The latest report, released last month by Deloitte forecasted that this holiday season, online sales are all set to grow by 14-18% compared to last year: holiday sales will exceed $1.1 trillion during the November–January timeframe.
“Use the code TGIF and get 50% off on all the online orders.”
Such generous offers will be a common sight on most of the eCommerce stores. However, a broken website on any of these upcoming shopping days will be any retailer’s worst nightmare.
Last year, one of the fashion retailer websites offered the same TGIF 50% off deal on Black Friday. However, it was not a ‘TGIF’ for their tech team, instead, it turned out to be ‘God, Why it’s Friday (GWIT)’ for them when their online shoppers got hit with a “Hang on a Sec” screen. They were unable to shop anything as the site experienced more traffic than expected.
This technical glitch stretched on for a major part of the day on Black Friday, leaving customers frustrated, thereby costing the company as much as $775,000 in sales!
It was one of the worst nightmares of J.Crew and they released a statement through social media apologizing for the delays.
Happy Black Friday! Due to high demand, we’re experiencing some technical difficulties with our site right now. Apologies to anyone having a problem…we’re working to fix it ASAP!
— J.Crew (@jcrew) November 23, 2018
The festive season is standing right at your door, just about to knock. And if you do not wish to lose sales and your online reputation, like J.Crew, the two words advice for you is: Be Prepared.
The amount of revenue an eCommerce player can make during this period hugely depends on their readiness for the incoming onslaught.
To strike it rich this holiday season, with growth in sales and your overall business, below is a 15 point holiday eCommerce website checklist.
1. Do Your Homework Intime
A stitch in time saves nine; this old saying applies appropriately when it comes to organizing the holiday sale on your eCommerce website. Now, since we have year-round sales going on these days and almost all our sales-boosting strategies are somewhat used-up, it becomes all the more crucial to adopt and implement some really innovative approaches for the festive season.
However, the most important part of the holiday eCommerce website checklist story is the preparations that you are supposed to carry out before you begin the celebratory sale. Here’s what to do:
a. Prepare for Enough Backend Support
You can expect 63% more visits on your website during the holiday season, which implies an extra 63% chance to make a sale. However, increased traffic brings in an increased demand for back end support with it. The biggest challenge that many eCommerce players face during this time is: “How do we maintain service levels successfully”?
You may have taken good care of your user interface infrastructure by beautifying the front-end with attractive offers, but the support to be provided from the back end is one aspect if not done right can permanently turn off your customer . Hiring outsourcing partners for this job could be a great help for you.
b. Improve Your Website Loading Speed
You can’t risk losing the potential customer on your site over the holidays just because of a slow landing page and an unhappy customer.
The ideal situation would be to get your website loaded in the blink of an eye, which implies that you just have half a second: that’s the duration of a human blink. In 2012, Amazon lost 16 billion in sales by just having one second of lag-time in their website.
However, if your webpage loading speed lies anywhere between 500 milliseconds and 2 seconds, the more likely a user is to perform the targeted action on that webpage. Website loading speed is something that can be tested and fixed.
One of the important tools that can be part of your holiday eCommerce website checklist is Google’s Page Speed Tool. It checks the performance of your website and understands where it needs improvement.
How Net Solutions Helped Legend Footwear Optimize Performance for Magento 2 eCommerce Store
Legend Footwear, a high-quality footwear brand, established in the heart of London in 1992, approached us with a website, which was already built on the Magento 2 platform. However, their website suffered from the following issues that affected the user experience:
- The loading speed of the website was slow on both desktop and mobile.
- Lack of mobile responsive design
- Indexing issue with search engines
- The home page was ailing with the white screen of death (WSOD)
- Slow checkout process
Net Solutions dealt with this eCommerce development challenge by upgrading the Magento 2 platform from version 2.1.6 to 2.1.8 by customizing themes, plugins, and resolving the existing bug issue.
- Varnish cache was configured to increase the website speed.
- Reduced the number of HTTP requests on the server with efficient programming techniques and the required configurations to improve the loading speed.
- Optimized the images and compressed them for less data usage and easy page loads to make it mobile-friendly.
- JS files optimization was done to make the front-end of the eCommerce website look appealing without affecting the website speed and resolve the errors on the checkout page by adding an instant checkout process and integrated payment gateways to enhance the shopping experience.
This aided Legend Footwear in improving conversions and in reducing the bounce rate of their website.
c. Monitor Your Website’s Analytics
Even if you do it regularly, now is the time to monitor, observe, and draw inferences from your Google Analytics reports. In order to get a clearer picture of the effectiveness of your web design as well as the effectiveness of the content, carrying out thorough surveillance of your analytics is vital.
Moreover, historical data generated from analytics can help you track sales trends. Nowadays, you can also do predictive analytics for sales and stay ahead of the trends. The discounts are determined by using machine learning for predicted sales and how much volume purchased on the product would produce a good ROI.
