10 Tips for Boosting Online Holiday Sales

Many of the suggestions from PFSweb, a Dallas-based e-commerce solutions provider, can simply be considered best practices that online merchants should practice year-round. But it doesn’t hurt to review them as you gear up for the holiday season. So, without further ado, here are PFSweb’s 10 tips for improving customers’ online shopping experience—and subsequently, your sales:

1) Be honest. “Online shoppers are turned off by hidden charges and murky return policies. Be clear about taxes, shipping and handling charges, and return and exchange policies so that there are no surprises when it’s time for consumers to check out.”

2) Provide order status updates. Customers now expect e-mails notifying them that you’ve received the order, processed the order, and shipped the order. “From a consumer perspective, they placed an order in ‘cyberspace,’ and without ongoing communication from you on the progression of that order and delivery information, this loss of control creates apprehension.”

3) Provide stellar customer service. “Consumers want online retailers to offer the option of toll-free numbers to call, in addition to live online customer service representatives to interact with. Be very aware of response times, abandonment rates, and other performance metrics that can directly impact frustration levels. Automated form-letter responses to e-mail inquiries are ineffective and ultimately a turnoff to the consumer. Consumers have been conditioned that ‘Internet time’ equals ‘instantaneous,’ so the closer an online retailer can get to instantaneous, the better.”

4) Make sure your site is efficient. Don’t strip your site of the niceties that distinguish your brand, but at the same time make sure any enhancements do not slow down or complicate the shopping experience.

5) Make use of customization and personalization features. “Attempt to capture key information about each customer, whether you are offering registration in exchange for newsletters and special offers or capturing broad data during the checkout process. If you can get a customer to log in, serve product selections and special offers that are directly pertinent to that customer’s buying habits. Always offer additional services, such as gift-wrapping, multiple ship-to address capabilities, and customized gift card inclusion.”

6) Reward loyalty. “Ideally, your loyalty marketing programs will convert at least 30% of newly acquired customers to repeat buyers. There are many ways to deploy high-impact loyalty marketing. For example, once the consumer reaches a spending threshold, send him an unexpected token gift, such as free shipping offer, a discount code or small gift to say, ‘We value your business.’”

7) Make security a priority. What with continual reports of data breaches and new online scams, it’s no wonder that security concerns remain one of the top reasons consumers won’t place orders online. “Keep consumers informed on the necessary and most recent security measures implemented for the sole purpose of protecting their personal and financial information. This requires proactive communication tactics that are highly visible during the shopping experience and particularly during the checkout process.”

8) Make privacy a priority too. “Privacy policies should be easy to find and simply stated. Consumers are more inclined to disclose information and register with your site when you have effectively assured them of adherence to privacy policies. Online retailers should disclose up front how personal data from site visitors would be used internally as well as shared externally.”

9) Clarify advertising from information. “This includes in-house advertising as well as affiliate marketing. Search engines, shopping tools, and portals should clearly disclose paid placement advertising, so consumers may distinguish between objective search results and marketing messages. The site’s sponsorship policies and partnerships should be clearly noted in accompanying text or on the ‘About Us’ page.”

10) If you have stores, promote them on your site. “Consumers today feel more comfortable knowing that a Web retailer exists outside the Web. If your establishment has physical locations, make it very clear that a consumer can step outside your virtual store and see your product in person before they make his purchasing decision.”

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