The holiday season is now well underway. China has had Singles’ Day, the States has just celebrated Thanksgiving, Black Friday has been and gone and Christmas and New Year are quickly approaching.
Ecommerce sales are expected to be strong again this time. Forrester predicts that ecommerce will account for 15% of total US sales over the holiday period. With increased consumer confidence, the UK is also on course for a bigger than expected Christmas season.
But digital isn’t just a sales channel: it also has a strong influence on consumer behaviour in the physical world. US research found that half of all purchases will be influenced by digital, although the final sales won’t all happen through this channel.
While there was a strong trend for researching online as well as making trips to a physical store, Deloitte found that US shoppers using digital research methods before and during a store visit also converted at a higher rate than those who didn’t.
Sensible retailers have been preparing for this intense online spending period for several months. But there’s still time to make changes to your online offering that can help optimise sales over the next few weeks. Although it may be a little too late to be making major changes to your online presence ahead of the upcoming Christmas shopping period, there are still some quick checks you can do that may boost your performance.
Firstly, check your site! It may sound obvious but it’s surprising how few retailers do this regularly. Make sure you have completed an entire purchase from start to finish across a number of important categories product lines to see how the site is working– and do this on mobile and tablet too. Also, get a native linguist to check the quality and accuracy of your multi-language content and get any out-of-date content updated.
Whilst it’s too late to be making big changes to the purchase process, there may be ways you can improve the process with minor changes such as increasing font size for critical information.
Take a look at your data and see if you can find any obvious problems such as high basket abandonment rates that would indicate you are losing sales. Simple tweaks such as showing shipping costs at an earlier stage in the buying process may help reduce basket abandonment and boost conversions.
Take a look at your competitors’ offerings. Shoppers will almost undoubtedly be looking at what your competitors are offering as they research purchases prior to making final decisions. Take a few minutes to check what your competitors are offering. This includes the price, but also the cost and speed of delivery.
Supporting factors such as gift wrapping and shipping speed may clinch the decision for shoppers, particularly at this important time.
It’s also a good time to speak to your development team about bandwidth, particularly if you are participating in a major sales event such Boxing Day sales. Make certain you’re ready for a potential spike in traffic and don’t let slow page speeds lose you sales. Defer any non-essential infrastructure improvement work until after the holiday season as you may not have time to detect and fix any bugs associated with the new code or site functionality.
Optimising your landing pages
While it might take some time to realise the SEO benefits of any changes you make to your landing pages before Christmas, you can still benefit from optimising pages for paid search in order to increase quality score and ROI from your PPC activity. Make sure customers clicking through from ads have a seamless journey to buy whatever the ad promised them, and make sure any holiday promotions feature on landing pages.
There’s still time to run optimisation tests, such as split testing, to get the best possible performance from this content over the next few intense weeks.
You may like to add a message about urgency or scarcity to your landing pages – these techniques have proven psychological effectiveness.
Remind customers to order in good time for holiday delivery. You can easily embed countdown timers to your website using services such as this one.
If you also have bricks and mortar store, support the customer purchasing preference by making it clear when and where your stores are located and make the seasonal opening times clear and accessible.
If you’re selling via marketplaces such as Amazon, you may have the option to offer gift wrapping services, which may be a valuable incentive for some customers. If you offer this option, make sure you have sufficient gift wrapping materials on hand. The marketplace may offer you the option to include a photo of the gift-wrapped item in your listing – it’s well worth using this feature if it’s available.
Get exposure on international search engines
If your company sells products globally, it’s important to maintain a presence on the international search engines that are dominant in each market you operate. Google isn’t the primary search engine in all markets: it’s also important to consider a presence on Baidu, Yandex, Naver and Bing in the various markets where these have influence.
You should also ensure that your products are included in the Google Shopping index. These listings have a higher conversion rate than PPC and the cost per click is lower.
Keep consumers interested in your offering by planning a calendar of seasonal content for the period. Shoppers may be seeking specific information during this time, so cater to this time-specific information search by offering gift guides. Customers may be on the hunt for secret Santa presents, or stocking fillers, so make sure you are catering to this and are optimising ads for the right key terms. But be sure to localise your multi-language content in keeping with the traditions and preferences of users in each of the markets your business operates in to avoid any embarrassing mishaps.
The gifting season is also a great time to put any new products front and centre. At this time of the year people are actively looking for novelty and unusual gift ideas. They are also ready to spend and more inclined to take risks on new products and make decisions quickly. It’s the right time to be showcasing what you have that is different from other retailers.
Whilst all this advice may seem intimidating, remember one key thing about online selling: customers value free shipping above all else. In a recent piece of research it was found that consumers valued free shipping above price reductions. It may be worth your while eliminating shipping costs instead of discounting. If you already offer free shipping, make sure you’re telling your customers about it.