Retailers Re-Focus Shipping Calendar in Preparation for Surge in Online Shopping, Reports NRF

nrfExpectations are high for a strong omnichannel holiday season, so retailers are preparing their shipping operations to avoid delivery and service hiccups, according to Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Shop.org’s eHoliday survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, indicates that nearly eight in 10 retailers surveyed, or roughly 78.8 percent, will set their standard shipping deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery to expire at least a week before the big day. This compares to 73.7 percent last holiday season. In addition, approximately 21.2 percent will set their standard shipping deadlines to expire on December 19 or later, compared to 26.3 percent last year.

Of the 92.3 percent of retailers polled that plan to offer free standard shipping of some sort this holiday season, 69.1 percent said their guarantee for Christmas delivery will expire on or before December 19. Nearly three quarters of retailers polled last year, or 74.2 percent, had a deadline on the equivalent day; in this case, December 20. [Read more...]

Cwist Adds ThinkFun Games and Fat Brain Toys to Digital Library

CWIST LOGOcwist, Inc., a free, crowd-sourced, digital library of interactive learning challenges for kids, has entered partnerships with educational game manufacturer ThinkFun, Inc. and online retailer Fat Brain Toys.

cwist features a “wish engine” that helps kids ages 5 to 11 make the connection between the things they want and the effort it takes to get them, as they earn parent-approved rewards upon successful completion of a cwist challenge.

cwist will develop challenge content for its platform that enhances the learning experience with ThinkFun’s products and programs. cwist will also cross promote, support and create challenge content for ThinkFun’s events and programs such as Big Games and community game nights. [Read more...]

NPD Group: Cyber Monday Week Toy Sales Are Strong, Up from Last Year

npd_group_logoRetail dollar sales for the toy category were up 23 percent for the Cyber Monday week compared to the same period last year. For the combined Black Friday and Cyber Monday weeks, The NPD Group reports that toy sales were up 12 percent on a dollar basis compared to the previous year. These sales trends include both online and brick and mortar channels.

The NPD Group noted that all 11 super categories it tracks in the toy sector experienced positive dollar sales growth during the period covering Black Friday and Cyber Monday weeks. Those with the highest growth—and their respective change in dollar sales compared with Black Friday and Cyber Monday weeks last year—include plush at 34 percent, youth electronics at 32 percent, arts and crafts at 26 percent, and outdoor and sports at 18 percent. These results reflect brick and mortar and online sales combined.

Report: Retailers Expect Growth in Online Businesses for the Holidays

This holiday season, most retailers expect strong demand and growth for their online businesses. According to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey, conducted by Bigresearch, nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) retailers expect their company’s online sales to grow at least 15 percent or more, compared to last holiday season. Last year, 63.8 percent of retailers had the same expectations.

When asked why they plan to spend more online this holiday season, four in 10 shoppers (43.2 percent) cited 24-hour convenience as their main reason. Other reasons included not having to fight crowds in stores (37. 2 percent), ease of comparing prices (29.6 percent), and free shipping offers (36.3 percent).

Anticipating customers to seek free shipping offers, nine in 10 online retailers (92.5 percent) said they plan to offer the service at some point, up from 84.8 percent last year. Additionally, 56.3 percent of retailers said their specific budgets for free shipping promotions are somewhat or significantly higher than last year.

To prepare for the holiday season, many online retailers have invested in new technologies and site and service features. More than half (51 percent) said they have significantly invested in mobile-optimized websites, and 19.6 percent have invested in tablet device applications. Additionally, 35.3 percent said they have significantly invested in QR codes in offline advertising. Of those who regularly use social media platforms, nearly three-quarters say they have already invested in their Facebook (72.5 percent) and Twitter (41.2 percent) accounts in advance of the holidays.

E-tailers Report Strong Black Friday Results

Online retailers such as Buy.com and Ebates.com have reported an increase in Black Friday sales compared to the shopping event in 2008. Buy.com reported that this year’s Black Friday was its best ever, surpassing its Black Friday record set in 2008. The online retailer’s third-party marketplace section saw a 120 percent increase in orders compared to last year.

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Survey: Most Online Retailers to Offer Free Shipping This Holiday Season

In a new survey by Shop.org, four out of five online retailers said they will offer free shipping with conditions this holiday season, meaning a customer must purchase a certain item or a certain dollar amount to qualify. More than half of online retailers, 57.4 percent, plan to offer free shipping without conditions, and 30 percent of the retailers said free shipping offers will start earlier than they did last year.
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