With the holidays upon us, the clock is ticking through another deal-packed season of online commerce. In just a few short days, consumers will spend at record rates, clicking their way to billions of dollars in revenue and drawing many retailers and manufacturers into the black.
Finally, it is the time of year all online marketers have built up to. But if your plans look like they’re falling short, fret not. Here are five tips you can still launch on your site to amp up your online sales this holiday season.
Email is Key
Unlike any other time of the year, the holiday season draws crowds of consumers to ecommerce sites – creating a great opportunity to expand your email lists and build strong relationships with subscribers, which can last for years to come.
With tens of thousands of new shoppers reaching your pages every day, begin to offer incentives, deals and one-time discounts for new email sign-ups. While a vast majority of your new subscribers – some estimate as high as 80 percent – will subscribe purely to receive additional coupons and discounts, this new audience is a great group of shoppers to nurture over time and convert to long-term brand loyalists. Build a solid foundation now – at a time when you will be offering the steepest discounts, most engaging content and best deals of the year – by reaching back out to them throughout this holiday season. Some research shows that over half of shoppers prefer to receive relevant marketing emails between one and three times a week. Applying some time and energy now will pay dividends throughout the year.
Construct a Marketing Calendar
Compile a marketing calendar by reviewing your historical analytics from the last few years. Simply plot your top ten holiday season days from 2013 and 2014 on the calendar. This simple exercise will shed light on some pretty surprising facts about when, and even why, your site performed well. If you haven’t already done so, add some promotions and engagements to this year’s calendar around these dates.
If you don’t have your own analytics to rely on, here are some fun facts about big online spending days from the last two holiday seasons that you can use as your promotional guide. Did you know that it wasn’t until 2013 that Black Friday cracked the top ten for biggest online spending days? Also, during the last two years the second biggest online spending day behind Cyber Monday was the very next day, Tuesday. And, the Monday following Cyber Monday has been the third biggest online spending day the last two years as well. Shipping days – the last day to order and receive a gift by the holidays – also generates a fair share of activity.
One simple tool that does a great job at creating urgency and boosting conversion rates is the countdown timer. Display a timer to count down the number of hours left on a sale day, the number of days remaining on a promotion or the final opportunities to buy a product and have it shipped in time for the holidays. The beauty of a countdown timer is that it doesn’t require new offers or sales. Rather, it’s just a different way of messaging an expiration time or date.
Abandoned Cart Recovery Strategies
As consumers shop around for the biggest savings and best deals on the web in pursuit of the perfect gift, it is not uncommon for shoppers to place something in their cart, get distracted and abandon the site. An “abandoned cart” strategy can help recover and re-engage those consumers at a later time either through reminders, incentives or other offers. If consumers have already provided you with their email addresses, email them within 24 hours to remind them that they left something in their cart and perhaps provide a 10 percent off coupon code if they complete their order. If you don’t have their email addresses, you can utilize intent-based, predictive “Wait, don’t leave” messaging, which provides an incentive or offer to get shoppers to check out now rather than leave your site. To implement this, you’ll have to detect when the mouse leaves the page or hovers over another tab, or when the users make a move to close their browser. It’s crucial to understand the best scenarios to present this messaging as well as test the type of discount to extend. The key is to ensure you can maintain a considerable portion of your average order value while at the same time increasing your cart close rates.
Conversion Funnel Optimizations
Probably the most important piece of advice I can offer for making the most out of your holiday traffic this coming season is to focus on your conversion funnel. This is the only part of your site that will touch 100 percent of the orders coming through. No matter how great your product pages, landing pages, countdown timers and emails are working, if your funnel doesn’t convert, none of your programs and campaigns will have any real impact.
It is always best to test changes to this part of your site, as any small decrease or increase in lift can have significant revenue impacts. If you don’t have time to test, at the very least remove unnecessary steps from the flow. Do you currently require account creation in your checkout process and if so, is it really necessary? Offering guest checkout can lift conversion rates 3-10 percent. Do you require shoppers to fill in both billing and shipping information? If so, instead collapse the shipping fields, replace them with a checkbox denoting it’s the same as the billing info, and provide an option for consumers to key in shipping details if they are different than billing information. Do you have security, privacy and money back guarantees? If so, are these messaged appropriately on your cart pages, billing pages and order confirmation pages? Can you remove all non-required form fields? This will minimize the amount of information consumers must enter, increasing their speed to checkout.
If you have time and capacity, consider setting up and testing a few different checkout flows to find the optimal process for your business. In some cases, depending on your industry and average order value, a multi-page checkout flow surprisingly can perform better than a one-page or accordion style checkout. The key in any case is to provide the easiest experience for your consumers this holiday season.
So, at this time of year when many dream of sugar plum fairies and gingerbread houses, do more than dream of low bounce rates, high cart conversions and triple digit average order values. Check these five last minute marketing tips off your list to get everything you’ve wished for all year long.
Chris Birkholm is senior manager of marketing at Digital River, Inc.