More consumers are expected to shop online this holiday season. Now is the time to make sure your retail website is ready to maximize the potential. Jamus Driscoll, VP of marketing at Demandware, Inc., an on demand eCommerce solutions provider, urges online merchants to consider the following:
1) Make sure your customers can find you. Eighty percent of shopping trips start with the search box, and that percentage increases during the holidays. Look through your search logs from last November forward to identify ways to improve site search effectiveness. Typical fixes include:
- Adding to synonym/hypernym dictionaries.
- Enhancing product descriptions, which calls for adding relevant keywords.
- Expanding product assortment. In time for the holidays, consider adding product lines that customers seem to want, but you don't yet carry.
2) Build out your affiliate network. Under current economic conditions, shoppers are going to be very savvy when looking for the best deal online. Now is the time to start building strong relationships with those affiliates that are likely to drive significant traffic and volume to your site during the holidays. Consider setting up automated product feeds to key shopping comparison sites such as GoogleBase, Shopzilla, NexTag and other sites that your customers frequent.
3) Set your product catalog. Pay particular attention to catalog readiness for cross selling and up selling opportunities, product related promotions and product categorization for easy navigation. Make sure products are easy to find by adding proper keywords for search results. Also, make sure you have the capability to cross merchandise products in different categories. During the holidays, you'll want to present a given product in both its "home" category, such as men's shirts, and also theme, event or occasion based categories such as, "Gifts for Dad," "Pre Thanksgiving Sale," "Hot Gift Ideas," etc.
4) Prepare holiday enhancements.
- Add wish list functionality. By helping customers create the list and linking other people to that list, you not only convert a wish to a completed sale, you also reduce returns and increase customer satisfaction.
- Promote gift certificates and gift cards. Promote gift certificates on the homepage and other frequently visited landing pages, and add the ability to redeem them to the checkout process. Gift certificate purchases have grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years.
- Offer gift wrapping. This service adds convenience and creates differentiation from other retailers. It also helps your customers save time during the busy holiday season, which will ultimately build customer loyalty.
5) Segment your audience. The holidays are the season for gifts. Most shoppers are buying for other people. For example, if you're a jeweler, anticipate that men will be buying for women. Change the look and feel, products and promotions for the type of audience that is going to be buying during the holidays.
6) Give clues to best sellers and gift ideas. Highlight these items on your homepage to provide additional gift ideas for uncertain shoppers. Create detailed gift guides based on the recipient, the price point and other elements to lead customers to a purchase.
7) Engage in testing now. Enlist objective observers to test your new site design concepts, features and functionality to get some real world data before settling on what you'll ultimately go with during the holidays.
8) Get creative with promotions. Don't just use flat discounts to drive traffic. Think about the long term relationship with the customer. Think about loyalty based promotions that will create repeat customers and word of mouth marketing. Also create a sense of urgency by making "order by" dates and time sensitive offers part of your promotional strategy.
9) Leverage social merchandising. Beyond adding a comments and review section on product pages, consider these other social merchandising tactics:
- Allowing customers to create desired outfits or bundles of multiple products, and saving/sending these to friends and family.
- Enabling/encouraging customers to post favored products to their Facebook or MySpace profiles, or to vertical networking sites such as StyleFeeder.
- Making use of instant messaging, mobile marketing/advertising and RSS as channels for holiday marketing and promotional campaigns.
10) Update inventory on product pages. Nothing infuriates a customer more than to find out that the product is out of stock after the completion of the checkout process. Post inventory levels on every product page to set expectations for customers and also create a sense of urgency when levels are low. Make this a year-round practice.
Demandware offers the only enterprise class on-demand eCommerce platform that provides retailers total control over the shopping experience and continuous competitive differentiation. It is backed by a patented architecture that delivers capacity as needed. For more information, visit www.demandware.com or call 888-553-9216.
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