Six Trends in Online Excellence

What does your website need to succeed for the holiday season and beyond? Lauren Freedman, president of e-commerce consultancy E-tailing Group, shared six trends and takeaways during her Sept. 16 keynote at the NEMOA conference in Newport, RI.

Exceptional brand experience. Trust starts with a strong value proposition, and creative inspiration invigorates the customer, Freedman said. A “wow” experience begins with service, from home-page visibility of an 800-number to timely delivery and a no-questions-asked return policy. “Comprehensive information creates confidence, whereas live help can seal the deal,” she said.

Shopping efficiency. This begins with on-site search, Freedman noted. “Customer who shop online are control freaks,” she said. They want to drive the shopping experience via search, and they want to be able to sort their search results. Shopping by navigation (such as “shop by size” options) is also gaining ground, Freedman said.

Comprehensive and compelling information. “Product pages are truly developing into destinations,” Freedman said. Enhancing products with imagery, rich media, alternate views and so on helps to instill consumer confidence, she explained, while “video merchandising delivers an experiential overtone.”

Promotional prowess. Your promotions should be fueled by creative efforts to drive customer acquisition and cross-channel traffic, Freedman said. For instance, she said, many merchants introduce limited-time-only offers and test unique locations “to try to get the sale today.”

Community involvement. “Gathering customer input is a must today,” Freedman said that customer ratings and reviews is the most important capability for retailers to have on their sites today.

Testing social media channels also merits your attention, she added. “Blogs add new communication and SEO dimensions to selling.” It’s not just about selling, however. Freedman said that social media can be a source for information on product taxonomy on merchandise for your buyers.

Gifting excellence. While Freedman is cautiously optimistic about the fourth quarter, she predicted that “consumers will be frugal this holiday season, and deal seekers will be on the prowl.” To capitalize on promotions, build out a calendar that includes key selling dates, Freedman said, noting that merchants have 29 days to market to customers after Thanksgiving.

Make sure you visually expose your gift card offers, putting them at the footer level of your site. Use e-mail campaigns to drive last-minute purchasing, “and assess if wish list functionality is appropriate s for your business,” Freedman said.

Also important: Focus on having products in stock, she said, “and communicate with customers early about backorder status.”

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