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Where are your customers shopping this Holiday Season?

Where are your customers shopping this Holiday Season?

Gas prices have been hovering around 50% higher than last holiday season, and predictions are that home heating costs will show a similar premium to last winter. Those two things alone could restrain some holiday spending this year according to analysts; but one thing is predicted to continue to grow, and even at a higher rate than last year, and that is the use of the internet. More people will search and purchase more goods, spending more money, than last year by a predicted 21.9% according to eMarketer, a market research firm.

In fact 4th quarter on-line sales have increased between 20 and 30% each year since 2001 and show no sign of slowing down. Why the consistent growth? Consumers list the following reasons in order of importance according to a recent survey by Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen / NetRatings: lower prices, wider selection, avoiding crowds, home delivery, and ease of comparison shopping. For these reasons consumers have increased holiday spending on-line from 16% to 22% of purchases, while decreasing spending in traditional stores from 78% to 72% since 2002. Catalog sales have maintained a steady 6% of spending. Another study showed an even more dramatic shift with the internet at 33% to the brick-and-mortar stores 59%. Whatever the figures, it is hard to argue the increasing impact of on-line commerce. A steady and dramatic shift is taking place.

What does this mean to our local businesses? We must adjust to this new reality. Consumers won't always wait for the special Christmas display in our stores, but will strike when an idea hits them whether it be in the middle of an August night, or at home on a holiday just browsing the internet. The feeling of comparing, and getting a good deal and finding something that maybe your neighbor or loved one hasn't seen on every corner is addictive.

As a retailer, here are some tips to get the most out of this trend for your business whether it be for each coming holiday season, or throughout the year. First, know your customers. Ask questions, take notes. Second, offer what your customers want, and pay particular notice to the way they want it and figure out how to get it to them just the way they want it. Increasingly, the internet is a major part of the equation. Don't know how to get started? Here are 10 tips according to Richard D. Harroch author of "The Small Business Kit for Dummies"

1. Obtain a good domain name 2. Build a professional looking website 3. Make your site easy to navigate and easy to find what you are trying to sell 4. Build up your e-mail list 5. Send periodic email newsletters 6. Buy banner ads 7. Optimize your site for search engines 8. Buy Keyword Ads on Search Engines 9. Make it easy to buy from your shopping cart 10. Provide Great Customer Service

Sounds simple, and it is. Happy Holidays!
About the Author

John Geiger owns and operates a local affiliate of WSI Internet Consulting and Education, a global network of consultants, developers and production centers providing consultation as well as turn-key internet business solutions for businesses to include web-site design, development and hosting; site maintenance and upgrades, full e-commerce solutions, on-line training and education, and more. Contact John at 828-320-5929 or www.webmasters-wsi.com

Written by: John Geiger

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