Survey Says: What Really Gets Online Shoppers to Buy

A majority of business owners say free shipping is their key to sealing the deal. But how many plan to offer the service this holiday season?

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Shipping lanes: A majority of business owners now say free shipping helps their holiday business more than any other promotional tool.We've seen a lot of "bests" in the news lately: The best way to boost online sales this holiday season, the No. 1 distraction for employees in the workplace and the top reason customers might stop "following" your business in social media. Here's a closer look at some of the latest small-business surveys.

Ship It, Ship It Good

Saving money is foremost on consumers' minds this holiday shopping season. So perhaps it's not surprising that 64 percent of businesses in a survey about e-commerce shipping practices say "free shipping" is their most effective promotional tool this time of year. More than half (53 percent) of the merchants plan to increase the number of products eligible for free shipping this year. And about the same number (52 percent) say requiring a minimum purchase amount before free shipping kicks in actually helps, rather than hurts, sales, boosting average orders by at least $4.

I consider myself an online supershopper and this is a no-brainer. Free shipping is a must for me -- especially this time of year, with so many retailers online and off competing for my holiday dollars.

Juggling Act

Lines between business and personal life are increasingly blurring, which means more distractions and interruptions affecting the workplace. Fast Company reports on a recent study by People-OnTheGo that surveyed over 1,000 business professionals at all levels and found that workers are managing multiple "inboxes" during the average workday. Asked which inboxes they check regularly, the top responses were:
  • Personal e-mail: 90.3 percent
  • Corporate e-mail: 89.2 percent
  • LinkedIn: 63.8 percent
  • Facebook: 55.1 percent
  • Twitter: 39.5 percent

Employees report spending about four hours a day (or half their workday) managing their "inboxes." Worse, inboxes are leading to distraction and interruption of workflow, with more than 40 percent of respondents admitting they check their inboxes too often in response to the question: "How often do you interrupt work to check your inboxes?"
  • Constantly, as soon as new information shows up: 23.2 percent
  • More often than I would like to: 42.6 percent
  • From time to time but not excessively: 29.6 percent
  • Rarely: 4.6 percent

Are You Following Me?

According to the recently released 2010 Cone Consumer New Media Study, consumers who use social media actively follow an average of just 4.6 companies online. How can your business remain in that select group? Here are the top reasons consumers stop following a company:
  • 58 percent will stop if the company over-communicates with them
  • 53 percent will stop if it provides irrelevant content
  • 36 percent will stop if it under-communicates with them
  • 28 percent will stop if it censors user-generated content

Clearly, you've got to strike a delicate balance between sharing too much and too little information. One tactic that works for me: Think about the companies that you interact with online as a consumer -- and those you've stopped following. What did you like and dislike about how those companies interacted with you?

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports.

Tags: Business Trends, Cyber Monday, e-mail, free shipping, free shipping coupons, free shipping online, online shopping, online shopping deals, Rieva Lesonsky,, Survey Says, Twitter, Twitter business, Twitter strategy, work e-mail

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