Save Your Ecommerce Holiday Season from The Grinch

Tweak your holiday sales with these tips

There’s no doubt that 2020 will go down in history as a year with as many twists and turns as a Shakespeare play. Let’s be even more frank, it’s been the year from Hell and retailers have gotten smacked hard from the ripple effect. We’re at the end of the fourth quarter and usually the holiday season always throws a lifeline to struggling businesses.

Over the last five years the percentage of annual retail sales that come from purchases made during the holiday season (November and December) was 19%. In 2019, that percentage grew by 14% to total $167.8 billion. Ecommerce made up 20.1% of 2019 holiday sales.

Because of the pandemic, online sales have increased with a greater anticipation of a larger portion of their sales to come from ecommerce. And while some retailers have suffered with airlines and other travel related retailers, gyms, and yoga studios seeing a tremendous dip in sales, others like video game companies and exercise machine companies that enable consumers to stay at home have seen a spike in sales.

Black Friday is around the corner, but Black Friday as we’ve known it might be disappearing for good. As many as 61% of retailers are expecting an upsurge in sales via social media and now is the time to crank your holiday marketing plans into high gear. To increase your sales and ensure you’re ready for the holiday season, incorporate these tips into your existing plans.

Maximize the Customer’s Experience

Back when brick and mortar stores were the only way for customers to shop, Nordstrom developed a reputation for their excellent customer service. In fact, it became legendary spawning retail tales, such as the time Nordstrom accepted a returned set of tires because the tires were purchased at the same location as the famed upscale retailer years earlier.

You don’t have to accept merchandise that isn’t yours, but you can create a personalized customer shopping experience by providing product recommendations utilizing consumer data points, such as search, shopping cart and purchase histories.

Make sure your ecommerce store has the capacity to handle an uptick in traffic and transactions.  Perform a round of load testing to ensure your servers are prepared. Your page should load in under three seconds. Check your site speed and audit your website to safeguard it from anything that could slow down the load speed, such as images that are too large or having too many plugins and apps. Enable cart abandonment notifications to remind customers of any products left in their shopping cart. These push notifications have double the click-through-rate of a targeted email.

Optimize Checkout Page and Make It Error Free

And speaking of shopping carts…the ultimate goal is to get your customer to hit the “check out” button at the end of their online shopping session.  You want that process to be as smooth as possible. Make your checkout experience seamless by having one checkout page, offering guest checkout, and providing several payment options.

It’s typical that during the holiday season ecommerce sites can see an increase of DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks or site outages. This usually happens during high-traffic, high-transaction days like Cyber Monday. Invest in a firewall system such as Imperva to guarantee new visitors are getting through and malicious calls remain blocked from your site.

404 error URLs can result in a bounce from your site and the death of a purchase. Use Google Analytics to create a 404 error URL report, which will indicate the pages the users were on before the error occurred, enabling you to fix any bad links.

Enhance Ad Titles and Copy

The titles of your shopping campaigns are keywords which will impact the amount of times your product ad will appear in a search. To ensure your product ads are being prominently displayed during a search, create reports to discover the trending keywords and then use them in your ad titles.

For instance, if your ecommerce store sells laptops, instead of creating an ad title which states, “Sale on Laptops,” you can optimize your ad title to read “Save 50% on Samsung Laptops on Black Friday.”

Along with adding high-performing keywords to your ad titles, including event qualifiers such as “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday Deals” can be equally effective.

Google Keyword Planner can assist in establishing the kind of searches these sorts of phrases receive.

Create A Retargeting Budget

Regardless of how great and efficient your checkout experience is, cart abandonment is unavoidable.  Because it’s inevitable that your customers will leave items in their cart and not continue with their purchase, be sure to set aside some of your holiday ad budget on retargeting, which focuses on bringing customers who have already engaged with your site back. Create a strategy of how you’ll remind consumers to revisit their cart. Make sure customers can return to where they left off instead of having them reselect the item and restarting the checkout process.

Get Your Shipping Weight Up

You can have the most awesome products in the world, but if your shipping terms aren’t clear or aren’t competitive, you might begin to experience some serious cart abandonment.  Deloitte’s 2018 Retail Holiday Survey concluded that free shipping is one of the most enticing promotions to customers, only second to price discounts.

When offering free shipping make sure it’s prominently displayed and to the point. For instance, if you’re offering free shipping on orders that are $100 and over,  then your copy should read, “Free shipping on orders of $100 or more.”

Customers want to make sure their items or gifts are delivered by the holiday. So even if you offer standard shipping, they’re more concerned with getting the discount from shipping fees than they are how speedy it arrives. However, if you’re able to deliver fast shipping, make sure this information is well displayed on your home page in your ads as this can be a differentiator between you and your competitors.

Create a Clear Return Policy

Just as cart abandonment is inevitable, returns are also bound to happen. Up to 30% of online purchases get returned and 96% of consumers will return to company websites who create seamless return and exchange experiences. Painless returns builds customer loyalty.  Consider implementing these methods for your shipping to make for any easier return process should a return or exchange be necessary.

  • Use dual peel and seal mailers that can be resealed
  • Consider adding a return label to each shipment that can be given to the gift recipient.
  • Include a short description of return or exchange procedures.

Create a one-of-a-kind packaging experience

Your ecommerce store isn’t just a place to shop, it’s a brand with a unique story. That story should resonate in the products you sell, the copy on your website and social media, as well as the way in which your products are packaged. Thoughtful packaging that exemplifies your brand and its story elevates the connection you have with your customers. Make sure your packaging displays your brand imagery, this is another way to set yourself apart from your competitors.

Construct a Strategic Holiday Marketing Plan

Most retailers think of the holiday season and creating their marketing strategy around Thanksgiving, Christmas and Chanukah, but there are a multitude of holidays that happen during the last two months of the year.  That’s why it’s imperative that you plan early and ensure your store is ready with campaigns that maximize the holidays you want to target before big spending days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  When planning your campaign make sure to incorporate these key planning tactics:

  • Create free holiday contest and giveaways on your website and social media profiles
  • Have a rewards or loyalty program and tailor a holiday promotion around it
  • Keeping a constant stream of content flowing and integrating your marketing efforts between your website and social media platforms.
  • Send holiday emails and texts
  • Consider offering free gift wrapping
  • Boost your customer service to support the holiday traffic

Update Your Merchandising Strategy

Even before the pandemic, online holiday shopping was increasing, but as more brick and mortar stores close and because of the pandemic, more people will be shopping online than in previous years. This means competition will be fierce.

The key is to capture your customers’ attention immediately by analyzing their shopping behaviors and providing content and product recommendations that are relevant to each customer. Two ways you can achieve this is by:

  1. Showcasing your holiday products. Which products are you featuring this season? Do you have items that are seasonal favorites that you want to bring attention to? Carefully consider how these products will be displayed on your site. You can also add a holiday-specific category to your site navigation.
  2. SEO search data. Utilize the search data you’re using for SEO to augment your on-site search to ensure the search results help your customers find the products they are looking for. Also consider developing a visual search interface that will allow products to be visually displayed in the search box.

Getting your ecommerce store ready for the holidays is no small feat and because of the events of this year, making sure your site is holiday ready is more critical than ever. Retailers are hoping to make up for lost sales and consumers are looking for quality products and good deals. Plan your ecommerce holiday sales and strategy correctly and you can not only have a favorable end to 2020, but you can also have a positive start to 2021 by adopting these mobile and website components into your long term strategy. Not only can you have a holly jolly holiday season, but you might also have a decent new year.

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