1 Getting your business found

According to research,1 most Americans are exposed to up to 10,000 ads each day. And over the holidays, things get even more competitive for retailers – as bounce rates rise by 12% on Thanksgiving, and 5.2% on Black Friday.2

Try this:

  • Use a multi-pronged approach to discovery: Improve your chances of discovery by using shoppers’ previous purchases or store browsing history to show them more relevant products, sizes or styles. You could also tailor products to a shopper’s age or location.
  • Showcase content-driven product recommendations: Add product recommendations to both the homepage and product details page. Also, try adding alternative and complementary offerings that users may not have considered before.
  • Create a simple segmentation system: You can’t personalize your site to every single user. But you can broadly segment it to perhaps 5 or 6 ‘segment blocks’ – each with a different goal. For example, new customers, frequent flyers, or window shoppers.
  • Deliver seamless cross-device experiences: Make your site personalized to users, even when they jump from mobile to desktop. With space at a premium, mobile sites must work extra hard to engage, so aim for twice the level of personalization as on desktop.

2 Making your site easy to search

People love the convenience of shopping online.1 And more than 70% of them would sooner use a self-service tool than a human to help them find what they need. [Source] So while offering a search function on your site is a great start, you have to make sure it’s accurate, helpful, and fast.

Try this:

  • Rank search results by business relevance: For example, prioritizing products with surplus stock or higher profit margins – while still ensuring they’re useful and relevant to users.
  • Make results more relevant to the user: Try leading with products related to a user’s past purchases or browsing history. Where possible, offer up ‘You might also like’ recommendations.
  • Add voice search functionality: Voice searches are faster, more convenient, and will help you stand out. In the not too distant future, advances in image recognition, artificial intelligence and machine learning will also have a part to play.

3 Engaging shoppers across all channels

Research shows that when consumers engage with a brand across multiple channels, they spend over 3X more.1 Brands with strong omnichannel strategies also retain 89% of their customers, versus just 33% for brands who don’t.2

Try this:

  • Get serious about data: Having the right customer data – and the right smart technologies – will help you deliver more personalized experiences, and be compliant with regional and national regulations such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It will also help you get ahead: In a recent user experience study, online merchants scored just 31% for being behavior- or preference-driven.
  • Go easy on the emails: So-called ‘batch-and-blast’ email tactics cause recipients to unsubscribe, and 40% of shoppers say excessive frequency is a reason for marking emails as spam. Instead, try to be more strategic. For example, combine editorial and promotional content, or create segmented programs that feel more tailored.
  • Prioritize mobile: While the top 10 brands in a recent survey3 scored 84% for mobile optimization, the other 90 brands scored only 53%. To close this gap, retailers should design ads, emails, web pages, apps or live chat using a mobile first approach, so shoppers don’t get frustrated.
  • Re-think your email strategy: With a $39 return for every $1 invested, emails are vital to the marketing mix. To improve your success rate, send a welcome email encouraging users to share their preferences and tailor future email content. Emailing folks who abandon their carts also works well, as do after-sales emails detailing the order, shipping details, and cross-sell recommendations. One last thing, don’t send emails with a ‘Do Not Reply’ email address, as it gives people the impression you don’t care.

4 Offering secure payments

In a recent study,1 44% of consumers say they’re more inclined to repeat buy after a personalized shopping experience – and that trend is starting to reshape the payment process. 64% of merchants say the main reason they add payment methods is to improve the customer experience – and 60% claim their payment management is vital to their operations and helps them stay agile, competitive, and profitable.2

Try this:

  • Provide multiple (and simple) payment options: Offer a range of payment options and ensure each one is fast and convenient. Remember, your customers are always on the move, so mobile payments are a must.
  • Activate your fraud prevention tool: A recent survey3 revealed 82% of businesses fell victim to payment fraud in 2018. Most payment systems have built-in fraud prevention tools, so ensure yours is switched on to help keep you and your customers secure.
  • Watch your fraud thresholds: The spike in shopping over holiday periods is great for business, but the sudden rise in spend may exceed your fraud detection amounts. Consider upping your fraud threshold, or just bear this in mind whenever you receive fraud alerts. Run high-volume payment testing. Before the holidays, test the capacity of your payment platform to ensure it’s ready to handle the extra load.

5 Ramp up your fraud prevention

Fraud is bad for customers and bad for business. For every $1 stolen through online order fraud, retailers lose 3X as much to lost productivity, lost labor, and chargeback penalties.1 To try and reduce and manage the impact of fraud, merchants spend an average of 8% of their annual revenue – and reviews are often time-consuming and largely ineffective.2

Try this:

  • Get proactive about tracking fraud: Rather than waiting until checkout to spot fraudsters, start looking for them as soon as they land on your site. For example, do they act like regular customers? Is their mouse moving how you’d expect? Are they using technology to mask their IP address? Keep an eye out for odd purchasing signals too, such as buying unusual combinations of products, or non-matching billing and shipping addresses.
  • Don’t annoy your real customers: Automated fraud protection systems occasionally confuse good orders for bad ones. Being declined inevitably impacts the shopping experience and makes users less likely to return – so go for a fraud system that combines both automation and a level of human oversight that lets you make judgements on any orders needing special attention.
  • Take steps to fight ad fraud: Cybercriminals use bots or real people to click on competitor’s ads and drain their budget. Fraud protection features help you spot the signs, improve traffic quality, and save you wasting money on phoney customers.

