Here we are in the post-summer lull — your mind is probably a million miles away from even thinking about the holidays and what it means for your online store. But realistically, we’re less than two months away from Black Friday, and now is the time to start strategizing about how to increase holiday sales.
Online sellers continue to post gains during the holiday season, but there is ever-increasing competition, and it’s important that your website honors the user experience so you can keep customers returning and win new business.
How to increase holiday sales — now is the time
A quick pre-holiday review of your site can help you get your share of holiday season sales. So how exactly are you currently losing online sales? Let’s take a look at ten of the most common offenses, and how you can turn things around in time for the holiday season.
You force your customers to create an account
Your dream customer is likely someone who visits your site once, shares lots of demographic information and makes a big purchase. Dream on! The fact is that if you’re lucky enough to make a sale during the holiday season, you may never see that customer again.
You can improve the odds by working to improve your customer experience, product line, and other facets of your business. But don’t risk losing a sale by requiring customers to create an account on your site to make a purchase.
Especially with mobile shoppers, offering a “guest checkout” is essential. As an alternative, if you must require an account, use a plugin that allows your customers to easily create one through their existing social profiles, such as Facebook.
You have no abandonment strategy
So you’ve successfully gotten a user to click the button to add your product into her shopping cart. But you can’t celebrate just yet.
Recent studies have shown that the current average rate of shopping cart abandonment is a staggering 68.63%. That means almost 70% of people who add an item to their cart will leave your site before finalizing the purchase. While you can’t bring that number down to zero, there are steps you can take to bring it down to a more palatable number.
While controversial at best, and annoying at worst, exit-intent popups can be very effective at increasing holiday sales.
Here’s how it works:
A customer has added an item to his cart, but he decides to leave the site. But a popup reminder is triggered when he moves his mouse to the back button or url input field in his browser. Essentially, the browser realizes his intent to leave the site, and then hits him with a simple reminder:
You have an item in your cart. Are you sure you want to leave?
This simple statement has been shown to increase sales you may have otherwise lost. And if you can offer a deal (10% off this purchase) at this point, your success rate will go even higher.
You’re not optimized for mobile
It’s important to evaluate your site’s mobile experience from the viewpoint of a busy shopper. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones for shopping and purchases.
Research shows that mobile shoppers prefer a prominent “call to action.” Other favorite features include allowing users to “swipe” to view a photo gallery and offering a keypad to make entering numbers easier.
As the mobile audience has grown, retailers first adapted websites to work with a small screen. The emphasis now is to optimize the mobile experience either with apps or app-like features.
On a desktop or mobile device, consumers want speed. Retailers have learned that there is a clear connection between the time a site takes to load and sales.
Web designers use a variety of techniques to help sites load quickly. Minimizing HTTP requests, reducing server response time, enabling browser caching and compression, and optimizing images are just a few of the ways a designer can reduce loading time.
Research also shows that user perception of speed is an important consideration. Use of color psychology, progress indicators, and a prominent CTA are among ways designers can “speed up” website loading, at least in the consumer’s perception.
Your customer service is lacking
I’m sure you’ve had the experience of walking into an unfriendly retail store. While many retailers understand the importance of greeting customers and making them feel welcome, some miss the mark and lose business as a result.
The same goes for online shopping. Do everything you can to create a personalized user experience so your web visitor will feel valued.
Displaying products the shopper viewed recently or recommending similar products are ways an e-commerce site can increase holiday sales.
You’re not making it easy for customers to find what they want
If you offer a large number of goods, offering customers a way to search based on filters is essential to the user experience. The value of your filtered search is directly related to your product description, so keep this in mind when developing descriptions.
The ability to quickly search for products based on their needs or interests can help you make sales you would miss without this feature.
You aren’t providing enough enticing details
A clear, factual description of products is essential for e-commerce success. Using keywords to improve your success with search engines is important, but shoppers are looking for specific information to make sure the product will work for them, so keep that in mind.
Use of a template to make sure you include information about size (dimensions), color, and other details is a good idea.
Consider other ways to provide the customer with product information. Using video, zoom, and 360-degree views are ways you can help shoppers gain greater confidence about whether a product is right for them.
Also be sure your descriptions are honest. Online shoppers won’t return if they feel a product was inaccurate and even worse, they’ll share their disappointment with their friends on social media.
You only accept one form of payment
If you accept only credit or debit card payments on your website, you may be missing lots of business.
The recent launch of Apple Pay for the web, in addition to PayPal, reflects consumer interest in making an online purchase with other than a credit card or directly with a debit card. Consumers like Apple Pay and PayPal because they allow them to shop without providing credit or debit card numbers, and they feel more secure with this arrangement. Another added benefit of a PayPal checkout process, is there is less for them to fill out, since PayPal can automatically fill in their shipping address, resulting in reduced cart abandonment.
You can set up additional payment options for your customers easily, and it’s critical for e-commerce success.
You have limited shipping options
Consumers want to get their products quickly and with as little expense as possible.
What does this mean for the smaller online retailer? Can you offer free, fast shipping and remain competitive with pricing? Maybe not. But not offering your customer the option of paying more to get the product more quickly may be costing you business.
Your site doesn’t allow for reviews/ratings
Many people gain additional confidence while shopping by reading product reviews. If you don’t allow customers to leave reviews, you’re missing a great opportunity.
You may worry that reviews will be undeservedly bad. It’s possible that an unhappy customer will leave a bad review. It’s important to remember that unhappy customers may share their ire many places. But if they leave a bad review on your website, you have an opportunity to address it. A thoughtful response to a bad review will show shoppers that you care about customer experience.
Getting reviews may be the bigger problem. There are many ways you can break the ice and get reviews started. Don’t be afraid to ask customers to review your product or shopping experience. Today’s shoppers are very tuned-in to their peers and reviews can make a big difference in their product and shopping choices.
To put a bow on it …
Achieving success during the holiday shopping season is a process. If your review shows that you’re missing the mark in any area, take steps to improve where you can for the holidays — and if a major overhaul is needed, make plans to work on that early in 2017 to continue to increase holiday sales!
If you have an online store, which of these practices have you implemented to increase your online sales? If you have any advice to contribute, please leave it in the comments section below so others can benefit from your experience.