Tony is the Chief Marketing Officer here at Sales & Orders, along with heading up the inbound and customer marketings teams, Tony also oversees partnerships and branding for our award-winning company and platform.
While it may “only” be the end of summer, preparing your ecommerce business now for the impending insanity that is the holiday season couldn’t be more important than ever before.
Consumer confidence has been growing at a substantial rate since 2016 according to The Conference Board – and 2019 is poised to be a fantastic year for online retailers IF they can capitalize on the momentum.
Holiday shopping begins earlier and earlier every year fueled especially by the growth of mobile shopping over the years.
The time is nigh to start getting your store ready, so here are our top tips to prepare yourself for what is to come!
Keep Your Doors Open, Wide Open
The top reasons why visitors leave your store without purchasing revolve entirely around their initial experience. First impressions are everything so making sure your website loads quickly is paramount in those very first moments.
Consider imagining yourself as your customer and “pretending” to shop on your own store. What was it like? Did you find any areas for improvement?
It is beyond crucial that your website is not only prepared to support the heavier flow of traffic, but that it is also designed to help shoppers purchase faster OR even entice them to keep shopping even when they think they may be done.
- Uptime: Nothing could be worse than having all your marketing and advertising in place only to find that your store cannot handle the added influx of shoppers that the holidays bring. If you are on a hosted ecommerce platform, reach out to their support to ensure that you’ll be able to handle the increased traffic and transactions. For those of you with custom store builds, check in with your developer and have them do double, even triple checks on your infrastructure.
- Optimization Audit: Run a website check for those often-hidden weak points like broken image links, 404s, and bad navigation elements. Free tools like Google Search Console can make this process a lot faster and easier to handle.
- Ungated: Leave no stone unturned when investigating why visitors are not reaching checkout. Make sure there are no website elements that deter or detract from their experience while also ADDING elements that actually help your visitors complete their purchases. Consider looking into exit intent add-ons for your storefront and make sure there is nothing stopping shoppers from completing their purchase.
- Mobile-First: Today’s shoppers are almost always “on-the-go” so it is IMPERATIVE that your website is ready to support the added weight on the mobile side. Do a deep review of your mobile site, responsiveness, and usability. I would hate for you to lose out on smart phone shoppers just because they had a hard time navigating your site on a mobile device or were unable to checkout properly. You can use free tools like Google's Mobile-Friendly test to gain some insight into where you stand now.
Stock Up, Fulfill Well, Then Upsell
Considering the increase in sheer volume that the holidays usher in for ecommerce businesses, it is imperative that you boost inventory across your catalog – even if only on your top-most selling items.
But, having stock just isn’t enough these days. Being able to offer attractive and competitive shipping options is just as important.
Now, not saying you HAVE TO BE AMAZON (all with their 1-day and 2-day shipping options) but shoppers are going to be far less likely to purchase from you if your next competitor can save them some extra spending money with better fulfillment options.
- Low Stock Controls: If you can, combining minimum stock alerts with “overstocking” can greatly improve your ability to control when products are either available or unavailable on your storefront. Depending on your ecommerce solution, you may even be able to set automated thresholds so that if stock on a particular product drops below a certain amount, it is automatically removed from the storefront. This could potentially give you enough time to reorder enough units for the next major influx.
- Shipping Option Variety: Do you normally only offer select options for Shipping? You can easily make up the difference on your increased cost from offering even more rapid fulfillment options simply from volume of orders you can expect. Reach out to your fulfillment provider(s) now and see if they have any special offers running so you can save a bit more on additional shipping options.
- Piggyback Upselling: With enough stock and competitive shipping options comes an opportunity to further improve your returns – if you can drive up AOV (Average Order Value) through upselling. You can accomplish this in a number of ways, but one of the easiest is simply by displaying bundling options at the cart or checkout level. “People who bought this have also bought…..”
Promotions, Promotions, Promotions
One of the biggest mistakes that many retailers make is either simply not getting their promotions in order early enough OR not properly planning their promotions in advance with a set schedule.
If your on-site promotions don’t add up with your marketing and advertising message it can cause much confusion for your shoppers – potentially to the point of driving them away upon landing on your site.
However, it is also important to iron out the actual delivery of your promotions, especially if you plan on running more than one promotion at a time.
- Promotion Scheduling: The holidays bring different stages of the buying experience for Shoppers. There is pre, during, and post-holiday periods where shopping behavior can vary greatly. So, if you are planning on offering multiple promotions throughout the season, it is vital that you align the types of promotions with the stages of the buying experience. Consider ironing out a schedule for your promotions now and not later because it may be too late and you could be left scrambling to figure it out.
- Pre and Post Promotion: There is a tremendous opportunity to not only increase AOV but to also drive return shoppers by aligning “at purchase” promotions with their “post purchase” counterparts. One might consider a 10% off at purchase a pretty great deal – but it could be even better for you if you queue up an email to go out to previous buyers a few days after they visited with another offer if they come back to buy again (even if it’s the same 10% off). Just be sure to measure your shoppers’ savings against your cost and margins. If you are still profiting after multiple promotions, it’s a true win/win situation.
- Google Merchant Promotions: Running Shopping Ads? Have you enabled Merchant Promotions for your account? While currently only available in Australia, France, Germany, India, the UK, and the US, Merchant Promotions serve a dual purpose in improving your performance. For one, they deliver your offer in your advertising so that shoppers can interact with your ads at a different level. They also improve the appearance of your Shopping Ads by displaying a “Special Offer” tag directly on the ad copy itself. This can impact both your Click Through Rates and Conversion Rates.
