Free Shipping and Social Media Drive Online Holiday Sales

Are you shopping online this holiday season?  What if free shipping were offered?  Or what about a special deal on Facebook?  It seems that retailers are betting you would, as they increasingly look to entice Internet-savvy shoppers by offering such deals.

According to the Consumer Internet Barometer, some of the factors that encourage online shopping include:
  • Free shipping
  • Special offers and deals not offered to everyone
  • Merchandise offered exclusively online, and
  • Ability to return items in store or free shipping for returns

Free shipping seems to be the biggest driver for consumers to go online.  Four out of five online retailers (79.4%) say they will offer free shipping with conditions at some point during the holiday season; and over half (57.4%) plan to offer free shipping without conditions, according to a survey by BIGresearch for In fact, free shipping is becoming so popular, that it is being offered for more than 50% of online purchases this holiday season, according to comScore data.  The data also indicates that transactions with free shipping run an average of 30% higher in basket value than those without.

Many retailers also offer special promotions and discounts to consumers who “like” them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.  In fact, according to our Retail Compass Survey of CMOs, 75% of retailers have included social media in their marketing strategy this holiday season, and 92% list Facebook as a primary focus. With more and more consumers using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s no surprise that this cost-effective form of advertising is becoming more prevalent.

Overall, it seems that the retailers’ tactics are working.  Online shopping continues to beat expectations, reaching sales of $22 billion for the holiday season to date (November 1 through December 10).  That’s a 12% increase over the same period in 2009.

What entices you to buy online?  Do you think e-tailers will be the big winners of the 2010 holiday season?