2. Attract Traffic by Promoting Holiday Specific Offers
Holiday seasons are all about careful, consistent, and customized marketing.
The more targeted your approach, the better your impact will be on the customers. You need to be very selective in deciding the methodology you want to take-up this holiday season, for boosting the sale at your eCommerce store.
Keep a very calculative attitude when you consider this parameter of the holiday eCommerce website checklist so that you don’t end up overdoing or underplaying your promotion schemes.
a. Prepare Your Email Marketing Campaigns
Email Marketing campaigns is one of the best ways to increase sales while also encouraging email newsletter sign-ups and customer loyalty. It should be a vital part of your holiday eCommerce website checklist. Using email in getting across your offers is considered one of the highest converting channels for Black Friday promotions.
During the last year’s Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM), Shopify witnessed their highest conversion rates from email marketing.
While sending the email to your target customer, make sure that it should not look or even sound like an annoying publicity material. Emails should be attractive, interesting, informative and more importantly specific for the buyer. Remember, your email marketing should start 2 months before the holiday sakes season.
b. Promote and Advertise on Social Media
Social media is the best source for magnifying sales and reaching out to a larger crowd, that too with a localized appeal. However, using your social media intelligently is a crucial affair.
You should start promoting your holiday deals, for instance, Black Friday deals, at least a week before the day itself.
Note the week around Thanksgiving is considered a holiday by a lot of people. Thus, social media usage during this period tends to drop off. Therefore, you should make sure that you start promoting your offers through social media before people start traveling.
Moreover, you can incorporate video into your social media marketing strategy to get more eyeballs on your holiday offer. A report by AMA mentions that video content accounts for 65% of all ad impressions on Instagram.
— Target (@Target) November 23, 2018
c. Optimize for Mobile Devices and Platforms
In 2018, Shopify stores saw more mobile purchases than desktop purchases across all of BFCM for the second year in a row, thereby making mobile phones as your holy grail. Techcrunch report too shows that $2.2B was spent via smartphones, last year.
Thus, it has become critical to go mobile with your eCommerce store and add optimization for mobile devices to your holiday eCommerce website checklist. Else, you will be easily erased from the minds of your customers. Thus, capitalize on this trend by optimizing your webshop for mobile devices.
Once you are sure that your website is optimized for mobile phones, you can reach out to your customers by sending them special offers that can be availed if they use their mobile app. Or instigate them with notifications of ‘Happy Hours’ sale on their apps.
3. Make the Shopping Process Easier for Your Customer
Imagine Kevin going to a physical store. He picks up the desired products and goes to the counter. There’s a board hanging there, saying ‘Counter Closed for the Day.’ How disheartening is that!
Note that even in-store locations, shoppers frequently jump ship when it takes a long time to make a purchase.
You will certainly not want to put your customers in a similar situation because they have numerous options to pick from; thus they will hardly think of coming back to a store which caused such a big disappointment to them.
You can keep such a situation at bay by being a little cautious during the sale season and add a task to make the shopping process easier in your holiday eCommerce website checklist.
a. Easy Checkout Process
If you let the visitors carry out a smooth selection, comparison, and finalization, then why not improve the whole experience by making the checkout process less pestering.
Thus, give your customers ample options to make their payments through, however, do not compromise the security settings. If you put all the processes, terms, and conditions in black and white, the customer will also comply with the standards.
You can save credit/debit card details to make future transactions faster and easier. Allow your customers to choose from different payment options. It decreases shopping cart abandonment. Make sure you’re able to accept all major credit cards and popular digital payment systems such as PayPal.
b. Clear Shipping & Delivery Expectations
State clearly if you have a free shipping offer. If you are charging, make sure the costs are reasonable and competitive. In a digitized era, where Amazon is planning for anticipatory shipping, it is advised you can at least provide a free shipping offer to your customers during the holiday sale.
However, there is another angle to the same story. During the holidays, people are excited to make purchases online and often feel rushed by the minimal purchase time. You can play with this feeling of urgency and make your visitors pay a little extra to get faster delivery.
The price sensitivity graph from Kissmetrics reveals that shoppers aren’t as price-sensitive during holiday shopping seasons as shown at the beginning of the bell curve. Thus, the price insensitivity opens the door for you to charge some extra from your customers if they are eager to get their product early.
c. Create Macros for the Most Common Pre & Post-Purchase Questions
When it’s time for holiday sales, expect a flood of queries from your target customers. They can raise questions about promotions like Can I combine two discount codes?, What are the exact terms of the promotion? or questions about their order status once they place the order from your website.
The number of tickets rises during the Holiday Season by around 67%. Thus, make sure that your support team is armed with the right canned responses, or macros, to address these common questions.
Remember that ‘Support’ is entirely the game of numbers: respond to queries of your customers quickly, thereby lowering the overall response time, which eventually increases the customer satisfaction.
