Despite signs that the economic recovery is losing steam, the outlook for online holiday sales remains upbeat.
Still, the uncertain economy does pose complex challenges for retailers’ holiday season preparations. How they manage inventory will be a critical success factor, so smart retailers are working more closely with supply-channel partners to deal with different consumer-demand scenarios.
The same bargain-hunting attitude adopted during the past two holiday seasons is likely to define shopping behavior again this year. Consumers will go online to find coupons, compare prices on shopping engines and research items, even if they plan to buy them in-store.
Savvy consumers, knowing that retailers are posting some of their best Black Friday deals online, will shop the web on Black Friday from the comfort of their homes rather than rise early to face crowded stores. Those who do head to stores are likely to take their smartphones with them to compare other retailers’ prices for items of interest.
There are still many preparatory steps online retailers can take in the weeks leading up to the holiday shopping season. For example, they should stay up to date on the many changes taking place with search engines like Google and Bing and explore the best ways to capitalize on them. They can test their website performance for the large traffic volumes expected. They can set up gift centers to stimulate purchase ideas. And they can develop new email marketing strategies by analyzing purchase behavior from the past few holiday seasons.