it’s the holidays again. Last year was a record year for preparations. Many people were spending holidays away from their families and sending holiday cheer via the mail. Many shoppers avoided in-store shopping.
What did the result look like? To no surprise, ecommerce had massive growth. Adobe Analytics data shows that the holiday season witnessed a staggering 32% increase in sales from 2019, compared to 2019. This equates to $188.2 million.
People are beginning to reconnect and look forward to returning to normal this year. Numerator’s survey found that 88% of respondents expected to celebrate Thanksgiving “normally” by November and 92% by December. This doesn’t mean that ecommerce will return to normal anytime soon.
Ecommerce continues to hold a high share of the retail marketplace. But so does competition. You need to make shopping easy, flexible, and offer options that meet their needs in order to be shoppers’ preferred source for gifts. It’s a great time to get started.
This guide will help you get your online store ready for holiday magic. To ensure you don’t leave any stone unturned, we consulted ecommerce experts across the industry.
Steps to Prepare for the Holiday Season in 2021
Retailers rely heavily on the holiday season for a large portion of their annual revenues. These are the steps to take in order to stay ahead of your competition and have the best holiday season ever.
- Be ready for incoming traffic.
- You can create a stress-free customer experience.
- Shipping and fulfillment options can surprise and delight.
- Strategic holiday marketing and promotions.
- Ensure that you provide excellent customer service and support.
1. Be ready for incoming traffic.
Holiday shopping can mean more traffic to your online store, especially during peak shopping times like Cyber 5. Nothing is worse than an outage at one of these crucial times.
Stock up on your inventory.
Increased number of shoppers means more inventory. Avoid long wait times or frustrated customers discovering that their favorite gift is out of stock. Check in now with suppliers to ensure you are adequately stocked.
Verify your reliability.
Jon Provisor, CIO at Guidance suggests that the most important thing to do for the holidays is “Work on speed & security.” Page load speed is directly related to revenue.
Your website must be able to scale and maintain stability in order to meet increased traffic demands. No matter how much traffic you have, your site must be available when you need it. BigCommerce achieved 99.99% uptime from January 1, 2020 to June 1, 2020, and 100% during Cyber 5, the last seven years. Make sure to check with your ecommerce provider for current stats so that you can determine how covered you are.
Assess your third-party integrations.
Check out your third-party integrations. Are they current? Make sure they are up-to-date, test them and don’t add more. App add-ons that are not required by your site may slow down or disrupt your flow.
2. 2. Create an easy customer experience.
The holiday shopper of today wants to be able get their needs met quickly and with minimal friction. Your site should offer options that cater to their needs, and an easy path to checkout. Your online store is up to the task?
Let’s look at the most important ways your website can be updated to exceed customer expectations and deliver holiday magic.
Speed test your site.
You also need to ensure your website is reliable. A survey found that 70% of online shoppers said page speed is a factor in their decision to purchase from an online retailer. This is the right time to have your team test page load times on every element of your website. BigCommerce is your technology provider. These companies can assist you in load testing to determine visitor numbers and traffic patterns.
Your storefront experience can be taken to the next level.
Your website design can bring your brand to life, and provide a unique experience. You can easily update your website with a new theme using tools such as BigCommerce’s Page Creator.
Oskar Nowik is Head of SEO at . Here are some other tips to make your website mobile-ready. Avoid overwhelming your customers with too many options or excessive information. It should be simple and straightforward to navigate. Mobile experience is more important than any other device. Contrasts can be used to help customers find the “Buy Now” button. Also, make sure they check out quickly.
Allow cart abandonment notifications.
A customer may leave your website with a shopping basket full of products for many reasons. Push notifications can be sent to remind customers of what they have left and help them make a purchase. Emails from abandoned carts have excellent conversion rates – Moosend data shows that they have a 10.7% conversion ratio.
Alan Moore, Group Manager at RANDEMRETAIL believes abandoned cart emails can be a huge opportunity, especially if they are tailored for holidays. You should link them to the appropriate URL. Offer discount codes, encourage payment services, and offer immediate delivery options, if possible.
Your merchandising strategy should be updated.
Present your holiday products. Consider which holiday products you will be selling this season. Is there a specific holiday package your target audience is looking for? Are there seasonal favorites you would like to offer?
Hadas Peretz is the Marketing and Sales Ops Manager at Fast Simon and talks about holiday merchandising. AI brings science and art to merchandising. This allows merchants to transform static displays into dynamic presentations that are tailored to the needs of the shoppers and merchants. Merchants can decrease cart abandonment by having instant, adaptive control over the shopping journey.
Next, think about how you will display seasonal items on your website. You could even have a holiday-specific section in your site navigation. Organize gifts in one location to simplify shopping
Jared Frank, coowner of Mojo Active adds: “Prepare to get inventory in place and products on your ecommerce site with accurate pricing. To make it a more user-friendly experience, enable the “compare products” feature if applicable to your products.
