Tips for Capitalizing on Tough Economic Times: Page 2

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Buy Now, Pay Later

Another popular option is that of deferring payment with services such as BillMeLater. Using this, a shopper goes through a quick approval process (you have to provide the last four digits of your Social Security number, as well as your birthday) and payment is collected at some point in the future, said Vince Talbert, the company's vice president of marketing. Integration is fairly straight forward and requires a merchant account. There are a number of other similarly formatted payment options, as well.

Five Tips for Tough Times

Finally, Lauren Freedman, head of the e-tailing group, inc., echoed what others believe to be successful strategies for capitalizing on a down economy, and adds her own insight. Here is what she considers the top five ways to keep your business afloat in these tough economic times.
  1. The right assortment. Regardless of how cheap your merchandise is, it still has to be of value to the consumer. Freedman notes, "At the end of the day, retail comes down to product."

  2. Free shipping. While much has been said about whether or not free shipping is prudent for small Web shop owners, Freedman said that she doesn't expect to see any change in respect to consumer expectation on this topic, forcing the hold-outs to cave in and join the competition. "We expect that merchants will lay down the gauntlet in early fall and many others will quickly follow suit." The holidays always see increased shipping offers, and that will likely occur again this year. Free shipping is an effective tactic, she said, coupled with nearly any promotion.

  3. Give the lady what she wants. Freedman emphasized that top-notch customer service is something e-tailers must not take lightly. "Customers expect and elevated shopping experience online." Offer a visible 800-number and a strong guarantee at the very least.

  4. Creative promotions. Put on your thinking cap and cook up some out-of-the-box promotions. A well-stocked outlet, Freedman said, is perfect for customers on the hunt for a deal. Include daily specials, as well as recently discounted items. Drive traffic toward it with e-mail.

  5. E-mail. Freedman said that communication is of utmost importance. Merchants must convey new products and services throughout the fourth quarter. Think creatively while compiling messages and feature in-product stock. As the holiday season draws ever nearer, she said, focus on last-minute items and tailor promotions toward the busy shopper.

In addition, Freedman referenced a recent study her group conducted regarding must-have features for facilitating shopping and increasing order size. Among the tactics that merchants have seen the highest return on investment are keyword searches, cross sales, seasonal promotions, "top sellers" and "what's new" features.

Sally Marek Curran is a frequent contributor to

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