How to Make Your Online Store Stand Out During This Holiday Season
The holidays are upon us and, with them, several traditions, including family gatherings, religious festivities, delightful decorations, and holiday gift-giving. And, it is this last tradition, that of gift-giving, that makes the holidays such a busy time for the retail industry.
Even though retail workers might feel pressured during the holidays, this also a time when they can increase their revenues and end their year with a bang.
Today, in the age of the internet, a healthy portion of shopping is done online through eCommerce stores, making the holidays a busy time for any site peddling their products via the internet.
In 2018, Americans spent around 123 billion dollars online during the holidays, and this number is only expected to go up in the coming years.
However, the eCommerce space is crowded. The US alone has over 1.3 million eCommerce sites, yet Amazon gets almost half of all the eCommerce business there.
So, struggling among 1.3 million other competitors to get a slice of half of the American market during the holidays is a challenge, forcing eCommerce stores to think creatively and to come up with different ideas that will attract customers to the store.
There are a few things you can do to give your site that much needed extra little push.
First, you will need to change a few things on your website to make it better suited for the holidays.
Second, you should offer your customers a few things to entice them to go on a shopping spree.
Finally, you want to capture as much value as you can during the holidays, so you need to think about maximizing revenue.
Things you’ll need to change on your site
If you don’t already do this, you need to be displaying your top products on your homepage; this is where a lot of your visitors will land when they visit your site for the first time. You want them to know what you’re all about.
You also want them to stay on that page for as long as possible. Showing your top products on the homepage can achieve both. Best of all, doing this is easy and can be achieved with little coding.
Let people know what other people are buying
As social animals, people care about what other people are doing, and if one of your products is in high demand, other customers might want to know that information.
You can have a product of the day featured on all of your site’s pages, letting your customers know that a specific product just might run out given how popular it has been.
Update your site’s copy to bring gifting into the mix
During the holidays, many people will browse your store, looking for a gift for someone else. The problem is that many of those same people don’t know what would make a great gift and what wouldn’t.
You can help with that. By tweaking the product descriptions, you can be a friend to every visitor, advising them on what would make a suitable gift. This won’t take much time, but it can reward your store in spades.
For each product, you want to help customers answer these questions:
- Would this product make a good gift, and if so, for whom?
- Is this product timely during the holidays?
- Does it come with any special holiday offers?
- What did other customers have to say about this product as a gift?
- Does the pricing work in the product’s favor?
Hold a competition
One of the best ways to get people flocking to your site is to create a contest that everybody is talking about on social media. Not only will the right competition help you go viral, but it will also get your existing customer base to stay longer, and it will help you build your email list.
There are many ways you can have your competition spill over onto social media. You can tell people to submit photos to you on Facebook, or you can have people upload pictures on their Instagram with a specific hashtag.
Things to offer on your site
Give your customers free, fast shipping
When it comes to holiday gift-giving, there is a certain sense of urgency. Many people buy their gifts at the last minute, and almost all of them would like to get their purchases before the holiday season is over.
Ergo, you want to follow Amazon’s lead and show your customers when they will be receiving their orders.
Now, if you can promise them that they’ll receive their product within the same day or within 24 hours, this can give you a serious leg-up over the competition.
And, most of those same people are price conscious, meaning that extra shipping prices might be a deal-breaker for them. In fact, more than half of consumers who filled a shopping cart abandoned it because “the site’s shipping costs and options were unacceptable.”
Better yet, offering free shipping can entice your customers to do more shopping.
Flexible customer financing
With all the gift-giving going around, a lot of customers’ budgets will be stretched to their limit, especially if some of them are buying expensive things. Financing options can therefore be your customers’ best friend.
By some estimates, almost 70 percent of customers shopping online are open to using online financing for their purchases.
You can give your customers financing options like PayPal Credit, which allows them to pay over time and allows you to get your money upfront with no risk involved.
Who doesn’t like a good discount during the holidays?
