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Recent figures from Statistics Canadashow online shopping has risen to represent 56 per cent of goods and services ordered last year.

JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

Canadians are shopping online. Recent figures from Statistics Canada show online shopping has risen to represent 56 per cent of goods and services ordered last year.

Surveys by Deloitte and Ernst & Young found that nearly three quarters of consumers check prices and research gifts online before buying.

With every reason to expect an upward rise in this trend, retailers who are not yet taking advantage may be asking what they can do to leverage online shopping trends with the holidays quickly approaching.

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Here are ten ways businesses can leverage online shopping insights and ramp up holiday sales:

1. Follow the money. With stats showing the vast majority of online shoppers are 25 to 34-year-old males purchasing travel, event tickets and apparel, if your business caters to this market then increasing your online advertising to entice them at this time of year makes good business sense.

2. Free shipping. Research shows free shipping is more of an incentive purchase than the offer of a discount. And for the last minute shopper, businesses can help make the decision to buy an easy one by offering free expedited shipping, a trend some savvy retailers are starting to catch on to.

3. Leverage the available intel. Most industries that sell goods or services release a list of the hottest, most in demand items for the holiday. Tie paid search into the specific items that you sell and know people will be looking for.

4. Increase the holiday ad spend. Related to #3) - If you're advertising online with Google Adwords, the holidays are an important time to get in the game. Focus on highly specific ads and generate demand using paid search/paid social media ads: "Yes we still have (INSERT THAT HOT, HARD TO GET HOLIDAY GIFT ITEM HERE) in stock in our stores…" Even say how many are left to spur urgency.

5. It's a wrap. Offering to ship items gift wrapped helps make the buyer's holiday to-do list shorter and eliminates any worries they have that an item may be seen by the recipient before it's given

6. Gift cards. Another enticement for online shoppers is the offering of a gift card, thereby saving shoppers more time and extra expense. This can mean the inclusion of a blank gift card or the option of filling out an online message that gets printed onto a card and enclosed with the gift purchased.

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7. Incentivize the next purchase. Provide credit/coupons towards a subsequent purchase when items are bought online. Not only does this positively influence the decision making process for repeat business, it also allows you to set up a process in which you email them a coupon. Once you've got their email you can share upcoming sales and promotions news.

8. Educate the consumer with great, shareable content. Offer up highly specific market insights regarding products you sell based on stats, trends or emerging news (ie – 10 ideal gifts for girls in their tweens). This can be a great blog post on the homepage of your website, or a post that shows up on the pages that correspond to online product searches or leveraged in your online ads.

9. Be social. Use social media to promote your own content. This is a great way to share those blog posts along with photos/articles about items in demand. Let visitors to your Facebook page or Pinterest board get a better sense of how you can help facilitate their online purchase with ease and allow them to picture the process. Tie into Facebook ads and target your audience of buyer specifically and leverage Twitter keyword searches to customize your tweets and lead customers to your website.

10. Re-marketing. Tools exist now to provide visitors to your site with ads based on what they are looking for on your website. As they search, serving up ads of products that speak to the type of demographic they may be searching for can help pique their interest to the other ways your business can service their gift giving needs online.

Jeff Quipp is the founder and CEO of Search Engine People Inc. (SEP), Canada's largest digital marketing firm, which has been on the PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada's Fastest Growing Companies for the past five consecutive years.

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