Online Shoppers to Spend 8 billion pounds this Christmas

Online shopping figures expected to go up this XmasUK consumers are expected to spend almost £8 billion online this Christmas, despite tough economic conditions ― a 14 per cent increase on last year.

Research by the online retail membership body IMRG predicts that online shopping sales will hit £7.75 billion over the five weeks from Monday, 28 November ― also known as ‘Cyber Monday’. Almost half (£3.72 billion) is expected to be spent in the first two weeks alone. The forecast is based on data from 100 online retailers and reflects the trend seen in the past two years in the run-up to Christmas.

“Amazon and eBay also identify the first week in December,”

said IMRG communications executive Andy Mulcahy.

“Amazon is already doing the ‘Black Friday’ promotion to coincide with payday ― a whole week where they actively push promotions and push online shopping.”

“We’ve gone into December by then, so mentally you’re thinking ‘It’s almost Christmas’. But the big weeks happen pretty early online, because people are giving themselves time to time to receive deliveries.”

Overall, growth in the rate of online shopping has slowed slightly in 2011, though it’s still expected to rise by 16 per cent this year, and online sales are forecast to account for a fifth of all Christmas spending. By comparison, offline sales are predicted to fall by around 2 per cent. Growth areas for online retailers are low-value product sectors, such as accessories, health and beauty and electrical goods.

IMRG have also identified increasing use of mobiles in online shopping, giving rise to what they call the ‘agile consumer’ who switches from platform to platform. Research suggests one in four consumers even accesses their smartphones while out shopping, with the vast majority comparing prices with other retailers. The average percentage of sales via mobile phones leapt from 0.4 per cent to 3.3 per cent in the 18 months to June 2011.

Mulcahy advised retailers to adopt a multi-channel approach to retailing that spanstheir website, social media, mobile platforms and their offline shop, and to use free tools such as Google Analytics to monitor customer behaviour.

Online retailer Cha Haxell, owner of Large Cup Lingerie, said her own sales patterns reflected the trends identified by IMRG.

“We’ve expanded our product range and we’re getting some new image advertising created.”

“We’ll also be running giveaways on our Facebook page giving people the opportunity to get discounts through Twitter and Facebook. We’ll step it up a bit more in the run-up to Christmas. Social media is very important because a lot of our customers use it on a daily basis.”

Nick Kington, managing director of ecommerce software provider Actinic, said online retailers could maximise Christmas sales by “paying attention to detail”.

“It’s making sure you’ve got stock in, ensuring sure you’re able to deliver all your orders on time and setting your customers’ expectations about the final delivery date. Have promotions and a dedicated gift section on your site, and offer a wrapping service. It’s about fulfilling expectations and giving the customer a good experience. If you don’t deliver, they’re not going to come back.”

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