Pro Tip: Did you know you can easily apply Promotion IDs to all or even select products using our Feed Tool's Modify Products tool? This completely eliminates the often time-consuming process of setting up a separate Promotions Feed in Merchant Center.
Mo’ Shoppers, Mo’ Clicks, Mo’ Budget
You have to spend money to make money, right? You could have everything all in place but without traffic to your website then it could be all for not.
If there is one thing you can expect from the holidays it is more people searching for the things they want. So, having the proper budget in place for your marketing and advertising campaigns is beyond crucial.
Running out of budget too early in the day, or worse, running out of budget entirely could spell doom for your sales. Make sure you invest a little more into your efforts especially during the holidays. With the right strategy in place, even the added expense can drive up profits.
- Choose Channels Wisely: One of the biggest detriments to your advertising budget is spreading it too thin between channels. Small businesses should consider emphasizing only the channel or channels that drive the highest return, or more importantly the highest profit. Look back throughout the year and even previous years. Analyze where your budget is working for you and where it may be working against you. Those with the budget to optimize for an omnichannel approach should also be doing the same. For you, balancing your budget across channels is key. Measure your past ROAS and invest more into your highest return points while minimizing or adding spend controls where you may not have an ideal return threshold.
- Expand Ad Formats: Let’s use Google Ads for example. Are you a 100% Shopping campaign advertiser? Do you plan on investing a bit more into your advertising this holiday season? Consider expanding your efforts outside of Shopping ads by queueing up some Search (ie Text ads) or Remarketing ads. Search campaigns allow you to hyper target based on keywords which can be immensely helpful for driving more traffic to either top performing products OR top performing product categories. If you aren’t using them yet, add Remarketing Audiences to your Shopping campaigns that align with the multiple stages of the purchase funnel. It, more so than not, often costs less to attract previous visitors than net new shoppers.
- Automate for The Win: It is the age of Machine Learning and there is plenty of opportunity to cut back on manual tasks and laborious optimization by adopting more automation into your marketing and advertising strategies. If you aren’t using them yet, research time-saving AI such as Google’s Smart Shopping Campaigns or even just their Smart Bidding For your demographic and behavioral-driven marketing look into Facebook (and Instagram) Dynamic Product Ads which utilize Facebook’s powerful machine learning capabilities to target your best buyer segments – even previous visitors and purchasers.
Double Down, When It Counts Most
Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t just two separate days anymore and Black Friday doesn’t necessarily have to be all about in-store any longer.
Those pinnacle “two days” have evolved into pretty much an entire week or more of mass influx of shoppers.
You’re for sure going to want to dial it in even further during this time.
- Beef Up Mobile Spend: Across your website and your marketing campaigns, it is vital to have an excellent mobile device experience. More so during these crucial days than ever before, you may want to consider building out dedicated mobile ad campaigns or at least kicking it up a notch by increasing spend on mobile device shoppers with bid adjustments.
- Dayparting Dropoff: Honestly, just increase your budget. Don’t skimp when it counts the most. Check to see when your ads are running out of spend and make sure that doesn’t happen. People shop all day and all night and from all different parts of the country/world – you’re going to want to be there. Your competitors will be (wink, wink).
- 10X Your Customer Service: While it can be harder for small businesses to keep up with the demand, that should be no excuse to provide a less than desirable customer-facing experience. It should be ALL HANDS ON DECK so get your staff in order and in line to deliver that awesome experience from start to finish. Keep your Live Chat manned as often as possible, be responsive to emails, and don’t neglect other communication channels like your Facebook Page and Messenger.
Its Not Over, Not by a Long Shot
Just because the holidays end doesn’t mean they end for you or your shoppers. Now that you have (hopefully) attracted a trove of new customers, its time to turn them into loyal repeat buyers.
Probability-speaking too though, with the increased volume in orders comes the potential for increased volume in returns so it is just as important to provide a hassle-free return policy and path for your shoppers.
- Drip Those Emails: This can begin whenever you want but sparking up a dedicated email drip for the post-holiday experience can show your customers that you care. It can be as simple as a 3-4 email series highlighting additional offers or as complex as a woven network of emails based on shopper behavior, order size, and even geographic location. Today’s shoppers also respond well to those little “special extras” like invitations to Loyalty Programs or Referral Rewards. Turn your customers into your brand advocates to expand your reach and attract additional revenue sources.
- Keep Campaigns Alive: Don’t just stop your marketing and advertising in their tracks. Not everyone shops the same way or at the same time. Keep some or at least one of your special offers running well after those key dates like Black Friday and Cyber Monday which have literally become an over 5-day series now. This can help you to draw in those “late buyer” personas.
- Past Learning: Take some time to review what you did last year and years before that. Look for areas to improve your post-holiday follow up. Spark up new advertising campaigns such as by leveraging unique ad types like Google Gmail Ads. There is a wealth of opportunity out there, much of which you may be completely unaware of.
- Gift Card Promo: Instead of those overused, outdated offer emails consider running a special email campaign that delivers a “Special Gift” like a free Gift Card for shoppers to use next time or even next season. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Take into account your margins and factor in AOV and maybe throw $5 at your top-most shoppers who spent a decent amount or purchased a large number of items at once.
- Build Audiences: Take this year’s new buyers and combine them with previous segments to build an audience that you can target now and in the future. You can get a little crazy and build super hyper-targeted segments or group shoppers together in larger more broad groups to use later on in future marketing efforts.