by: Robert Neumann, Tech Editor
The holiday season is the most wonderful—and the most challenging—time of the year for e-commerce sites. Amid the gift-buying frenzy, the high-traffic season sees intense competition from other merchants, increased instances of cybercrime, and overwhelmed, busy, distracted shoppers.
E-Commerce specialists offer these practical checklists, e-commerce strategies, and tips for different phases of the buyer journey.
Checklist for the Pre-Journey
Before a customer even decides to make a purchase, merchants vie for their attention across myriad channels, from social media, to search, to email. Of course, the experience must be seamless across each channel and form factor to ensure that maximum “wow” factor and better conversion rates.
As shoppers browse their mobile phones on-the-go and surf the web during their lunch breaks, merchants must ensure sites are optimized for discovery, the search experience is friction-free, and customers are engaged across channels in a personal and authentic way.
In this pre-journey race for customer attention, the key to success is personalization. Because Americans are exposed to up to 10,000 ads each day, personalization across discovery, site search, and omnichannel e-commerce engagement is a must in order to cut through the noise and resonate with buyers.
Checklist for a Smooth Journey
When customers find their way to a merchant’s e-commerce site, customer experience takes a leading role. In fact, according to Gartner, 64% of people find the customer experience to be more important than price when it comes to making a purchasing decision.
Ensuring a secure, friction-free checkout experience is fundamental to capturing as many customers as possible during the holiday season. It’s especially important to pay attention to the mobile experience since 62% of all e-commerce visitors come from mobile—though it only accounts for 23% of dollars spent.
Finally, as a special touch for cash-strapped shoppers over the holidays, merchants should consider consumer credit options—especially when average order value is over $99—to alleviate high credit card usage at a time of year when money is tightest and card limits are maxed out.
Checklist for the Post-Journey Engagement
The optimization of the customer experience doesn’t end once the sale is complete. Post-sales offer ample opportunity to surprise and delight customers.
As the physical link between a merchant’s store and a customer’s home, shipping and delivery play a vital role in the creation of a memorable customer experience. However, a survey from a previous holiday shopping season found that 56% of consumers were disappointed with retailers due to difficulties with shipping. By upping their shipping game, merchants can provide a memorable customer experience that keeps customers coming back again and again.
Customer service and returns and exchanges also offer opportunities to foster customer loyalty, referrals, and incremental business. However, many merchants see these functions as cost centers and overlook the opportunities they represent. For example, a great returns policy can actually help drive more revenue—over three-quarters of shoppers say they’re likely to purchase something else while making an exchange or return, and 62% would buy again from a brand offering free returns or exchanges.
Naughty or Nice List?
No matter which stage of the journey, it’s customer experience that’s most important. The holidays bring in the shoppers, but they also bring merchants the opportunity to create a relationship with their customers that can last well beyond the season. Create amazing experiences and get on that nice list.