot Wingo spoke with eMarketer’s Tobi Elkin about retailers’ prospects for the upcoming holiday shopping season and discussed strategies to help them prepare.

eMarketer: What is your outlook for the upcoming online holiday shopping season?

Scot Wingo: We’re pretty optimistic. But as we talk to our customers, we see that a lot of the datapoints are all over the place. For example, consumer confidence in the first part of the year was rising and it took a tumble in April.

“The theme this year is agility and being able to react quickly to how the holiday season evolves.”

Retail sales have been all over the map. Even ecommerce sales have been kind of up and down this year. If things end up being robust, which would mean up more than 15% from last year, our customers want to be able to react quickly. But if things get worse, they don’t want to get caught with extra inventory. The theme this year is agility and being able to react quickly to how the holiday season evolves.

eMarketer: Do you think consumers’ online shopping behavior or attitudes will be different this year?

Wingo: The new reality is that people are watching every dollar and while I don’t think it will be as bad as it was in the 2008 timeframe, people are definitely going to look at every aspect of every purchase and they’re still looking for a great deal.

eMarketer: What kind of tools can retailers use to aid their commerce strategies?

eMarketer: Google has a product search tool that’s a great way for retailers to get exposure. We recommend that clients make sure they’re optimized for Google product search and take advantage of all the changes happening in that space.

Google’s running a beta test on its product listing ads. In the Google results, within the sponsor listings on the right side of the results page, a picture of a product appears instead of just a text link. If the service comes out of beta for the holiday period, retailers need to be prepared for that and make sure that their data feeds have the right information to take advantage of that program.

eMarketer: What about comparison shopping engines and those sorts of tools?

Wingo: Microsoft’s Bing recently said it’s ending a cash-back program. It’s indicated that it may segue to a free comparison shopping engine model. We’re recommending that our customers look at that because Bing is getting a lot of traffic. There are also some up-and-coming engines like TheFind and Pronto that are gaining share. Mobile comparison shopping engines are also growing. In order to take advantage of those, consumers and retailers really have to make sure they’re providing detailed UPC data because that’s what ties them to the barcode scanners at retail.

“Online, people don’t sit there and type in a UPC code, right? That’s probably the worst experience ever. But with mobile it becomes more important.”

Say a retailer is selling an LCD monitor. The retailers may be kind of lazy about providing the UPC data to Google and all the other engines that the barcode scanner builds off of. Online, people don’t sit there and type in a UPC code, right? That’s probably the worst experience ever.

But with mobile it becomes more important, because you can just walk into your local Target or Walmart and scan the product. The mobile comparison shopping engines are all UPC-code-based. So UPC codes are becoming more important and most retailers haven’t focused on them. Consumers scanning barcodes with their smartphones at retail is another trend we’ll see.

Using a smartphone and a comparison shopping application, you’re able to get the best price possible. These kinds of applications will alert you as to other retailers nearby that have the item in stock and the price. They also inform you if the item is available on Amazon, eBay or elsewhere online. You can also use the app in the store and find a lower price right then and there.

eMarketer: What are some things retailers can do to prepare for the holiday shopping season?

Wingo: We look at product reviews as a tool for aiding conversions. We live in a world where of the 100 people who come to your site, maybe two or three buy things. Retailers need to move that needle. Product reviews and any kind of content around your products might make them more appealing.

“Rich media is a must-have and video is a part of that.”

Rich media is a must-have and video is a part of that. Online retailers that sell apparel need it. Rich media in the form of enhanced product imagery so that you can zoom in on an item and rotate it and really get a feel for the fabric, seams and texture is really important.

eMarketer: What were the lessons retailers learned last year and how can they apply them to avoid potential snafus this year?

Wingo: Last year we were all surprised that people started shopping earlier than Black Friday. It felt like the season got pulled a little bit forward last year. We say don’t wait until Black Friday to promote key items on your site.

As the holiday season progresses from Black Friday to late December, we see Mondays spike online. We see people using their weekends to do offline shopping and identify items they’d like to buy. Then they’ll purchase online for additional convenience and savings.

Last year we saw that online Black Friday was as good or better than offline Black Friday and consumers don’t have to fight the crowds. The trend will continue this year.

The full version of this interview is available here, to eMarketer Total Access clients only. Every day they have access to new interviews with digital marketing leaders and trendsetting entrepreneurs.

Check out today’s other article, “Email Dominates Mobile Web Time.”

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