How to optimise eCommerce retail stores for the Festive Season

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How to optimise eCommerce retail stores for the Festive Season

Christmas retail sales in 2020 were disappointing to say the least. In the UK, a mere rise of 0.3% was the biggest annual decline on record in the aftermath of COVID-19.

It also proved to be the end of the worst year of consumer spending on record according to the Office for National Statistics, despite economist's predictions of a 1.2% growth during a crucial month for the country's retailers.

The closure of much of the high street during lockdown and fresh concerns about public health regarding COVID variants also led to many shoppers avoiding physical stores last year, subsequently fuelling an upsurge in eCommerce sales.

The total value of internet spending increased by 46.1% on-the-year – the highest annual growth rate since 2008, ironically aided by new hybrid-retail implementations like 'BOPIS' (Buy Online, Pay In-Store).

Evidently, the eCommerce stake of the retail market still reigns supreme. Retailers need to make the shopping experience streamlined, flexible and include options that suit consumer needs in order to stay ahead of the competition and revel in festive sales cheer.

In 2020, with the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and lockdown restrictions, Christmas retail sales dropped to a value of £79.7 billion. In 2021, retail sales during the Christmas period is projected to increase to £84.7 billion.

Statista Research Dept. "Christmas sales in the United Kingdom 2016-2021" Corner speech icon

So, how can retailers ensure their eCommerce store gets their fair share of Christmas cheer? Following these steps and holiday retail strategies for increasing your holiday sales is the best place to start.

Create a frictionless checkout journey

The 'new-normal' consumer expects to get what they want easily and with little effort as possible. That requires their journey through the sales funnel to be as frictionless as possible.

Retailers need to ensure their website is able to not only meet, but exceed the grand expectations of the modern day consumer.

Test your website speed

Retailers simply cannot have an eCommerce store that is slow to respond in this day and age. 1 in 4 shoppers are likely to abandon a a website that takes more than 4 seconds to load a page. If your webpages can't perform to those standards, then that is a guarantee of lost revenue and even reputable damage to your brand.

Avoid high cart abandonment rates by ensuring webpages are subjected to stringent UX testing, optimised through conversion rate strategies, and that the checkout stage is as frictionless as possible.

Utilise free or paid online tools and software such as Google's own Pagespeed Insights, to test website/page loading times and analyse your Core Web Vitals, then optimise them accordingly.

Optimise the checkout stage

As we've alluded to before, it's essential for eCommerce stores to provide a seamless checkout experience.

If an online shopper has reached your checkout page, the chances are they've committed to making a purchase. The checkout page's job is now to make sure the process is easy as possible, so the buyer doesn't leave before completing said purchase.

Across the pond in the United States, it is reported that over 1 in 5 shoppers had abandoned their shopping carts because of a lengthy, convoluted checkout process.

Start with simplifying checkouts to one page. Having all related forms on a single page will make the process easier and quicker to navigate, and it's hugely beneficial to those who shop on mobile devices. A pleasurable user experience will result in customer satisfaction guaranteed.

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Enabling an option for guest checkout will be important for first-time customers. With an alarming volume of cyber-criminal activity during busy holiday periods and concerns over user privacy, it's crucial to establish trust as an online merchant, since many users don't feel comfortable sharing their private data/contact details with every store they purchase with.

Mandatory registration processes also create friction in the checkout journey, so checking out as a guest is a much faster way of committing to a purchase for many users. Guest checkouts are also convenient for shoppers looking to buy highly sought after items such as limited edition trainers, games consoles and children's toys where demand exceeds supply.

Providing several payment options like Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal and 'Buy Now, Pay Later' financing options with zero interest or fees such as Klarna will please mobile users in particular since digital wallets crave convenience.

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) is growing rapidly

This method has quickly become a staple of the modern checkout.

It is now being widely adopted into eCommerce stores globally, not just for large items like furniture, but for smaller orders - especially apparel. and smaller household items.

Prepare for this payments method to increase in usage as the holiday season grows closer.

Buy Online, Pick-up Instore (BOPIS) is the new consumer trend

As Hybrid-Retail has evolved, BOPIS is the latest term for Click & Collect. If you're a retailer with both a brick & mortar store and an eCommerce store, then providing an order fulfilment option to buy online and pick-up instore is absolutely essential.

BOPIS is a convenient option for shoppers who prefer to browse online, and collect at their earliest convenience.

This can also help to alleviate the pressures of retailers fulfilling their delivery dates, along with removing the barriers of shipping. Retailers also credit BOPIS with increasing their instore foot traffic.

