In 2016, ecommerce is expected to break new ground. According to PwC’s 2016 Holiday Outlook report, while overall holiday spending may increase by 10% compared to 2015, online buying in particular is expected to increase by 25%. These predictions present a unique opportunity if you are an online business owner interested in boosting sales.
To help you and your business prepare to earn a larger piece of the multibillion-dollar pie, take a look at the tips below.
Offering consumers a successful user experience on your website is critical to online sales. As this holiday season kicks off, now is the time to fix any bugs you discover on your site to make sure it’s in optimal condition. This is more than simply making sure everything is spelled correctly (although that’s certainly important too, of course).
Test Your Pages and Limit Distractions: Spend some time testing your links, coupon codes and shopping cart functions to make sure they are working properly. It’s also important to limit pop-ups, according to Kyla Roma, a business coach and digital strategist who specializes in brand growth and profitability.
“Visit your website with a private mobile browser to see what customers see,” Roma said. “Pop-ups and social sharing tools are often set to show for first-time visitors, and unfortunately, they sometimes take up so much of the screen or are [so] hard to close that they block purchases.”
Optimize for Multiple Devices: Think about how you and your friends do your online shopping—you may prefer to use your laptop, while your sister may opt for her cellphone and your best friend does everything from her tablet. No matter which platform you’re on, it’s important they all work smoothly.
In fact, according to a GfK study commissioned by Facebook IQ, customers who use a combination of computer, tablet and mobile devices expect a seamless experience across all platforms. In fact, 54% of those surveyed say that they are more likely to shop with retailers who pay attention to omni-channel usability. So, get your friends to try out your site on different platforms, using different browsers, to see if you discover any problems. If so, remedy them before the holiday shopping kicks off so you don’t lose potential business.
Contact Your Web Host: Without the proper support, high-volume traffic can lead to delayed page loading and website crashes. And according to Moz, an SEO consulting company, slow load times can have a detrimental effect on conversion rates. Review your hosting plan to ensure your site can withstand an influx of attention, and contact customer support if you have questions before launching your holiday promotions.
Create a Holiday-Specific Landing Page: Instead of having to click around to find your seasonal deals, holiday shoppers want instant access to the best deals you have on your site. Usher them in by creating an easy-to-navigate landing page that provides all the important details. This is a great tool to use when advertising, whether online or in another form of media, as it will send potential customers right where you want them to go.
Automate Forms when Possible: At publishing time, the average rate of online cart abandonment was 78% according to Listrak, a retail and email marketing firm. Online customers crave fast and easy checkout, and you might consider storing user information and allowing new customers to auto-fill their forms with information saved on their devices.
Offer Guest Checkout: Not everyone is crazy about joining an email list before checkout, or even creating a new username and password. Having a guest checkout option may help you retain sales instead of losing people simply due to an easy-to-fix annoyance.
Consider Shipping Discounts: Of those who prefer in-store shopping, 41% said that online shipping costs too much, which makes it difficult to compete with brick-and-mortar retailers. To help you remain competitive, consider reviewing your budget to see if discounted shipping is doable during the holidays. Promoting this as a selling point may even help you draw in more business.
The risks of buying online could drive customers to in-store shopping, so it’s important to alleviate concerns ahead of time. Here are some options to consider to help you do that.
Advertise Security: Shoppers who are concerned about identity theft are more likely to buy from a secure site. “With all the data breaches that have taken place recently, it’s important that your site is secure and your clients feel safe entering their information when checking out,” said Leslie Pritchard, marketing specialist at CARiD.com, a car part and accessory site based in Cranbury, New Jersey. Pritchard recommends relying on security software and advertising your efforts to help boost marketplace credibility.
Provide Service and Product Reviews: Many experts believe that sales rely on peer recommendation. Keith Anderson, an ecommerce analyst for Profitero.com, an ecommerce analytics service, said integrating them into your holiday sales can make all the difference. “Higher numbers of reviews and better quality star ratings can lead to higher sales, so brands must also focus on driving positive shopper engagement this season,” Anderson said.
Offer Easy Returns: A clearly defined return policy is crucial for customers who may not be satisfied with their holiday purchase or want to know how the eventual recipient can return or exchange products they aren’t happy with. You might also consider offering free returns to sweeten the deal.
Instead of simply hoping people will stumble across your site when searching for your product, think about driving traffic by enticing users with email marketing.
Prepare Early: Launching a successful email campaign requires organization. “Pre-write important emails and social media updates,” Roma said. “Draft up and schedule as much as you can in advance. You’ll have lots to do during holiday sales, and worrying about wording shouldn’t be on your list.”
Personalize Content and Offerings: Learning about your customers is an effective way to personalize email communication and promote sales. Consider categorizing your subscriber list based on previous purchases and sending targeted offerings and products to each group. Save time by using an email service provider that offers list-building tools and automation support.
Get Personal: Just as customers respond to tailored offerings, they may be more likely to buy from your site if they feel a personal connection. Consider tweaking your About page to include employee bios and adding a post to your blog to include information about your favorite seasonal items. Include links to these pages in your emails to encourage customer engagement, both on site and on social media. Adding personal touches can help customers feel as if they are supporting individual owners rather than faceless corporations.
An attractive incentive is a great way to boost sales and encourage user opt-ins according to Abby Lawson, blogging coach, entrepreneur and owner of Just a Girl and Her Blog. “The easiest way to grow this list is by offering something related to what you sell in your shop for free: a free course, a PDF tutorial or pattern, a helpful checklist, etc.,” Lawson said.
If your site’s focus is retail products, you might consider a one-time coupon code or a line of credit that rivals the best mainstream store credit cards on the market. Whatever your strategy, it’s important to offer worthwhile value. Give them something they can’t refuse.
The holidays are full of shopping frenzy, and it’s possible to harness the atmosphere by injecting a sense of urgency into your sales strategy. For example, you might offer a limited-time discount to encourage ambivalent shoppers to take the buying leap.
“I think the most crucial part of creating urgency is pricing,” Lawson said. “Starting low also rewards early adopters for acting soon and purchasing right away, which is good for customer satisfaction. And then of course a low ‘introductory’ or ‘launch’ price gives me the opportunity to raise the price to create urgency and get people off the fence and ready to purchase.”
Increase your visibility by connecting with other business owners who offer complementary products and services. For example, your web designer friend may be interested in selling your graphics as a package during his own holiday sale. Talk to your colleagues about ways to collaborate this year. Creating multiple marketing streams could help boost your income.
The web is an undeniable force in the retail market. Position yourself for success by taking advantage of the tools and strategies available.