MSN Pushes Early Spending in Short Holiday Season

With six fewer shopping days this year than in the traditional Christmas shopping season, Microsoft’s MSN Shopping channel kicked off a 12-day promotion this week to lure online shoppers into early holiday spending with a special deal each day on a different item.

The campaign, “12 Days of Exclusive Deals,” offers early holiday shoppers one-day-only discounts each weekday on items ranging from wristwatches to desktop computers to men’s and women’s apparel. Each day features a different item from a partner e-tailer. The promotion runs through Nov. 19.

MSN will promote the campaign throughout the MSN network, with links to the deal of the day, in addition to prominent placement on the MSN Shopping site. The campaign will not be promoted outside of MSN or on other media.

“The ’12 Days of Exclusive Deals’ on MSN Shopping is the kick-start to the holiday shopping season,” said Amber McCollum, an MSN product manager. “MSN attracts more than 300 million unique users worldwide per month and at this point we’re depending on that traffic to build awareness of the shopping promotions.”

MSN’s early promotion comes as e-tailers gear up for their most important part of the year. A recent Terra Lycos survey found that 41 percent of consumers have already done some holiday shopping.

Nevin Cohen, an analyst with researcher eMarketer, said e-commerce’s 16 percent growth in the fourth quarter this year would mostly come at the expense of traditional retail, as consumers get more comfortable with online shopping. eMarketer forecasts U.S. online sales this holiday season will reach nearly $13 billion.

“That’s the good news,” he said. “The bad news is the economy is not doing very well and consumer confidence is the lowest it’s been in nine years. Consumers are jittery and not willing to make large expenditures.”

On top of that, he said, e-commerce has a few factors working against it. First, the short holiday shopping season, thanks to a late Thanksgiving, is made shorter for online shopping because adequate time is needed for shipping. Second, Cohen does not expect the online shopping season to really take off until the Monday following Thanksgiving, when consumers return to work. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, nearly a third of online buyers did some shopping at work.

“[E-tailers] need to drive sales as early as possible in the season,” Cohen said.

MSN’s promotion hopes to goose consumers into buying with discounts of up to 70 percent on some big-ticket items. Next week, for example, the campaign plans to feature an offer for $250 off a Dell computer.

Subscribers to MSN 8, Microsoft’s ballyhooed new Internet service, will also be eligible for steep discounts via the MSN Shopping Warehouse with BoomBuy.

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