Christmas Could Come Early For Web Retailers—If They’re SavvyEarly this month, we spoke of the ways that email and text messaging can be used as channels for online retailers to engage consumers, facilitate their purchases, and re-engage them for future purchases (see How Web-based Retailers Can Use Email and SMS). The importance of doing this is clearer than ever during the first week of Holiday Shopping Season 2007, when estimates of larger-than-ever revenues are dampered only by tales of the shortfalls of online retail sites.

Interactive strategic agency Blast Radius put out a report Monday that studied the top 25 consumer brands to see how their online retail sites fared with customers. Research showed that while brands maintained their integrity online, even some of the biggest names struggled when it came time for end-users to purchase goods or services.

“Across the board, there was a large performance gulf between brand awareness and purchase and transaction,” Blast Radius said in a release. “These major corporations have come to rely on their strong brand recognition and solid reputations… [resulting in] the inclination to lean on these strengths rather than to put more effort into ensuring that the purchasing process is as engaging as the rest of the online experience.”

But there’s a way to prevent such a scenario and ensure that Internet customers remain engaged: Combine online marketing with targeted messaging. First, a marketer should entice consumers to subscribe to receive email or text messages from a brand. Then the marketer can use the emails or text messages to “sell” certain products or services or to drive the consumers back to their own websites. There’s a variety of ways to do this, such as offering discount coupons or promoting a special “subscribers-only” sale.

Another reason for “e-tailers” to stay savvy with targeted message campaigns? Offline stores. Bricks-and-mortar shops have worked harder than ever to ensure the success of Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, considered one of the most significant shopping days for traditional retailers) and the rest of the holiday weekend. ShopperTrak RCT estimates that this year’s Black Friday revenue for traditional retailers was $10.3 billion, up more than 8 percent from last year.

But savvy online retailers, ones who’ve grasped the importance of engaging consumers throughout the browsing and buying stages, could divert some of that Black Friday offline revenue into their own coffers. One way for them to pull shoppers away from the mall and back to the Internet is by sending emails or text messages reminding consumers of their online activity, or by offering coupons to get them back to their virtual shopping carts.

The Blast Radius report warning of online shopping sites’ pitfalls could not have come at a more crucial time for e-tailers. It was released on Cyber Monday, the Monday immediately following Thanksgiving, traditionally one of the heaviest Internet revenue days of the year. ComScore predicted this year’s Cyber Monday would generate $700 million in sales, up from $608 million in 2006. With so much at stake, what online retailer wouldn’t want to use all the tools—including email and SMS—available today?

Eydie Cubarrubia,
Marketing Communications Manager