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E-tailers Prepare for Holiday Challenges

Fewer online retailers expect major sales volume increases this holiday season than last year, although e-commerce will maintain its "tremendous influence" throughout the season, a new survey from reveals.

According to results of the 2008 eHoliday Study, conducted for by Shopzilla, 56.1% of e-tailers project a year-over-year holiday volume increase of at least 15%.

That is down from 77.5% of e-tailers in last year's survey.

To keep interest up and transactions growing, online merchants will continue to add features and promote special offers. For example, consumers acknowledge that 24-hour shopping convenience "is one of the main reasons why they choose to buy online (58.6% this year vs. 58.5% last year)," the survey noted.

"Retailers will be heavily promotional to attract shoppers on a budget, but have also invested in new site features to improve the online buying experience," said Scott Silverman, executive director of, which is a division of the National Retail Federation.

Enhanced search capacity is a key — one that 42.9% of retailers in the survey said they have acted on since last holiday season. Other features like product video (42.6%) and customer reviews (32.7%) have gained ground, as have clearance sale pages (27.1%) and featured sale pages (31.3%).

Shopzilla said 25% of online retailers have added a Facebook page this year, as they continue to test the power of social networking to fuel sales.

E-commerce sites play a vital role in overall shopping patterns, the survey firm noted. "As budget-focused consumers begin holiday shopping, many are starting on the web to look for gift ideas and research products," said Helen Malani, online shopping expert at Shopzilla. "Whether they make those holiday purchases online or in stores, the internet will have a tremendous influence on holiday sales this year."

This works both ways. The survey found that 71.4% of retailers "will advertise websites in stores" while 51.4% "offer the ability for store associates to place an online order for customers."

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