This Week's Agenda: A Little Christmas

  |  October 22, 2001   |  Comments

Hang up the tinsel and mistletoe -- it's time for online merchants to usher in the holiday season.

Are you ready for some good news? I think you are.

Well, it turns out that September sales weren't too shabby, coming in at $4.7 billion, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

And brand managers' interest in online media is going up, not down, according to eMarketer. Its report shows four out of five brand managers surveyed recommend online ads to their managers who buy ads.

Though the ban on Internet taxes ended yesterday, even that shouldn't impact this year's results. Congress would have to allow collection of sales taxes, and other taxes would have to be passed by states.

The best news, however, comes from the gnomes at Forrester Research in Cambridge. (I'm using "gnomes" in its best context, from the Greek "to know," so hold the hate mail.)

This holiday season is going to be good, really good. Forrester expects $11 billion in online holiday sales this year, with 6 million new shoppers crowding your online aisles.

Since it takes time to deliver (and return) items bought online, the holiday season should be in full swing on your site. Let's see if you're ready for it.

Forrester advises that if you have a brick-and-mortar presence, allow people to pick up items ordered online at your retail outlet. Additionally, it suggests that you have clear privacy and security policies within easy reach. It also recommends that your software make it easy for people to send gifts to multiple addresses.

Here are some additional points from my own holiday shopping:

  • Show all costs up front, including shipping costs and any taxes. Let people know what they will pay before they head for your secure server.

  • Link items that logically go together (e.g., batteries with toys) so that shoppers can have everything they need in their carts before checkout.

  • Get your holiday deals posted now. Most stores wait until mid-December to clear the shelves. You need to have your shipping orders in by early December so you can handle most returns by Christmas Eve.

    Here are a few more points based on the headlines:

  • Emphasize comfort and value. Luxury and self-indulgence are out.

  • Clearly mark your packages with regard to their origins.

  • Emphasize trustworthy shippers, such as UPS and Federal Express, so your shoppers can track their packages.

  • Your best marketing campaign may be to give. Consider donating some portion of your sales to the September 11th Fund, the Red Cross, or (especially if you sell toys) America's Fund for Afghan Children.

    This year people are going to want to be with their families. They're going to want the simple things. They're going to want what people can provide -- the comfort and warmth of fuzzy slippers rather than the icy metal of high-tech devices.

    You have the first chance to provide these things. If your site is ready for business, start advertising now (there's still plenty of online ad inventory available at good prices). With everyone in the country frightened over anthrax and al-Qaida, don't apologize for a little tinsel and schmaltz.

    Instead, take your cue from Jerry Herman's score to "Mame." (Take care in clicking this link -- the music starts as soon as you get there.) As the song goes: Haul out the holly
    Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
    Fill up the stocking
    I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.

    When you're finished singing, get back to work before my beard gets any whiter and I'm tempted to climb down your chimney personally.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business reporter for more than 20 years. He has written parts of five books and currently contributes to Advertising Age, Business Marketing, NetMarketing, the Chicago Tribune, Boardwatch, CLEC Magazine, and other publications. His own newsletter, A-Clue.Com, is published weekly.

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