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High Oil Prices An Online Retail Opportunity

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[ Technology]

The threat of persistently high prices for crude oil through the winter could be a boon to web-based retailers.

Americans love to shop. They hate gas prices that make them look wistfully back at $1.80 per gallon retail. These two factors could lead to some serious sales for the online retailer with the savvy to capitalize on them.

Big names like Amazon and LL Bean will get their share of customers without too much marketing exertion. The rest of the web will have to work a little harder, though. A profitable holiday sales season can get a business through the other three quarters of a year.

A WebTrends survey of online retailers that we covered recently shows free shipping as the big promotional offer for the holidays. The big retailers will utilize that strategy. Smaller ones might take a hard look at their margins and see if it makes sense for them.

Keyword strategies and SEM initiatives with Google, Yahoo, etc should be continually reviewed and tweaked. But unless a dedicated team is in place, businesses may not be spending the time they should working on getting searchers to their landing pages, and converting them to customers. Poorly performing keywords and combos should be ditched.

Don’t neglect previous customers in the race to find new ones. An existing customer converts to a repeat buyer much more easily than a new customer does. Free shipping or other value added actions like gift wrapping may be what it takes to get these profitable customers online and ordering.

Sometimes, bad things happen. An item goes out of stock as it proves a hotter holiday “get” than anticipated. The retailer that deceives a customer into thinking the item is on the way, dodges questions about availability, or otherwise conceals a problem will be punished.

A comScore study contends 50 million US visitors read blogs. Some of them will discuss a business that is less than upfront with customers. No business wants to disappoint a customer, but at least being direct with them when problems arise means the worst complaint that customer could make would be disappointment.

Most retailers know to do these things now. Continued high energy prices and greater broadband penetration will drive more people online to at least consider shopping via the web. Be the business that makes them glad they did.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

High Oil Prices An Online Retail Opportunity
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