4. Bring Improvement in Your Customer Service
Today’s customers are used to living in an online world where they do not have to wait in line or hold their questions until a more convenient time for the company in question. Rather, they are accustomed to receiving instant gratification.
Anything less is going to pale in comparison, and if there is one area where businesses want to impress rather than annoy, it is customer service. The following are the ways you can improve your customer service with holiday sales season knocking the door.
a. Integrate Live Chat
A survey conducted by Software Advice mentions that millennials prefer live chat. And during the holiday season when all eCommerce websites are flooded with offers, they expect a quicker response to their questions.
Moreover, it is said that a typical conversion rate on the checkout pages is about 10%. Customers usually get stuck at the checkout page because of confusion in the billing address, doubts about the product, etc.
This is the reason that you should consider and get a live chat integrated on your website before the holiday season starts.
This is where chatbots come to the rescue. Chatbots are, in fact, revolutionizing customer relationship management (CRM). With AI making such immense advances that benefit so many aspects of a business including CRM, chatbots are the most close-at-hand application of AI that businesses can use to their advantage.
b. Highlight Return Conditions
It is a natural thing to occur that when people buy some gifts for others, there can be issues in size or the recipient does not like the color of the product received. Eventually, they would like to return the product in any of these cases. You have to make sure that your customers can make the return of products easily.
Thus, it is always advised to highlight your return conditions in detail. It builds trust and confidence amongst your visitors, thereby leading to improved customer loyalty.
Remember, 1/3rd of those ages 23-38 are quick to drop a brand that doesn’t meet expectations.
c. Do Better with Personalization
Personalization has emerged as one of the key placeholders among customer experience strategies for businesses across the globe. In eCommerce, for instance, the response of an average consumer towards a recommendation that is based on his browsing and past purchases on a retail site is mostly favorable.
A shopper feels special when he is addressed with a personal touch in an email or message.
Since the holiday sales season is just to arrive, you can leverage the power of digital experience platforms (DXPs) in improving eCommerce customer experience that can allow you to connect to a variety of data sources to develop a 360-degree view of your target customer. It, thereby allows you to tailor your experience to your customers’ needs, which leads to improvement in conversions.
5. Points to Remember Before, During, and After the Holiday Season
“You will only fail to learn if you do not learn from failing.” ~Stella Adler
Learning from your mistakes is one of the important factors that matter in an eCommerce business. A smart eCommerce player will ponder upon the following points for a sure-shot success in the upcoming holiday season sale.
a. Keep an Eye on the Competition
Paying close attention to the marketing efforts of your competitors can help you gather ideas and build a competitive marketing campaign for your own holiday deals. The best and easiest way to keep a hawk-eye on your competition is through subscribing to their email list.
Study the types of emails they forward, and how frequently they send them. But keep in mind: don’t get too inspired. Just understand their strengths and weaknesses and use them to your own advantage.
You can make use of VisualPing to monitor any changes that your competitors make to their website.
b. Create Contingency Plans
You should have proper backups in place, unfortunately, if something goes awry. For instance, if the shipping company you are tied up with becomes too busy or if your products get sold out earlier than expected, what will you do?
Our aim is not to build up baseless fears, rather preparing you and your eCommerce website for tough situations. Just think about some worst-case scenarios for your business during the peak season and build a contingency plan wherever possible. It is much easier to handle the planning now than finding the way out in the midst of the biggest sales season of the year.
Thus, keeping a contingency plan as one of the vital components of the holiday eCommerce website checklist is critical for your eCommerce business.
What to Learn from Amazon’s Technical Glitches in the Year 2018
If any of the Amazon visitors tried to make a purchase from Amazon within the first 7 hours of Amazon Prime Day, 2018, then they might have met with one of the most adorable Prime Day Dogs, saying “Sorry, something went wrong.”
CNBC, after going through Amazon’s internal documents reported last year the reason behind Amazon’s technical glitch: they did not have enough servers to handle all their customers.
Amazon had an auto-scaling feature that was meant to work when the demand got too high, however, their core system failed.
What can be learned from this?
Glitches happen, you need to be ready with the contingency plan, in case things do not go according to the plan.
c. Keep Updating Website Inventory to Avoid Disheartened Customers
One of the important parameters required to get ready for the holiday season sales is ‘Inventory Management.’ Prepare your inventory both in-store and online in advance. You can make use of data analytics to prepare your inventory mapped to your local market.
Planning, organizing, and managing a holiday season sale for your eCommerce website is not a hard row to hoe; yet one step wrong and you can topple down from the highest cliff. And it is certainly not about applying the same strategies every year.
The buyers have turned selective and they just love to compare every choice they make; after all, in today’s digital era they have technology at their fingertips. Hence, instead of being a vulnerable eCommerce player, be the smart baron who amazes his customers anytime and every time!