November is upon us, and presumably, your holiday campaigns are in full swing. You’ve done all your homework to make sure your promotional calendar can keep the promises they advertise, considering the difficult supply and order fulfillment realities you must work around this Christmas. Now, with those promotional strategies doing their thing, it’s the time to hunker down and ensure that the demand your marketing will bring in is going to be properly served with the best eCommerce experience, given today’s global state and the resulting preference to shop online.
Experts have been saying for months that the holiday shopping season is to start early this year; Amazon’s Prime Day, which took place in early October, proved that a pocket of shoppers is, indeed, eager to get ahead on their holiday shopping lists. However, Pitney Bowes Inc. found that as of late October, 58% of shoppers are still procrastinating.
Retailers are thus faced with a unique challenge of managing surging volumes from last-minute shoppers on their online channels, delivering a great gift experience, and ensuring timely shipments of an increased number of gifts directly to the recipient. This challenge is only intensified by consumers’ elevated expectations of retailers’ digital capabilities since the pandemic hit – expecting nothing short of online excellence to win over their business. Let’s take a look at the top 4 actions to take to secure holiday success, even if other plans don’t go exactly as intended…
- Be ready to properly serve the Smartphone Shopper
The pandemic has supercharged the adoption and usage of smartphones for shopping and payment. eMarketer.com reports that this year (2020), 44.3% of eCommerce sales are coming from mobile devices. In line with this statistic, a major behavioral change is occurring where a large slice of traditional holiday shopping (brick & mortal, and desktop website) is also moving over to m-Commerce. In fact, Adobe predicts that 42% of shopping will be done on smartphones this holiday season. Thus, your products need to be available to your consumers where they’ll be shopping. This doesn’t only mean having a great mobile website and ensuring speed, navigation, readability, product images and security and top-notch for today’s convenience-reliant shoppers. You also need to make your products available for purchase on all the online channels that your consumers will be cruising during their casual browsing time. As such, ensure that you are using social selling platforms adequately so that these casual browsers can be converted into paying customers for your brand. This year, a visit to any one of your shopping channels is much more valuable than the actual order, because consumers are expected to visit 18% fewer pages per order. So, getting to them and catering to their shopping needs right from where they’re spending a lot of their smartphone usage time (over 144 minutes daily on Social Media sites) is essential to scooping up a significant piece of the holiday expenditures pie this year. Of course, make sure that your social commerce offers the same excellent shopping experience as your webstore by paying special attention to all the elements of e/mCommerce that are important to consumers.
- Mitigate Shipping Issues From the Get-Go
In any ordinary year, Adobe estimates that shoppers request direct-to-recipient delivery 18% more during the holiday season; yet with less people gathering for celebrations this year, retailers should be readying themselves for an even higher percentage. In addition, shoppers and retailers are dealing with the struggle of shipping issues and hiked shipping pricing. Major delivery companies like USPS and FedEx have made announcements urging shoppers to plan for delayed deliveries, and retailers need to echo these announcements all over their website! Be clear about delivery times, perhaps even giving worst-case-scenario lead times to paint a better picture of the situation (obviously, when things arrive earlier than your estimate, it is a great look for your brand name!). Many experts also suggest offering free shipping for a set period of time, with clearly communicated cut-off dates, to drive sales earlier and mitigate the potential issues of last-minute shopping. Seeing as free shipping is often a deciding factor for purchase, and that 64% of consumers still won’t be willing to pay for expedited shipping despite this unprecedented season, taking any opportunity to encourage early shopping can help your organization manage high shipping demands without overloading your resources or disappointing customers. You may also want to consider broadening your carrier network or adding drop-shipping to your delivery options. Not only can this diminish the risk of low stock for products, but it can also get the product to its recipient more efficiently. This option is especially great if you offer value-added services like product personalization, where the turn-around time to fulfill and deliver these on-demand products can be significantly reduced.
- If you have a physical store, get your BOPIS strategy on-point
People are worried about getting their packages on time this season, which is no surprise. Pitney Bowes Inc. reports that small businesses are the least trusted by consumers to handle deliveries well, but the level of worry is significant across all types of retailers. This worry, coupled with the general shopper’s procrastination to get holiday shopping started, could create a very frustrating season for all involved. Thus, online retailers who also have a physical store are urged to take the BOPIS (Buy online, pick-up in store) option seriously by either starting to offer this immediately or by ironing out any kinks to their existing strategies ASAP. Organization and communication will be key here. Perhaps, to avoid lines of shoppers waiting to pick-up their orders, create a “pick-up by appointment” plan. This will help your in-store staff to prepare for their day of order pick-ups, and it will further ensure that your consumers receive timely service with the shortest wait time possible. Considering that the BOPIS model has taken off this year due to consumers feeling safer this way than buying in-store, it is important to be sympathetic to their uneasiness of being in/around crowded areas and take extra steps to make sure flocks of shoppers don’t end up gathering in front of your store to pick up their online orders.
- Give a differentiated gift shopping experience
Every retailer is going to be competing with your shop to get the consumer to enter their online shop this season. Everyone’s digital advertising budgets are working extra hard to convert visitors into paying customers with their special offers. Take your offerings beyond discounts and sales this year. For starters, ensure that you’ve prepared your site in a way that makes gift shopping easy – create categories of bestsellers/popular gift ideas, and even categories with products faring particularly well with a specific type of recipient (for Him, for Her, for Teens, etc.) to inspire the gift giver. But for a truly differentiated gift shopping experience, consider including some simple value-adding extras with your offering that you know you can commit to. Things like gift wrapping and personal printed messages are a great way to augment the gifting experience during these socially distant festivities. Also consider steps to help keep the secret on direct-to-recipient gift orders. First, let the shoppers easily indicate that their order is a gift – perhaps have a disclaimer during checkout to help the shoppers understand what it might entail for the delivery of the order if they DON’T indicate it is a gift. From there, take extra caution to ensure that no pricing or product details appear on any packing/slips that could spoil the surprise.
Rapidly adjusting for the upcoming rush according to these 4 points can let you rest a little easier this year, knowing you’ve prepared for the covid holiday shopping season with the most pertinent new consumer behaviors at the forefront of all your strategies. Wishing you a joyous and successful season!