October 30, 2017

Purdue professor: Online retail sales will continue to grow, as do responsibilities of businesses in changing landscape

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —  Holiday retail sales should increase 4 to 6 percent over last year, but not all retailers will see that type of boost in profits as online sales continue to grow.

Purdue University retail management expert Richard Feinberg expects online sales during the holiday season to increase 15 to 17 percent. But that doesn’t mean brick and mortar stores can’t still profit from those online sales.

“Online sales could be considered your largest store, so pay attention to online and don’t just let it happen by chance,” Feinberg said.

A national survey indicates 30 percent of consumers say they will spend more this holiday season. But the growing trend of people making purchases online continues to grow at a quicker pace than traditional in-person sales. Online sales are expected to top $125 billion this holiday season and they will begin to pick up more quickly in years to follow.

 Fifty percent of consumers will start their holiday shopping after Halloween, Feinberg said.

But the ever-increasing amount of online sales bring a new set of suggestions for best practice, for both customers and retailers.

Two magic words will drive where those online sales occur this season: free shipping.

“Consumers expect to see free shipping, and know they can get free shipping from someone if you do not give it,” Feinberg said.

Retailers that offer free store pickup for online purchases, or one-day delivery will also attract consumers, Feinberg said.

“But the magic words, once again, are free shipping,” he added.

One business remains the “go-to” site for online and store shoppers: Amazon.com, where about 50 percent of consumers visit first, accounts for 10 to 12 percent of all holiday spending. The information on Amazon influences what consumers expect to find in stores and influences the stores they choose.

And with a growing trend of online shopping comes the importance of businesses to adapt their marketing techniques and remain updated on all online platforms.

Pinterest is particularly influential, Feinberg said, noting customers look for ideas they like on that platform and will then find where to buy those items. Retailers typically put out weekly ads, but Feinberg stressed the importance of all business — small or large — to update their company’s website with their latest sales and promotions.

A large portion of consumers — about 75 percent according to a Purdue study — search on Google for businesses or products, a statistic that cuts across all ages and demographics, Feinberg said. Business should have its local SEO (search engine optimization) in place and ensure their profiles — hours and location — are updated as consumers will often use the Google search result information instead of actually visiting a store’s website.

Consumers should also realize that retailers will start to offer “Black Friday” specials before Thanksgiving. Also, numerous “Cyber Monday” specials will continue past the first Monday after Thanksgiving. 

Writer: Brian Peloza, 765-496-9711, bpeloza@purdue.edu 

Source: Richard Feinberg, Richard Feinberg, xdj1@purdue.edu 

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