How to offer a seamless shopping experience this holiday season

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Traditionally, holiday shopping has centred around the Black Friday with merchants building their discount strategy based on a frenzied weekend of spending. Inflation and rising energy costs in 2022, however, have altered the retail landscape with over 58% of consumers having begun their holiday shopping before November to spread the financial strain over a longer period.

Financial uncertainty means that while shopping earlier, consumers are exercising more consideration before making their holiday purchases. In order to win a greater share of consumers wallets this year, merchants need to offer a personalised and flexible online shopping experience. With less money to spend, customers are shopping smarter, prioritising value and convenience when choosing where to shop online. Delivering a frictionless experience at every touchpoint will help merchants to cultivate brand loyalty, drive revenue and influence repeat purchases.

Meghan Stabler, senior vice president  at leading global Open SaaS ecommerce platform, BigCommerce, shares her thoughts on how merchants can ensure their ecommerce store not only survives, but thrives, this holiday season.

Marketplace integration is essential

An omnichannel strategy is the cornerstone of any successful ecommerce business, especially when it comes to the holiday shopping season. Social media channels have become social commerce channels where merchants sell, market and serve customers. via marketplaces, at pop-up events, on mobile devices and sometimes even through smart speakers or game systems.

This year in particular, as consumers are taking a more considered and bargain-minded approach to gift-buying, third-party marketplaces are growing in popularity. Already this year, Amazon Prime members have bought more than 100 million items during Amazon’s Prime Early Access Sale.

To benefit from online marketplaces, merchants must have a strong omnichannel presence which enables them to meet customers where they are and ensure a frictionless path to purchase journey. By syncing inventories and merging sales data, brands can present honest, real-time stock availability information to the consumer. With ongoing supply-chain uncertainty, this can help build customer loyalty that will future-proof sales as we move into 2023.

Offer multiple payment options

A poor checkout experience can make or break a sale. Offering a simple and quick checkout process, including a variety of payment options will help merchants to minimise cart abandonment.

The rise of alternative payment methods such contactless, digital wallets and cryptocurrency payments are diversifying customer preferences when it comes to checkout, especially amongst younger demographics. With digital payment trends showing no sign of slowing down, merchants must offer diverse payment options if they are to secure sales. Adding a digital wallet is an easy first step.

A standout among the alternative payment methods this holiday season is Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL), which allows consumers to pay later for their purchases in instalments with no interest or fees, as long as they make their payments on time. With recession and inflation a mounting concern in the UK, consumers are welcoming solutions which fit purchases into their budgets, particularly when they are buying big ticket items. A National Retail Federation (NRF) survey conducted in late September revealed that 25% of consumers plan to use services like BNPL to help cover the cost of gifts and other holiday items this year. To maximise on holiday gifting, brands should look to implement BNPL options within their storefront.

Optimise for mobile

Mobile sales are expected to reach a value of $710 billion by 2025, making up over 10% of all retail sales, owing to growing trends towards social commerce and shopping on the move. To deliver a truly omnichannel experience, merchants must ensure that their store is optimised for both desktop and mobile viewing.

Merchants can enhance the mobile shopping experience through:

●  Location-based shipping estimates/product availability

●  Using the above-the-fold area to highlight the latest discounts

●  Removing pop-ups and sidebars as they add friction

●  Pre-filled customer details during check-out to avoid mistakes

●  Offering guest users the option to email their shopping list to finish shopping on the desktop

●  Added support for digital wallets to speed up the checkout process

Create the best possible ecommerce experience

The aim of any ecommerce merchant should be to create a positive shopping experience at every touchpoint. As pressures on consumer wallets increase, easing the stress of online shopping should be a top priority for merchants.

To deliver a seamless and stress-free shopping experience, investment in composable commerce is essential. With this approach, merchants can tailor their tech stacks with interchangeable and best-in-breed solutions that best fit their needs and that can evolve over time. 

With enquiries likely to be high during the holiday season, investing in strong customer service features will help to proactively and efficiently solve customers issues to avoid frustration. Self-help pages can quickly resolve the most common customer questions, whilst chat-bot features relieve the pressure off staff members to answer basic queries.

Whether it be checkout customisation, marketplace integration or mobile optimisation, having the technological tools to support your ecommerce storefront will be essential for building brand loyalty and driving revenue that will future-proof your business throughout the holiday season and into 2023.

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