5 E-Commerce Tips for a Merry Holiday Season
Holiday season is a special time for everyone, but for retailers especially, tis the season to be jolly. Last year, total holiday retail sales increased 4 percent to $616.1 billion, with e-commerce purchasing alone amounting to $101.9 billion.
With so much money to be spent, it’s crucial that online retailers execute a winning strategy to stay top of mind and secure those purchases. Here are five tips online merchants should keep in mind when planning their e-commerce strategy to ensure their products make it under the tree and their customers have great holiday cheer:
1. Stock what clients want to buy. This is an important concept year-round, but it comes into play even more during the holidays. Sales, free shipping, no cost add-ons — all of these are great marketing tactics, but they'll only be effective if what you're offering is what your client needs and wants, not just what products you want to sell. It’s not always about discounts either. Sometimes your customers may rather have product options such as colors and materials, or alternate couriers and shipping options. And remember, no extra-value add-on will remedy a failed promise. Make sure that you're able to provide the correct item and deliver within the timeframe your customer expects, or you might end up on their naughty list.
2. Create a seamless customer experience. I expect mobile-friendly sites will significantly outsell those sites that aren't mobile optimized. This includes everything from front-end navigation and product display to checkout and payment. Consumers want to be able to shop and browse on their mobile device with the same ease as they do in-store. Use images and video to give shoppers the best possible idea of what the product is like, enable access to the shopping cart at all times, and make sure the checkout process is easy and straightforward.
Whether you offer a dynamic platform or create a separate mobile experience, companies that create a simple and seamless shopping/checkout experience — regardless of device — will be in the best position to succeed this holiday season.
3. Staff up. When consumers stumble upon an item or issue they need help with, especially during the holiday season, they expect to become a priority and have the retailer take prompt action to resolve their problem. It’s important that all of your customer touchpoints (phone, email, live chat, social media, etc.) have the appropriate amount of staff to assist and interact with shoppers. Display retail store business hours and contact information in easy-to-spot places throughout your site, and be sure to respond to shoppers’ queries in a timely fashion. Exceptional service during the holidays can change a one-time buyer into a loyal customer.
4. Test your hosting infrastructure. The last thing you want is a killer sale that brings a lot of traffic to your site, only to have them experience a slow-loading site, or worse, a total crash. Ensure your hosting infrastructure is able to deal with the boost in traffic before the craziness of holiday season begins. Perform load testing and use tools available to simulate peak traffic events to determine the maximum capacity your servers can handle. Don’t be the next victim of a massive site crash resulting in many frustrated clients, who might then go to a competitor for their purchases.
5. Put a priority on website security. With all the data breaches that have taken place recently, it’s important that your site is secure and customers feel safe entering their payment information when checking out. There are a number of website security certifications available, which are worth looking into. A few to consider are Norton, buySAFE, and Google Trusted Stores. Earning these certifications and listing them on your site will gain consumers’ trust and help them feel comfortable when shopping online knowing that their personal data is secure.
By incorporating these tips into your holiday season e-commerce strategy, you’ll see exceptional sales, happy customers and a big “thank you” from Santa’s elves for making their job a little easier.
Ryan Gronlie is the client service manager at CARiD, an online retailer of aftermarket auto parts.