16 eCommerce tips for a successful holiday season

16 eCommerce tips for a successful holiday season

The author, Chris Drury heads up the growth and development of leading digital consultants, Limely from Chester, England. He contributes insights and thoughts on themes such as eCommerce, Growth Hacking, Technical Solutions and Online Marketing Strategy.

1.   Prepare for oncoming traffic

Every successful B2C Ecommerce site experiences a monster boost in traffic – but how can you take advantage of this? You need to make sure you’re making the necessary server headroom and bandwidth available ahead of the spike to ensure your site provides great service and a snappy browsing experience.

What can I do?

Now’s the time to consider investing in better hosting hardware. Speak to your Web Developer about tools that could handle the extra traffic or ask your Hosting Provider to suggest temporary scalable add-on’s to deal with the additional traffic this Christmas.


2. Arm your site with unbeatable offers

During the festive season, your competitors will be fighting harder than ever for that all-important ‘click’ on their targeted marketing efforts.

Be aware of your competitors marketing efforts and price points before you launch your campaigns. A mere 5% reduction in price could be the clincher in closing a sale!

What can I do?

Ensure your creative efforts are engaging. By building a positive user experience with better design, you can drive increases in conversion even when your price is similar to other providers.

Show shoppers that you value the holiday season by introducing well-executed seasonal décor across your website. Promote price slashes and savings prominently, alongside ‘guaranteed delivery times’ to show how much you care for your customers’ needs and concerns.


3. Stock up on your most viewed products

Imagine a customer lands on your site, discovers the perfect gift for their loved one online, but when they return to the site later – the object is no longer available.

Naturally they’re going to bounce back to Google, and hunt down the next available competitor result that can fulfill their needs.

What can I do?

Study Google Analytics and historical sales data of your website for the last few weeks, and of the same period last year. Chances are, if your inventory hasn’t changed too much in the last 12 months, similar patterns will occur this year also.

Losing a sale to stock-related issues is tricky path to recover from. Not only will the customer buy from somewhere else, but if the alternate provider gives them a positive customer experience, it’s likely they’ll dedicate future purchases to the competitor brand instead of yours.

If you know there is a limited amount of stock per item, display the inventory amount remaining on the product page. Using phrases like “only 1 left at this price” triggers fears of scarcity and encourages customers to buy more quickly.


4. Make sure your Customer Service reps are ready

Businesses are given a certain amount of grace for rough patches, or slow orders, but don’t expect your customers to stick around for long if you consistently provide poor customer experiences.

Holiday season is a manic rush. It can be difficult to maintain high quality customer service for every shopper – but that should be your goal. Don’t let weak customer service damage your brand during the holidays; this is your time to really shine!

What can I do?

Aim for high visibility. Customers should be able to locate contact information, hours of service, FAQ’s – everything they need to know, within one click. This will build trust and allow customers to feel that you care about their shopping experience.

Make sure shopping carts include a visible contact number, ideally a Toll Free number.


 5. Display Delivery Dates/Last Chance to Order

The accuracy of delivery details and shipping options are never more important than they are during the holiday season.

Provide clearly labeled information on the checkout page so customers know when the absolute last available date they can place an order with your company and still guarantee the safe arrival of their goods.

What can I do?

Introduce a branded and visually impressive countdown feature in the header of your online store – make sure it’s impossible to miss!

Post daily updates on social media with “X many days left” to order, reaffirming the message and driving customers to your site.

Make sure your customers feel in control at every step of the buying process. Offer multiple delivery options, and the ability to leave a note specifying special instructions if needed, so shoppers will feel confident their purchase will arrive to their home and be handled with the care they need.


6. Improve overall trust by displaying external reviews

92% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase.

Over the last 12 months, it’s been well documented that the majority of customers trust ‘social proof’ provided by online reviewers more than a conversation with even the best salesperson your company has to offer.

If you fail to display reviews, your company will lack validation of service and ability to deliver on its goals/messaging.

The holiday period is the main sales period where collecting and displaying genuine reviews really matters.

What can I do?

Grab yourself a Trustpilot account (durr), and start using it straight away. The quicker you can build a collection of quality inbound reviews, the quicker you can display them proudly on your website.


7. Tailor your Navigation & Categories to the seasonal search

Throwing lots of options on your navigation might seem like the best option – to give every customer what they want – but too often this can lead to overwhelming customers.

For shoppers discovering your brand for the first time, an overload of choices may only exhaust and confuse them, sending them quickly back to Google to look for a less stressful option.

What can I do?

Filter the options down. Most people aren’t shopping for themselves during the holidays; so creating specific categories for your customer’s mindset and their respective buying personas is a clear win here.

Consider what phrases they might be thinking when searching, and create categories to quickly address those needs. For example, “best gifts under $10,” “presents for Dad,” “secret santa gifts for the office,” etc.


8. 2016 is the year of the Millennial

Millennials, are by far the fastest growing cross-section of consumers.

