The Holiday Season May Be Over, But Its Lessons Aren’t

There should be dedicated vacation packages for online retailers recovering from the intensity of the holiday season. With many e-commerce sites raking in almost a quarter of annual revenues in just a few short, hectic weeks – it’s easy to understand why some decompression is in order.

But even as they’re sipping a cool drink on a remote sandy beach while the bean counters back home total yearly revenues, make no mistake: hard-core online retailers are already thinking about next year’s holiday season.

The good news is that this holiday season did not just yield a wealth of, well, wealth. It also yielded an unprecedented amount of customer behavior data. As of this writing, you know far, far more about what and how your customers shop and buy on your site than you did a month ago. And that means that next holiday season – and year leading up to it – have the potential to be staggeringly better.

So, now that the ornaments have come down, it’s time to deep dive into the what and why of your customers’ holiday shopping behavior. Here are some actionable tips to help you leverage holiday sales metrics for success in the coming year:

Make Your Awesome UX Even More Awesome

It’s no secret that in a crowded market, user experience is a key differentiator. Use holiday shopping insights to enhance yours. Comb through aggregated data from customer holiday shopping experiences, and watch replays of individual shopping sessions. What exact pages, products, or page elements captured attention, and what led to dropoffs?  Challenge your interaction design team find and rectify the small user experience issues that can have such a huge impact on conversions.

Learn from Non-Specific VoC 

You’ve already addressed specific and clearly actionable holiday season Voice of Customer feedback – broken links, faulty form functionality, etc – most likely in near real time.

Now is the time to go back to the non-specific comments, and investigate the origin of the sentiments like “Worst site ever!” and “I couldn’t buy anything on your dumb site!” This type of complaint can indicate significant usability issues. Whether the customer couldn’t quite put his or her finger on the issue, or didn’t want to take the time to specify – something seriously degraded his or her overall experience. You need to find that something.

Dig into the customer journeys that triggered representative instances of non-specific negative feedback. Replay sessions that preceded the submission of the feedback. Create aggregate heatmaps for customers who left similar messages to reveal common underlying page-level issues. Leverage today’s powerful, sophisticated customer experience analysis tools to gain visibility into exactly what customers experienced, and why it drove them away.

 Follow Customers, Not Just Visits

For some 40% of online purchases, customers use multiple devices to visit the retailer before purchasing. 28% of the time, customers make their purchase decision on a different device than they use to complete the purchase. This is especially true during the holiday season, when customer time is at a premium.

Today, actual user experience is an aggregate of user experience on each platform. This means that if you’re following customer visits and not customers themselves, you may be drawing incorrect conclusions about conversions. For example, can you tell if a customer abandoned your funnel, or simply continued conversion on another device?

Drill down into holiday customer experience data to better understand the role each platform plays in your customer journeys, and how journeys differ across different segments. To make cross-platform journeys seamless and easier to track, consider moving to forced sign-in, adding a wish list, or extending your shopping cart retention periods.

The Power of the Bounce

During promotion-intensive periods like the holidays, bounces from landing pages are more prevalent. All bounces, however, are not equal.

When visitors click away from landing pages within seconds of arrival, it’s called a “hard bounce.” This behavior may indicate technical problems with the page, or a glaring mismatch between the promotional message and the message conveyed on the page.

Users who linger on a landing page for a few seconds before clicking away are generally more engaged. These “soft bounces” indicate that the customer intended to follow up on the promotion but did not find what he or she wanted.

Do a post-mortem on your holiday landing page bounces. Differentiate between hard and soft bounces, and pinpoint the technical and content-related landing page issues that will help optimize future landing pages.

Don’t Forget Your Products

Close examination of high-volume holiday traffic can teach valuable lessons about how customers perceive and shop for your products.

Once you identify that a given product has gained customer interest, what influences conversion success for that product? Do customers browse similar products on your site to find one they prefer more? Do they seek complementary items to round out the purchase? Does the product page go quiet while they comparison shop on other sites?

Drill down into customer experience data from the holiday season to characterize interactions with each product or product category. Segment customers based on their observed behavior. This will help you decide where to feature complementary items and on which pages to show alternatives in the same category.

Also, if you’re seeing more customers than expected opening a new browser window and never returning to a specific product page – it could be time to check competitor offers to make sure yours are in line.

The Bottom Line

While the post-holiday lull is a great time to kick back and take deep, cleansing breaths – the user experience lessons to be learned from holiday shopping data simply can’t wait. Now is the time to leverage the high customer traffic and peak purchase intent, and turn this holiday season into a springboard for the next, and to increased sales year-round.

Michal Harel is a Director, Consulting Services Group, ClickTale