Personalize your experience
Customers should have an experience that is unique to them. Personalization has been reported by nearly 89% of marketers to have resulted in higher revenue. Merchants can use behavioral and contextual customer data to identify relevant products that will inspire customers to buy. A significant increase in conversions and decrease in cart abandonment can be achieved by basing product recommendations on customer information, such as demographic or geo-location.
The insights that retailers have from past browsing history can be used to show relevant content to shoppers. This could include reminding them about the perfect gift or showing something related to an earlier purchase.
BigCommerce merchants have the option to leverage multiple personalization partners as part of our Big Open Data Solutions. This allows them to choose the best holiday promotion for them.
You can personalize your customer’s experience by using AI to analyze their buying patterns and identify what they are interested in. Chris Cano, Content Lead at , says that customers can get personalized product recommendations, content and collections, as well as hero images, to help them choose the right items to gift or add to their wishlist.
Jake Cohen, Head Customer Marketing at Klayvio recommends this approach: “Ask people ahead-of-time (via surveys or pop ups), which holiday season they will be shopping for. You can tag their profile to make it easier to send relevant content to a person when you send them promotional content (e.g. You can tag your relatives, aunts, daughters, and other people who are likely to be shopping for the person you’re referring to. This will improve conversion rates and revenue.
They need your help to find the right thing.
As part of the personalization process, you can fine-tune each customer’s site search. You can use the same search data that you use for SEO to boost your on-site searches. Your website should return exact products so that your customers can find what they are looking for.
Your site design should include search features such as a concise menu and a prominently displayed bar. But you should also advertise top-selling, high-converting categories and products right at the top. Mike Esposito is the Content Producer at 1Digital agency.
A customer will be able to get the item quicker, and seamless shopping will not go unnoticed. Brands that make shopping easy, especially during holidays, are more loyal customers. They will find the product they need elsewhere if they have problems or can’t find it on your site.
Christian Little, Director Marketing at PayHelm offers this tip to help shoppers find the right gift: “Breakdown all your promotions by the likely recipient of the gift. For example, search terms for “gifts for women” are very popular during the holiday season.
Hadas Peretz is Marketing and Sales Ops Manager at Fast Simon. He adds, “Take time to review your internal search function and your collections. Make sure it identifies shopper preference and intent to provide the best results.”
You have complete control over keywords, pages, and results when you update your own search. It’s a great way to make holiday shopping easy.
Optimize your checkout
When a customer arrives at the checkout page, it’s already clear that they wish to purchase. Optimizing your checkout page is about making it as easy as possible so that customers don’t have to leave the site before they complete their purchase. One survey found that 21% of US online shoppers abandoned their shopping carts because of a lengthy and complicated checkout process.
A single checkout page can be all you need to create seamless checkout.
1. Reduce checkout time to one page
Customers will find it easier to complete their checkout process by having all forms related to that page. It can make a huge difference whether you load a single page or wait for multiple pages to load, especially on mobile devices. Customers shouldn’t be allowed to leave your website. Customer satisfaction is the most important factor. You want customers to feel satisfied with every page of your website, not just the checkout page.
2. Allow guest checkout
First-time customers are particularly reliant on anonymous checkouts. Online shopping requires trust on the merchant. Many customers don’t feel comfortable saving contact information during their first visit to a store.
The shopping process is also impacted if you require registration. Customers decide to buy and want the checkout process to go smoothly. This should also be the goal of merchants. It is easier to checkout as a guest than creating an account. This eliminates the possibility of you being after customer data.
3. Provide multiple payment options
If a customer is ready for payment, they don’t want to see that you haven’t provided their preferred payment method. You might consider adding more payment options like PayPal/Venmo, American Express. Customers will appreciate having the option to pay in any way they choose.
Daniel Zielinski Technology Partnerships Manager, LiveChat also suggests: “Offering support to digital wallets and Apple Pay/Google because mobile shopping is on fire.”
Check out our 2021 Consumer Spending Trends Report to find out more about the best payment options available for your store.
4. Enable multi-recipient functionality.
Multi-recipient functionality is a better option than having customers place multiple orders for holiday gifts. This will remove stress and reduce the amount of work required. This allows customers to send items to specific addresses and makes your store a one stop shop.
5. Allow shoppers to choose their preferred shipping method.
You should offer several shipping options, as some customers may wait until the last minute to order and others will buy gifts months ahead of time. It can help make it easier to buy by offering a variety of shipping options at checkout. ShipperHQ provides accurate shipping rates and estimated delivery dates to your customers.
6. Shipping insurance gives peace of mind to customers.
Don’t let porch piracy dampen your customers’ holiday. You can offer shipping insurance to your customers so they will get their order. This will also ensure a positive customer experience. Route, for example, offers a suite of connected post-purchase solutions. Customers can add protection for loss, theft, and damage to their packages right at the checkout page.
3. Enjoy surprise and delight with fulfillment and shipping options
A clear plan will help you to create a customer-centric strategy.