Most retailers say they anticipate solid online sales growth this holiday season, according to a new survey.
The survey, conducted by e-commerce consultancy The E-tailing Group Inc. and personalization firm Baynote Inc., gathered responses from 77 retailers that sell online with annual revenue ranging from less than $20 million to more than $5 billion. 60% of them expected more than 10% growth this year.
Of the respondents, 23% say they expect their online sales to grow between 11% and 15% this holiday season. That estimate aligns roughly with online sales growth during the holidays last year. Research firm comScore Inc. says online sales increased 14% during Q4 2012 and U.S. Commerce Department estimates pegged Q4 online sales growth at 15.8%. ComScore draws on online purchase data from its panel of about 1 million U.S. online shoppers and excludes automobile and auction sales. Commerce Department estimates are based on a quarterly survey of more than 11,000 U.S. merchants.
15% of respondents expect their online sales will grow 16% to 20%. 12% say the anticipate growth between 21% and 30%. 10% say they think sale growth will exceed 31%.
40% of respondents say they expect their online sales growth will fall below their 2012 rate. They break down as follows: 5% think their online sales will decrease from last year; 9% expect zero growth; 12% expect growth in the range of 1% to 5%; and 14% expect growth between 6% and 10%.
“While retailers have expressed cautious optimism for the 2013 holiday season, that optimism hinges on the ability to drive sales through strategically time promotions in the fourth quarter,” says Lauren Freedman, president of the E-tailing Group.
More than 40% of retailers will wait until early November to start running holiday promotions, the survey finds, but 30% will start before October, which may push some holiday sales in the third quarter.
Retailers in recent years have started holiday sales promotions earlier and consumers have completed more of their holiday shopping by Thanksgiving, which historically has been the kickoff to holiday shopping. A survey of more than 2,000 consumers last year from Compete Inc. found that 54% of shoppers had completed at least a quarter of their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving weekend, up from 49% who said the same in 2011.
More than half, 53%, of retailers in the new The E-tailing Group survey say they expect mobile commerce to account for a “significant” part of holiday revenue, although it did not quantify what significant means in percentage or dollar terms. Retailers, however, estimated the percentage of sales they expect to come from mobile commerce:
• 5% said they expect mobile to account for 21% or more of all holiday sales;
• 7% said 16% to 20%;
• 22% said they expect mobile to account for 11% to 15% of sales;
• 29% said 6% to 10%;
• 29% said between 1% and 5%;
• 8% said they expect mobile to account for no sales this holiday.
38% of retailers say the believe mobile will help drive sales in stores, and 82% say they are making technology investments in mobile.
Retailers, meanwhile, deem social media as less important than mobile; 84% say social media will have little or no impact on sales this holiday season. Just 17% characterized their investment in social media going into the holidays as significant, and 62% said they were making limited investments in social.
While retailers might not be doubling down on social this year, they are investing in other areas. Nearly half say they are making investments in search engine optimization and search engine marketing ahead of the holiday season. 77% are refining their site search capabilities and 81% are making improvements to their e-commerce platforms.