Holiday 2011 first look: messaging to bargain hunters

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By now you’ve probably read the early forecasts predicting that the 2011 holiday season will be a subdued affair. The International Council of Shopping Centers predicts a 2.2% gain overall, down from 4.4% growth in 2010. ShopperTrak, which combines economic trends with foot traffic data, predicts 3% growth overall, compared with the 4.1% gain it reported in 2010.

But in a continuing trend, eCommerce promises to be a bright spot. According to Internet Retailer, research firm Kantar Retail predicts a 13.5% increase in online sales. Although that’s a decline from the robust 16.5% growth Kantar reported in 2010, the 2011 forecast still holds out the promise of double-digit growth in an otherwise tepid year.

Forecasterss predict a rush of bargain hunters who will shop frugally and hold out for deals. As Jack Kleinhenz of the National Retail Federation told the Wall Street Journal, “There will be lots of promotions—that’s become the norm.”

To maximize the potential of online holiday sales in 2011, merchants should design their promotions with these savvy deal seekers in mind. That doesn’t mean automatically dropping prices or eliminating barriers to free shipping; it does mean prominently communicating the value of your brand and products wherever shoppers roam.

1. Make it easy to seize opportunities across channels.

Gift guides, shareable wish lists and “save cart”/”print cart” options have long been part of merchants’ holiday playbooks — but with shoppers doing more research than ever in advance of purchasing, it’s crucial to fulfill their need for product and promotion information, in whatever format they seek it.  In particular, don’t neglect:

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