In fact, some holidays are known specifically for the amount of discounts retailers offer, holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, your job isn’t to offer your customers a good bargain; your job is to offer your customers a bargain that is better than the one offered at your competitor’s site.
There are many ways you can offer discounts. You could just go for the old-fashioned price slash, but be warned: Customers are so used to getting price discounts that they don’t begin to notice until you knock more than 40 percent off of the price.
Another option is to offer your customers bundles, which is similar to how Xbox and PlayStation sell their consoles: They offer a free game when you buy their product.
A third option is that of gift cards, which can become a gift unto itself.
In the spirit of saving your customers time, you might want to offer them free Christmas wrapping. Not only will it make their lives easier, but it may also become the reason they do business with you in the first place.
Given all the data floating around, you really have no excuse not to offer each and every customer a personalized experience whenever they visit your site.
Also, there is a lot of software out there that leverages machine learning and AI to help you tailor your customers’ experiences.
Sell on social media
You’re not limited to selling your products from your store; if you have a strong following on social media, you can use that to sell your products.
In fact, seeing as people spend almost a third of their time online browsing through social media, you should start building a following if you don’t have one.
And, almost every social media has its own version of a marketplace where you can sell your products without ever needing the customer to visit your site.
Optimize for mobile
From 2016 to 2017, sales done via mobiles and tablets in America increased by almost 40 percent, reaching 31.8 billion dollars.
This should come as no surprise as smartphones are on the rise, becoming more ubiquitous within the world: an average American home contains around five connected devices.
With the mobile taking a larger slice of the eCommerce cake, you want to be on that train and make the most of it.
One of the essential areas that you need to focus on when it comes to mobile is checkout because an inconvenient or complicated checkout process will make you lose customers.
Upselling is an old tradition that has existed as long as there have been retail stores.
Nevertheless, with today’s technology and your ability to personalize the customer’s experience, you should invest more effort in figuring out how you can get your customers to spend more money at your store.
They have already made the decision to do business with you, so they’ll probably purchase more things from you should they be reasonably priced. Just make sure not to upsell anything that costs more than 60 percent of the original order’s price.
Use live chat and phone support
Customers willing to spend money on your site need to know that you are available to help them should anything go wrong. It means that you have to offer them a customer support line that is open 24/7 during the holidays.
It may seem like a simple thing, but it goes a long way towards making your customers feel safer doing business with you.
Manage your inventory well
Many things we mentioned in this article won’t be possible if you don’t properly manage your inventory. You will have a hard time offering fast shipping, you might run out of stock without even knowing it, and you might end up losing money because of hidden costs.
This is not to mention that poor management of your inventory can have a ripple effect. For instance, you could lose customers because the last thing anyone wants to see is that the product they want is out of stock or will take more than a week to arrive.
Reduce abandoned carts
Most eCommerce stores are used to customers filling up a shopping cart only to leave it at the checkout process, if not before that.
There are several reasons behind this behavior: Maybe the customers changed their mind at the last minute, maybe they just got distracted by something else and forgot, or perhaps they were never sure that they wanted to buy from you in the first place.
In any case, you can still win some of those people back.
- You can send them an email, reminding them of the cart they abandoned.
- You can give them an offer with their purchase, one that expires after a limited time.
- Or, you can use a popup that addresses the customer just as they are about to abandon the cart.
Winning on the holidays:
Whereas most people look forward to the holidays because it is a time to rest and spend time with family, eCommerce stores should be looking forward to the holidays because of all of the extra revenue it pulls in.
That said, fierce competition can make it difficult for your store to stand out, which is why you need to think of unique and creative ways to get maximum value from your customers.
When thinking about your holiday strategy, there are two things you want to ask yourself: How am I going to acquire the largest amount of customers? How am I going to get maximum revenue from them?
As for the first question, you can acquire customers by doing a few tweaks to your site and by offering them specific holiday specials.
As for maximizing the revenue you get, well, you should be an expert on that by now.
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters