Customer Data

eCommerce Will Grow 16% During Holiday 2017—Are You Ready?

It’s just about that time again. The year is winding down, and the holiday shopping season is upon us.

According to the National Retail Federation, we can expect overall retail sales to rise between 3.2% and 3.8% during Q4 2017, reaching close to the $685 billion mark in the US. That’s a modest increase if we look at retail overall, but the news is much more interesting for eCommerce merchants, who can expect as much as 16% YoY increase this season.

eCommerce is finally reaching maturity as a shopping channel. More consumers have definite plans to shop online this year than in store, with four out of five people in the US planning to do at least some of their holiday shopping online.

Many retailers will experience a seasonal increase in sales without the need to exert any extra effort on their part. But by adopting a few simple strategies and tools, though, you can turn what might otherwise be a modest sales bump into a season to remember.

Leveraging Data Effectively

The days are long-gone when you could rely on customer loyalty or price as the only things that mattered in customer acquisition. Now, the more you know about your customers—what products they like, what they’re most likely to buy, their payment and shipping preferences—the more likely you are to complete a sale. The key here: customer data.

Customer data provides a wealth of insights that you can use to create a more personalized customer experience. In turn, this helps you drive sales by directing customers to products they are more likely to purchase.

Of course, customer data is just the first step. Once you can direct customers where they need to go, the trick becomes to convince them to make a purchase. Fortunately, survey data amassed by the National Retail Federation offers some insight into what converts holiday shoppers into buyers:

  • 70% of shoppers purchase gifts for themselves.
  • 64% were enticed to complete a purchase because the merchant offered free shipping.
  • 50% responded to a limited-time sale or other special promotion.

The NRF’s data also provided some information regarding what threatens to scare consumers away. Roughly 15% of shoppers reported experiencing difficulties in make a return; of those, 64% said a negative experience would make them hesitant to shop with that merchant again.

These customers may also vent their dissatisfaction online in the form of a customer review. When customers leave a negative review, 6 out of 10 expecting a response from the merchant, and 9 in 10 report their customer loyalty would be negatively impacted if the merchant didn’t respond.

8 Tips to Help Put that Data to Use

How can you maximize your holiday sales and ensure ongoing customer loyalty even once the holidays are passed? Here’s a couple of quick tips:

#1. Optimize Your Storefront

Mobile is becoming an increasingly popular shopping channel. Therefore, your site should be not only mobile-ready, but fully responsive and able to provide an optimal experience across any device.

#2. Provide Engaging and Actionable Content

Customers love useful, engaging content. One of the most popular forms of online content around the holidays are “Best gifts” lists: best gifts under $50, best gifts for teens, etc. People coming to you and asking you to tell them what to buy? It doesn’t get much better than that.

#3. Promote Special Offers

One of the most appealing—and easy to implement—offers you can make as an eCommerce seller is free shipping. Another idea could be to offer a discount for ordering two of the same item, and promoting it as “one for a gift, and one for the giver,” or something similarly enticing. Then, promote the deal extensively on social media throughout the season.

#4. Give the Customer Options at Checkout

You want to make checkout as simple as possible for customers, while still providing as many options as possible. For example, you can provide auto-populating address fields, an accept alternative payment methods like PayPal, Apple Pay, or even Alipay for international shoppers.

#5. Step Up Your Fraud Prevention

Believe it or not, you can prevent fraud while also reducing false declines. The answer: adopt a manual review process. I explain the virtues of manual review in more depth here, and I’d encourage you to learn more on the subject.

#6. Use Delivery Confirmation

A combination of fast shipping, tracked by delivery confirmation, can play a major role in reassuring customers that their goods are on the way. In turn, this prevents them from panicking and filing a friendly fraud chargeback.

#7. Offer Free Returns

No one wants to accept returns, but let’s be honest: it’s still much better than a chargeback. Free return shipping incentivizes customers to work through your official channels if they want their money back.

#8. Monitor Reviews & Social Media

Keep up with what customers say on social media and respond to customer concerns quickly with an understanding and apologetic tone. This will help you keep tabs on any developing service issues, as well as improve customer loyalty and protect your brand’s reputation.

It All Goes Back to Customer Data

Customer data—and the practices and tools you can more effectively implement by its use—will be essential to capitalize on the increased eCommerce traffic coming this holiday season. All the above tips are dependent on analyzing data for you to implement them in a matter that gels with your customers.

Don’t miss out on your share of the holiday pie: treat your customer data like the golden resource it is.

Monica Cardone