December 6, 2018
Each day that goes by we are further along in the annual countdown to the winter holidays. Whether your customer base observes Hanukkah or Christmas or just participates in year-end corporate gifting, this is a critical time of year for your business. We caught up with our in-house eCommerce expert, Paul Mancini, for some tried and true strategies to help businesses maximize online sales during this time of year. In honor of the 12 days of Christmas, here are 12 eCommerce tips:
Tip #1: Design Your Site for “Window Shoppers”
Some shoppers know exactly what they’re looking for, but many don’t. Similar to “window shoppers” at brick-and-mortar stores, many online visitors are literally browsing around trying to find the perfect gift. Make sure your website navigation is simple and straightforward. Consider enlarging your search box and placing it prominently to help visitors find gifts easily and quickly. Also, consider how you describe and promote your products – look for opportunities to reinvent some of your offerings as unique holiday gifts.
Tip #2: Maintain Excellent Customer Service
Many newer eCommerce businesses are unprepared for the volume of sales and inquiries that come in during the holidays. To avoid a decline in customer service and any damage to your company’s reputation, consider your infrastructure carefully. For example, if you have a small customer support staff, it may make sense to handle all inquiries by email or online chat instead of utilizing a phone number or trying to manage support questions via a social media platform.
Tip #3: Everyone Loves a Discount
It’s human nature – people love to feel like they’re getting a deal. Consider running a “Christmas in July” promo and follow that up with discounted offers in September and October to catch the early holiday shoppers. After early November, you probably won’t need to offer discounts to entice shoppers – product availability will become more important than price as the holidays get closer. You might also experiment with increasing sales volume by offering a discount or free shipping based on a minimum order size or for orders that include a particular product (this can be a great way to move stagnant inventory).
Tip #4: Plan Out Your Email and SMS Communications In Advance
Starting with an initial touch for “Christmas in July”, plan out a series of relevant emails to your customer lists. Keep the communications highly relevant by segmenting lists by interest, past purchase behavior and any demographic information for which you may have access. Consider using familiar terminology in your subject lines, like “Get Black Friday Savings Now” or “Take Advantage of Early Cyber Monday Specials”. If you have access to mobile numbers, consider sending SMS messages to customers as well. Going forward, add a couple of optional follow-up questions to your checkout process – for example, a local boutique asks customers to select a few favorite brands and then sends SMS messages when they go on sale.
Tip #5: Amplify Your Messaging
Throughout the season, be sure to align the messaging and branding of your social media platforms with that of your website. Social media can be useful for amplifying your marketing, but be careful about using it for sales support if you lack the resources to do this effectively. Your social media presence could quickly spiral into a customer service nightmare if you don’t have the staffing.
Tip #6: Optimize Your Advertising Spend
In addition to Search advertising, you should set-up a Google Shopping Ad. After the Shopping campaign is up and running, be sure to regularly comb through all search queries and negative match any that are not relevant to your business. For example, if your business sells decorative ornaments and one of your soccer-themed ornament shows up in a search related to soccer equipment, any consumer clicks on that ad is wasted spend. By negative matching any terms that are not relevant, you’ll reduce the number of wasted clicks and save on budget.
Tip #7: Think Past Google
Sure, Google controls the majority of online searches, but there are plenty of reasons to also advertise on Bing. For starters, there’s less competition on this Ad platform which can translate to better Ad positions and lower cost-per-click. Also, once you have a campaign set-up on Google, it’s very easy to import the shopping feed from Google’s Merchant Center into Bing’s Merchant Center – you don’t need to create a new campaign from scratch.
Tip #8: Ship Product in a Timely Manner
Especially as the holidays get closer, shipping will become critical. How good is your relationship with your shipping company? This can have a huge bearing on how late you can ship. Consider convenience too, for example you can request a regularly scheduled pick-up from the U.S. Post Office which might save your fulfillment team time and headaches. Consider how you charge for shipping too. In the world of Amazon Prime, consumers have come to expect free shipping, but as the holidays get closer you can (and should) charge for expedited delivery. Leverage your “Last Date” (last date for orders for guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve) on your homepage and in email communication in order to secure more orders from last-minute shoppers. Pay close attention to capacity too. Too many orders is a good problem to have, but not if it results in a poor customer service experience and bad reviews. If your fulfillment department is getting close to capacity, temporarily throttle down your Google Shopping Ads.
Tip #9: Tout Your Good Deeds
People want to feel good about the products and services they purchase. If your company does good works or a percentage of proceeds supports a social cause, be sure to communicate that information on your websites and through social media and email campaigns. This may also be a way to differentiate yourself from competitors.
Tip #10: Convert Abandoned Shopping Carts into Sales
The percentage of online shoppers who add items to a shopping cart without converting to a sale varies greatly based on industry and individual website, but Statistica reported an average global cart abandonment rate of 69% in 2017. For any company, cart abandonment represents a real opportunity. By reaching out to this group of visitors who have demonstrated an intent to purchase, you’ll be able to raise brand awareness, nurture the customer relationship, address any lingering questions and hopefully convert the visitor into a customer. In general, we recommend retargeting this group of visitors with a drip email campaign. You’ll need to experiment with the messaging and the interval timing of the emails to determine what’s most effective for your business.
Tip #11: Don’t Forget the Post-Holiday Consumers
Even after your “Last Date” passes (see tip #8), you’ll likely still see orders trickling in. Some consumers intentionally shop a little late. They may have a tradition of meeting up with friends or part of their family to exchange gifts after the official holiday. And then there’s another segment of consumers who look for deals on holiday decor and supplies (e.g. gift wrapping, housewares for entertaining) right after the holiday. Be sure to be ready for these late consumers – offer them great customer service and easy order fulfillment and enjoy a bump in post-holiday sales.
Tip #12: Don’t Forget that Your Site Visitors are Actual People
As a last piece of advice, don’t lose sight of the fact that there are people on the other side of those clicks. Tap into their emotions with your communications, and always try to put yourself in their head. The key to turning those visitors into customers is to be there at the right time, with the right message, with stellar customer service and with product ready to ship.
Jessica Srinivas is a Senior Account Manager at periscopeUP, a Baltimore-based digital marketing agency. She focuses on improving ROI for online marketing initiatives, tracking and improving paid and organic search and optimizing websites for improved user experience and increased conversions.