Consumers worldwide have greatly increased their online spending in 2020, in large part due to COVID-19. Visits to the top 2,000 North American eCommerce sites increased 19% overall (and 125% on average) from March to June 2020, compared to last year. Not to mention, there has been a 71% year-over-year increase in digital revenue in the U.S., which will undoubtedly have an impact on this year’s holiday shopping season, and possibly those to come.
Retailers will need to make several adjustments to adapt to the surge in online holiday shopping, from conducting website performance testing to handle traffic increases and hiring staff for order fulfillment, to making user experience modifications and training customer service reps to process returns efficiently.
How Retailers Can Prepare for the Online Holiday Shopping Surge
There are many ways for retailers to still profit and prosper this holiday season, even if it means seeing fewer customers in-store. The following adjustments, improvements, and implementations in key marketing strategies will prove successful for the holiday season:
Start Marketing Earlier.
Typically, the holiday shopping season kicks off with Black Friday–the day after Thanksgiving. However, “Christmas creep” in recent years has put holiday theming and displays into stores just after Halloween. Retailers should prepare for a longer-than-usual holiday season, investing carefully with the mindset that promotions will need to remain enticing and fresh for months rather than weeks.
Shoppers are looking to stretch out their gift purchases over several months and begin bargain hunting early to avoid shipping delays. The first campaigns have kicked off as early as October, as seen by Amazon Prime Day; although it isn’t marketed as an online holiday shopping event, Prime Day has a large impact on consumer holiday spending.
Another key event that marked the earlier start to the holiday shopping season was the inaugural 10.10 Shopping Festival, hosted by Coresight Research in partnership with Shopkick and Fashwire. It hosted hundreds of retailers who all offered consumers special perks and discounts while also giving back to philanthropic organizations. Participating retailers reported an increase in traffic, brand awareness, and revenue.
Optimize for Mobile.
If a retail website doesn’t load quickly and operate at peak performance, business is lost. Tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, or Pingdom can help identify areas of a website that require optimization to handle a higher traffic volume. Google’s Mobile Testing Tool can easily test if a website is well-optimized for mobile. Adopting better web hosting is another consideration if an eCommerce website lags, crashes, or suffers frequent down-time.
Retailers can further optimize their websites by:
- Looking for ways to simplify the checkout process, including “guest checkout” as an option and accepting online payments from sites like PayPal or Venmo.
- Displaying shopping cart items clearly with the product name, quantity, price, and photo, with easy size or quantity editing and a “save for later” option.
- Supporting interactive images that allow shoppers to double tap to zoom, pinch to shrink, and swipe through a series of supporting photos.
- Making the search bar more prominent and enabling auto-suggest.
- Optimizing image sizes with TinyPNG or Compressor.io.
- Using browser caching to avoid the need to re-download files every visit.
Incorporate Omnichannel Capabilities.
As we get closer to December, shoppers will increasingly seek options like curbside pickup and home delivery to circumvent potential last-minute shipping delays. It is important to note that many people will be trying these services for the first time this year due to COVID-19. Online searches increased 100% for “curbside pickup” and 70% for “home delivery” in March. Shopkick surveys have found that 44% of holiday shoppers plan to use the “Buy Online Pickup In-Store” (BOPIS) option this season. Retailers who want to compete must offer the ability to buy online pickup in-store or curbside and explore same-day delivery options.
Additional considerations include:
- Training store associates to handle, pick, pack, and ship orders.
- Creating signage and traffic flow improvements to handle contactless pickups.
- Dedicating personnel to support curbside traffic surges.
- Partnering with providers like Shipt and Rodei to expedite “last mile” shipping.
- Reconsidering front store and back store inventory if business moves online.
- Allowing customers to see updated in-store inventory in real-time.
- Incentivizing curbside pickup rather than shipping, as it has a higher profit margin.
Partner With Complementary Platforms.
A retail website is just one destination for online shopping. Mobile marketplaces and apps represent other places to meet potential buyers in the digital sphere. U.S. consumers are expected to spend one billion hours shopping on mobile devices this holiday season—a 50% increase from last year—so it makes sense for retailers to target popular mobile shopping apps to position themselves as industry leaders.
Shopkick is a mobile shopping rewards platform that recently celebrated its 10-year milestone and has driven over 85 million store visits at top retailers across the nation, including Best Buy, Carter’s, and Ulta. Shoppers using the mobile app have earned over 29 billion “kicks” (rewards points) by engaging with partnering retailers and brands. Kick-earning opportunities include shopping at partnering retailers, making both online and in-store purchases, watching branded videos, scanning barcodes of select products in-aisle, and flipping through curated lookbooks. Shopkick users then redeem their rewards points for gift cards to their favorite stores, often the same stores where they earned their kicks, providing an incremental revenue stream for retailers.
Visa Decision Sciences studied the impact of Shopkick campaigns on partnering retailers and found:
- 57% of sales driven by Shopkick were incremental, spontaneous, and unplanned.
- 73% of incremental sales were by new customers.
- 27% of incremental sales increased the loyalty of existing customers.
Even if retailers have their own dedicated mobile apps, they can easily integrate with Shopkick, benefitting from an expanded reach to our highly loyal and engaged user base.
Create an Optimal Customer Experience.
It’s never too late to create a better customer experience online. Refresh content with dedicated landing pages for major holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the greater holiday shopping season. Create helpful gift guides or categories based on gift recipients, enable personalized recommendations, and highlight seasonal offerings.
Retailers can meet or exceed customer expectations through:
- Offering fast, hassle-free returns and speedy refunds.
- Providing status updates from carriers with package tracking.
- Using thoughtful and sustainable packaging.
- Offering free shipping on any order or once shoppers reach a certain purchasing threshold.
- Educating consumers to help them make the best purchasing decisions.
- Providing detailed product information and personalized search results.
- Improving product selection.
- Offering one-click checkout.
- Decluttering and streamlining their eCommerce sites.
Even if it’s not in the budget to adopt a new inventory management system or offer BOPIS, retailers can take cost-effective measures aimed at alleviating bottlenecks and improving the user experience.
‘Tis the Season
The global pandemic has been an emotional and financial struggle for many, but don’t discount holiday shoppers. They may be able to put a bit of cheer into the stockings of retailers with robust digital activity in the coming months.
Companies that go the extra mile by adequately preparing for increased online browsing and spending will have the opportunity to amass loyal fans for years to come.
Image courtesy of Imcsike