Right in the midst of this three-part series on Internet retailing, shop.org of the National Retail Federation released its latest survey about online retailing. Conducted by Forrester Research Inc., "The 2006 State of Retailing Online" study reveals that online sales will hit $211.4 billion this year, a 20-percent jump from last year.
The largest categories other than travel — the biggest — are computer hardware and software, which will take in $16.8 billion in online sales; autos and auto parts, which will bring in $15.9 billion; and apparel, accessories and footwear, which will make $13.8 billion selling online.
As we discussed in the last episode of Retail Strategies, mom-and-pop stores are not reaping huge benefits from Internet sales — yet. For small retailers interested in venturing into online sales, here´s a list of Internet-based marketing sites and applications, as recommended by experts at Vanderbilt University´s Sloan Center for Internet Retailing in their book, "Beyond the Basics: Research-Based Rules for Internet Retailing Advantage" (eLab Press).
The best advice for what to do with this list is to get online and explore how you can get your store listed on one of these sites. And so:
Basic Online Search — Local search engines, according to the Vanderbilt researchers, now help Internet browsers narrow their search to specific geographic locations. Examples include Local Google, Yahoo Smartview and Yellow Pages.
City Guides — These are designed to find detailed information about services — including retailers — in specific geographic areas. Examples include CitySearch.com, Ria-Local.com and Craigslist. Go to CitySearch Chicago, for example, and you´ll find a list of that city´s best boutiques, as voted upon by readers.
Product Aggregators — Using Cairo.com, ShopLocal.com, Shopping.com and LiveDeal.com, shoppers can browse by category, brand or weekly sales pamphlets. Vanderbilt´s team indicates that most product aggregators focus on national/local types of retail stores such as Circuit City.
Online Community Newspapers — Local retailers can advertise in these newspapers with pop-up ads, online coupons or in online auctions.
E-mail and newsletters — These direct marketing techniques allow local retailers to target very specific customer segments.
The Vanderbilt team that wrote the book on Internet retailing says that the two of the above that warrant particular attention are basic online search — primarily local search engines — and city guides. "We contend," the authors say, "that local Internet shoppers turn to these two venues most often during the search and evaluation stages of their consumer decision-making process."
In the final dramatic segment of this three-part series: Tips for locking in customers