As savvy internet users and active consumers, these shoppers are accustomed to a certain level of online experience, dictated by web retail giants like Amazon, Ebay, Argos, Toys R Us and more.

What can I do?

To market to Millenials, meet them where they are:

  • 60% more mobile sales will occur this year, due to millennials.
  • 56% of all millennials will be shopping on their smartphones and tablets.

PRO TIP: Make sure your mobile experience is better than ever.


9. Show your sensitive side, donate this holiday season

There’s never a better time to associate your brand and ethics with a culture of giving, care and warmth than the holiday season. Why not spread some magic this year?

Spreading joy among those who need it most is not only a positive ethical choice, but also provides encouragement to site visitors to use and support your business.

What can I do?

Find a donation campaign that aligns with the beliefs of your business, and implement the campaign or program on your site.

Check out brands like TOMS shoes, Sevenly & Panda for inspiration.


10. Supercharge your sales with Amazon

Considered extended your online presence beyond just your dot com? Maybe it’s time you look at selling on Amazon.

Amazon has completely dominated the holiday season search results, and they will continue to do so for years to come.

In 2016, Amazon received, on average, 188 million unique visitors per month, and that’s before we approach the holiday season!

What can I do?

Take a look at Amazon’s “Get Started with Selling on Amazon” guide. There are thorough guidelines showing you how to get your brand listed on Amazon in a matter of days.


11. Gift Cards are still underestimated on Ecommerce

The majority of buyers in our fast-paced online world leave things until last minute, just like they do on the high street.

More and more brands are offering ‘Gift Cards’, allowing shoppers to physically or digitally provide a gift to a loved one, sometimes at the last possible minute.

What can I do?

Simple. Offer a Digital Gift Card product on your Ecommerce store. Maybe even go as far as getting a small batch of Gift Cards produced in physical printed format and charge a small fee for postage. Easy to fulfill and the associated costs are very low.


12. Re-evaluate mobile optimisation of your entire site

Take a good hard look at every page of your website store from your mobile phone. Write careful notes of any bugs or content that looks off, and send it to your web Developer.

Paying a little extra attention in this area will pay dividends for years to come.  

What can I do?

Look at your analytics, what percentage of traffic is mobile based? If the reality is that 1/3 of your traffic is fulfilled using a mobile device, chances are there are improvements to be made.

Look at the home page, category pages, product pages, supporting pages (about us, contact us) and MOST IMPORTANTLY, the checkout.

Many customers now do shopping research on their mobile, as well, before completing the sale at the nearest physical store. If this is applicable to you, make sure sales and promotion codes are easy to access, whether shoppers are buying on their mobile phones or in-store.


13. Introduce a loyalty program

Loyalty programs are effective in many ways. Not only can they engage customers to remain ‘loyal,’ they can also position your brand as successful, caring and focused heavily on customer service.

What can I do?

Take a look at what’s available for your Ecommerce store (be it Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify or other). There’s a chance a developer has already developed a neat plugin to offer a loyalty scheme inexpensively.

Focus on making the sign-up process as simple as possible for the customer, and be sure to celebrate their participation by sending them exclusive promotions.


14. Offer more personalisation

People want to feel personally addressed. Offer a tailored experience, and you’ll see a clear uptick in basket values and average sale values.   

What can I do?

Data is the key to success here.

If you don’t yet have reams of data on all of your customers and their buying habits, perhaps look at implementing simple tools across your ecommerce store.

Examples include: displaying related items in the shopping cart, introducing SmartSearch (predictive) tools, and using cookies to pre-fill in fields for customers so they feel like you’re looking out for them during their shopping experience.


15. Offer more payment options than last year

Be sure you have a multitude of major payment options, clearly displayed during your checkout process.  

Most shoppers have a preferred payment method, so the more you offer, the higher the chance a customer will see their typical option and buy from you.

What can I do?

While it’s not feasible to accept every possible payment method on the market right now, make sure you go beyond just credit cards and PayPal.

Other possible contenders to consider could be Stripe, Amazon Payments & Google Wallet.


16. Offer multiple ways to communicate with you

This is all about building trust with your consumer. Being available 24/7 across different mediums will convince potential customers you’re there, ready to provide support, if and when they need it.

Consider providing a LiveChat option. Several of the existing plug-ins have very engaging user interfaces, including a chat option where the rep’s face is included.

What can I do?

Provide several methods of contact, and consider these different types of contact across your desktop, mobile and tablet experiences.

Include a device specific phone number, an email address, links to social media profiles and a LiveChat facility (my favourite by far is Intercom).

There we have it!

OK, so 16 suggestions later you’re probably starting to realize just how much work there is to do! Now’s the time to sit down with your Web Developer and/or Marketing Department and really flesh out some new ways to advance your online presence. 

Don’t sleep on this – now’s your chance to capitalize on this years’ busiest online shopping period!

For more information on eCommerce tips and strategy you can follow Limely on Twitter @limelyltd or visit their website www.limely.co.uk.

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