6 Smooth out your checkout and payment process

Mobile now accounts for 62% of all commerce website visitors1 but just a quarter (23%) of the total dollars spent.2 The reason for this gap could be that shopping on a small screen is often harder and more fiddly than on desktop, especially during checkout. When users get frustrated, they simply abandon their shopping cart and try a different device (or a different retailer).

Try this:

  • Optimize your payment process: See if you can reduce the number of steps in the payment journey. Also, keep testing your payment process on a range of device types. This could help deliver a 9-15% increase in mobile and desktop revenue.3
  • Offer different payment options by region: For example, Venmo is popular with millennials because it allows direct purchases through platforms like Instagram, plus they can easily split bills with friends.
  • Take a fresh look at your interface: Using smart payment buttons and express checkout options will help reduce page clutter. Ensure you’re using the up-to-date eCommerce platform too, as this will reduce glitches. Lastly, test different payment button positions on each device until you get the required results.
  • Offer a finance option on bigger orders: People’s wallets are often squeezed over the holidays, so offering a ‘buy now pay later’ option could help them out and drive sales of bigger ticket items.
  • Convert more top of funnel mobile shoppers: Offering express checkout or one-touch payment options on shopping carts and product pages makes it easier for customers to complete the transaction – especially on mobile.

7 Make great shipping part of your brand

With the number of global parcels predicted to exceed 100 billion in 2020, shipping now plays a key role in helping brands create memorable customer experiences.1

Try this:

  • Promote your shipping promise: During holidays, ensure customers know precisely when their products will ship and arrive. Can you offer free shipping? 91% of customers abandon online retail sites if free and fast shipping isn’t available. [Source] At the start of the holidays, add a ‘ship-by’ date to products, but remember to add a geo-locate feature so dates adapt to people’s precise locations.
  • Prepare to ship globally: 1.8 billion people bought something online in 2018 – so you could miss valuable sales if you’re not prepared to ship products abroad…especially over the holidays. Not only will it make your store and products more accessible and appealing, but you’ll also gain a loyal international following.
  • Make your packaging fun: Your packaging should be more than just a safe and secure container to get your products from A to B. Start seeing it as a physical touchpoint between you and your customers, and a golden opportunity to create a memorable experience. For example, creating custom packaging for each holiday season, or including a hand-written note.

8 Rethink your customer service

In a study by Segment, many consumers said they’d spend more on brands that delivered personalized user experiences. Yet almost three-quarters (71%) of shoppers1 still say they’re frustrated by being offered buying experiences that are impersonal and not tailored around them. During the holidays, honing your customer service and offering shoppers the personal touch – at every stage, not just after the sale is made – could give you a major competitive advantage.

Try this:

  • Connect the dots in your customer support: 70% of consumers wish customer support teams would collaborate so they don’t have to repeat themselves each time they get in touch.[Source] Address the potentially disjointed nature of your customer service by ensuring everyone involved can easily manage and share conversations over many different channels and types of device.
  • Proactively engage customers at every opportunity: Customer support shouldn’t just be something that happens after the sale is made or when there’s a problem. Explore how AI and other technology can help you serve customers in new and better ways – like letting folks know when their product is shipped or their favorite item is back in stock.
  • Be there across a range of channels: Be available to customers by phone, email, text, live chat, social media and however else they choose to reach out. As above, use a central customer support dashboard to ensure support staff have oversight of every interaction and conversation your customers have with you.

9 Strive for effortless returns and exchanges

A bad returns policy can damage your conversion rates (2 in 3 customers will check yours before buying)1 – and a slow and complex returns process will impact profits and make 85% of customers unlikely to choose you again.2 But with 58% of holiday shoppers likely to return or exchange unwanted gifts they receive3, it’s important you get your returns strategy right.

Try this:

  • Make your returns process easy: 85% of shoppers say they’re more inclined to buy something if the returns process is smooth and trouble-free.4 Make sure your policy is clear and straightforward – and be upfront with it so customers feel more compelled to buy, knowing any gifts that miss the mark can be sent back.
  • Have great reverse logistics in place: Return rates for eCommerce products are 3 to 4 times higher than physical stores.5 Ensuring unwanted products can be returned and ready to sell again quickly is essential. Work with third parties to achieve economies of scale, and explore how the entire process can become a well-oiled and customer-friendly part of your eCommerce system.
  • See returns as a sales opportunity: More than 75% of shoppers say they’re likely to buy something else when returning or exchanging a product.6 Likewise, 62% would repeat buy from a brand if it offered free returns or exchanges.7

With long hours and demanding customers, any holiday season can be a tough time for online retailers. Yet making just a few changes can not only make your life a bit easier, but also have a dramatic impact on sales.

For more information and other useful articles on growing your business and reaching new customers around the world, review the Plan Your Operations and Market Your Business sections of Market Finder. You’ll also discover which foreign markets could be right for your business, and gain valuable insights into disposable incomes, ease of doing business, category search volumes, and more when you Discover Markets.

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