Christmas in July: 5 ways online retailers should prepare for holiday shopping crush| Holiday Season Strategy

Retailers must capture the heart of the digital consumer to be successful in the 2022 holiday season.

| by Matthew Furneaux — Director of Location Intelligence, Loqate

As retailers roll out their summer shopping specials, they’re also working behind the scenes, planning for the critical Christmas shopping crush.

Last year’s holiday shopping season was a boon for retailers. Mastercard’s Spending Pulse Survey reported an 8.5% sales increase, extending a crucial lifeline to retailers reeling from pandemic, supply chain and inflation-related disruption.

Unsurprisingly, more of these sales were conducted online as e-commerce sales rose 11% year-over-year. In total, online sales accounted for one-fifth of all transactions, a 6% increase since 2019. Buoyed by necessity and convenience, 72% of shoppers are more reliant on online shopping than they were before the pandemic.

Retailers are taking notice, and today’s shoppers have more options and access to information than ever before. As a result, simply providing e-commerce offerings isn’t enough. Today’s online shoppers are anxious, expectant and strict. Retailers must capture the heart of the digital consumer to be successful.

Here are five ways online retailers can optimize the customer experience today as they prepare for this year’s critical holiday shopping crush.

#1 Know your shoppers

Not all online shoppers are the same. Different buyers rely on unique site elements. Knowing and understanding your customers’ habits, needs and goals will help inform UX design and process. Unique e-commerce types include:

Product focused shoppers. These shoppers visit a website with a specific product in mind and intend to make a purchase.

Researchers. These website visitors are conducting product research. They intended to make a purchase, but they don’t have a set timeline for completing a sale.

Bargain hunters. These shoppers are comparing prices and looking for the best deal.

Browsers. These leisurely shoppers are probably just killing time. They don’t intend to make a purchase but they want to learn more about the latest products and trends.

By knowing your shoppers, you can create more targeted, customized experiences that drive sales.

#2 Cater to customers

Online shoppers expect an incredible experience, and their next steps are contingent on this dynamic. For instance, disappointed buyers are prepared to retaliate, while satisfied shoppers are ready to return again and again.

When buyers are disappointed by an online shopping experience, 44% will never shop with that company again, and 12% will leave a bad review online. Since more than half of online shoppers report reading reviews before making a purchase, failure to delight customers can significantly impact long-term sales outcomes.

For many buyers, a cumbersome checkout process is enough to dissuade them from making a purchase. In total, 35% of shoppers will abandon a purchase if checkout is too complicated or difficult.

Implementing address autocomplete is an easy way to reduce friction at checkout while building buyers’ trust. For 38% of online shoppers, this simple step raises the level of trust, improves customer satisfaction and encourages people to become repeat buyers.

#3 Customize friction

Retailers have traditionally worked hard to remove friction from the buying journey. Today, stores are differentiating “good friction” from “bad friction,” recognizing that both are critical in the right context.

For instance, customers buying low-cost, high-frequency items want as little friction as possible, making voice command or single-click buying options a top priority for UX design. In contrast, when customers are buying something of greater value, they want a more drawn out, customized buying experience.

In this case, integrate the right amount of friction to slow things down, allowing customers to enjoy the process of customizing or reviewing their purchase.

#4 Provide an omnichannel experience

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many technology-adverse people online, introducing them to online shopping for the first time. Many liked the experience and continue to embrace e-commerce now that brick-and-mortar stores have reopened.

However, they aren’t just shopping online. Buyers are frequently coming to stores to check the quality or fit of a product before returning home to make a purchase online.

In response, brands should provide the right range of omnichannel experiences, relying on data to unify the online/offline experience through “click and collect”” or “buy online, pick up in store” buying options.

This demonstrates care for consumer habits while allowing retailers to capture sales from a buying cohort with unique and diverse interests and expectations.

#5 Review and optimize the website experience

Website design is complicated, but a few simple elements significantly impact customer experience, allowing retailers to focus on the most important faces of the buyer experience.

First, review the website’s fundamental structure, ensuring that information is clearly and carefully communicated to buyers. When coupled with responsive web design that accommodates different device types, online retailers can help guide people to checkout.

Finally, streamline the checkout process so it’s as efficient and seamless as possible. It’s estimated that more than 25% of cart abandonment occurs because of a complicated checkout process, making this often-overlooked element an important priority as teams prepare for this season’s holiday shopping season.

To improve the process, consider offering guest checkout options, reducing form fills, eliminating steps, visually showing progress and optimizing mobile checkout capacity.

Readiness begins now

The holiday shopping season seems like a lifetime away. However, capitalizing on this important revenue-generating opportunity requires careful planning that should begin now.

For retailers capitalizing on inexorable trends toward online shopping, enhancing online UX elements can be the difference between converting sales and creating repeat customers and losing customers forever while undermining brand reputation. That’s why, for retailers ready to meet the moment, Christmas really does start in July.