It's time to get ship(ping)-shape

Allow shoppers to choose from a variety of shipping options. We know some consumers have different approaches when it comes to presents - either waiting until the last minute to place their orders or buying gifts months in advance. So retailers need to facilitate a variety of shipping options.

Ensuring multiple shipping methods in checkout can make the user's decision to purchase much easier.

Offering buyers shipping insurance can also inspire consumer confidence regarding their order(s). Take Route's package tracking software for example, they offer a connected suite of modern post-purchase solutions. Customers can easily add package protection against loss, theft and damage all from a single checkout page.

Enabling multi-recipient functionality on your checkout page can provide a welcome customer experience during a time-sensitive holiday season.

Checkout features like this will allow customers to send specific items in their cart to specific addresses, in turn making your store a one-stop shop.

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Stock 'til you drop

In 2020, to alleviate potential shipping, inventory, and logistical issues, retailers began discounting shipping in early November to incite early spending.

However, with recent supply-chain issues, stock levels aren't exactly black and white this year. Shipping and logistics issues are still ongoing, and they’re expected to get worse as holiday spending and subsequent consumer demand grows exponentially.

This year has seen out-of-stock notifications and message surge up 172%, compared to pre-pandemic period (Jan 2020); and up 360% compared against 2019.

How retailers and consumers respond to stock uncertainty, and the strategies they decide to undertake will be most unpredictable this year.

Don't let free shipping methods cost you

Free shipping is a highly-valued aspect of purchasing online (I genuinely don't know anyone who's not a Prime member), and as tempting as it is to offer free shipping throughout the holiday season, retailers might want to thoroughly take stock of their, well, stock.

Identify where and when is the optimal time to offer free shipping. Adobe Research estimates that free shipping offers will peak on Black Friday, with the next lower peak in the days after Christmas.

They also anticipate free shipping will rise earlier in the shopping season and post-Christmas, where 'value will be less constrained by urgency'. Whereas shipping costs are expected to peak on December 20-21.

Unite your storefronts with an Omnichannel Commerce Approach

If your eCommerce store isn't your sole outlet, then utilise everything at your disposal and combine them into one converged commerce model to provide the 'new-normal' consumer with a consistent, seamless customer experience they have come to expect.

Consumers are buying across multiple devices and retail channels, across multiple markets; essentially they can shop anytime, anywhere with mobile devices at their disposal. Rather than manage separate systems, retailers should focus their efforts on a Omnichannel commerce system.

This will help ensure that a retailer's entire payment flow from your customers through different channels is all consolidated into one system.

Try consolidating the following retail outlets at your disposal:

  • Online Marketplaces
    Integrating your eCommerce retail presence into popular marketplaces like Amazon and Google, but don’t forget about other popular markets, such as Wish and Etsy.
  • Social Marketplaces
    Update product catalog and tag your products to sell them in the MetaVerse - Facebook and Instagram. Engage consumer with product content across feeds, stories, reels and live-stream events to cover all content bases.
  • Brick & Mortar Shops
    Position your online store to compliment your brand’s success, merging both digital and physical assets through a revamped agile foundation.

Mobile Sales Will Hit The Ceiling

According to Adobe Research, the transition to consumers using their smartphones to shop online has 'hit a plateau' in 2021.

They predict that our friends in the U.S. will spend more than $86B via their smartphones over the holiday, outgrowing the overall spend at +16.6% year-on-year.

The growth in smartphone revenue share is also predicted to be 'at a modest +5%'.

Share of smartphone eCommerce web visits stemming from social media has more than tripled in the past four years.

  • On smartphones, social media-driven traffic increased in share from 4% to 11% between 2016-2019.
  • Social visits don’t translate into purchases as easily as visits from other channels like email & search, but Social Markets have come on leaps and bounds in 2021.
  • 57% of consumers have received ideas for holiday purchases from social media (2020).
  • 20% of consumers have purchased a product based on an influencer's recommendation (2020).
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At Sherwen Studios we build advanced eCommerce platforms which allow brands to challenge traditional retail providers, and implement an omnichannel model which will create engaging, unique experiences for your consumers.

We can assist with devising marketing strategies for all seasonal promotions, from Content to Email Marketing, along with fluid, responsive web design.

For further information on how we can develop sustainable growth with a profitable outcome for your business contact us below to chat, request a quote, and more.

Speak to us on 020 4566 9773 or email hello@sherwen.com for a free consultation.