When it comes to ecommerce, 2020 has been a year like no other and there’s no sign of that yet abating. With many supply chains struggling to get goods out on time during lockdown earlier this year, the IMRG recently issued a warning to shoppers that they should plan their Christmas shopping early to avoid disappointment.
Jim Herbert, general manager of BigCommerce EMEA, shares his advice with retailers on how to optimise – and handle – this exacerbated seasonal rush.
Communicating with customers
It’s clear that shoppers are already picking up on the perceived need to get their Christmas shopping done early. According to a survey conducted by OnePoll, two-thirds of Britons will have completed their holiday shopping before the end of November. Similarly John Lewis has reported its Christmas shop sales are already 63% higher than the same time in 2019.
While creating demand through techniques like showing online shoppers how many other people are looking at the same product are powerful, balanced messaging this year will be important to avoid panic buying. In such an uncertain climate, communication is key and reassuring customers that there is still time to get what they need will be more meaningful than promoting a sense of FOMO. Site stickiness – in short keeping customers on your site for longer – is beneficial too. Highlighting engaging content to entertain and attract attention is great for “stickiness” and is particularly important with physical shops being closed.
To ensure you’re able to keep up with the rush, time any customer offers around slower points in your operations and consider starting reductions earlier than usual. With social distancing also putting pressure on warehousing spaces, creating a steadier flow of sales will help you deliver a more consistent service across the whole festive period.
Strength-testing your platform
Ecommerce websites will be under more pressure than ever this year, with the BRC reporting that in the three months leading up to October 2020, non-food retail sales increased by 4% and continued to grow year-on-year over the course of the month. According to Google, a delay of five seconds on load speed can increase bounce rate by 90%. Optimising site speed is a must.
Similarly avoiding downtime during key shopping periods is paramount. Site downtime can cost businesses $5,600 per minute according to Gartner research. Do as much testing of your site as possible in advance, from capacity to functionality, to ensure a seamless performance on the night.
Optimising the sales process
With the shops shut, a lot of pre-Christmas shopping will take place online this year. Without physical factors of parking and store location to take into account, the digital marketplace will be more competitive and crowded than ever.
Firstly, make sure your products are easy to find. Ensure they have clear descriptions and attractive photography. Based on the popular Hick’s Law, many industry experts believe simply-designed ecommerce websites could have higher conversion rates. Avoid cluttering the site with too many sources of conflicting information or products, and outline clear calls to action, such as “buy now” or add to basket.
Optimising your omnichannel approach is also important. It is forecast that by 2021 the global social commerce market will grow by 31%, with 87% of consumers taking an action after seeing product information on Instagram. Ensuring you understand where your audiences are and engaging with them in their native environments is beneficial. Marks & Spencer has seen over one million new customers, following the relaunch of its loyalty app in time for Christmas and Black Friday. Consistency in brand experience is key to nurturing loyalty, so only take on the channels you know you can manage to a high standard.
Lastly, checkout and returns. Again, here it’s about convenience. Offering multiple payment options at checkout and removing the need for shoppers to have a card to hand speeds up the process significantly. Choice here is key and the more methods you can provide, the better. A peak in online shopping is going to see a surge in returns and with movement once again limited, couriers and postal services are addressing this challenge. Royal Mail recently announced its new ‘Drop and Collect’ service, a first for the company, which allows customers to have parcels collected from their doorstep for just 72p.
Driving festive cheer and business success
Whether you’ll be seeing family and friends in person or are looking to Hermes or the Royal Mail to play Father Christmas, showing your loved ones you’re thinking about them will be more important than ever for many of us. Online retailers will be in demand this year. Keep front of mind the role you can play in bringing a little magic to everyone’s festive season, while ensuring your business is set for success.