The importance of online retail sales increases every festive season and we expect this year to be no different. Find out how to get a head start on capturing e-shoppers with these 10 tips from e-commerce specialist shopatron.
1. START YOUR XMAS CAMPAIGN NOW!
The air is frosty and, by the time you leave work, it is already dark. Winter appears to have come early, this year, and Christmas is lurking round the corner, ready to attack. If you haven’t already, it’s past time to audit and segment your email database, make upgrades to your online product descriptions and analyse your website performance. That way, you should at least have the kinks worked out by the time December comes around. And, it will arrive in the blink of an eye.
Check off some tasks such as spending some time on AdWords keyword research for online promotions. And, you may need to shoot new product images and video in preparation for that final festive rush, because when things start to get really busy you won’t have time to do this groundwork then. Your next job is to audit and segment your email list and plan email campaigns based on inventory. Also, set up and do a test run of your AdWords remarketing campaign if you have one. Your final task is to activate any AdWords campaigns you have running and rev up social marketing activity. Now is the time to start sending out those emails that you prepared over the past couple of weeks and enjoy the fruits of your labours.
2. MOBILISE YOUR MOBILE PRESENCE
Your mobile website can no longer be a sideline to your e-commerce strategy. It stands to become this year’s most valuable player. Smartphones are the shopper’s new tool and convenience is the name of the game. Your mobile site needs to elegantly but simply address the needs of the browser, the price comparer, the person searching for a specific item, someone checking what’s in stock, someone looking to buy in their local store, someone who wants to buy online, someone with a question, and someone who wants to add the item to their cart and buy it from their home computer later. And, it needs to do all that while still providing detailed product information and images, as well as customer reviews, to support all sales. Oh, and it has to do it all quickly, too. Mobile is something you want to do right this year and, if you haven’t yet started, you are already running late.
Also, be careful not to confuse mobiles with tablets. Tablets need their own separate optimisation strategy—one that revolves around images and video. Your tablet site has the luxury of courting customers who have some time on their hands and want to do some deeper research. Give them what they want with more image options, full product video, a more swipe friendly interface and a magazine-like editorial style. Don’t change your shopping cart infrastructure, though. That should stay the same style across all platforms.
3. BUILD LINKS INSIDE AND OUT
Links from external websites via press releases, guest blogs and independent product reviews and other publishers not only introduce you to new audiences, they also help boost your SEO. Use your most coveted keywords and product names as the hyperlinks within the text whenever possible.
Working actively on building this kind of content now will help a few weeks from now. It is also a good time to review your internal linking to make sure you are making use of page-to-page links to your most popular products or hottest deals. Design a pitch and go on a PR mission, presenting story ideas and new products to magazines and industry blogs. Check all your onsite links for dead or outdated links and make sure you are linking using important keywords.
4. GO DEEPER WITH ADWORDS SEARCHES
Now is a great time to really dig into keyword research for your AdWords campaigns. What are people in your industry talking about? How can you use keywords from the current trends to drive traffic to your site? Also, remember how people search. Shoppers search for things like ‘blue and red striped sports bra,’ ‘gift ideas for girlfriend’ and ‘luxury lingerie sexy silk lace’. They also search for things like ‘ethical underwear’ or ‘best bridal corsets.’
Make sure you have AdWords keywords, ad text and optimised landing pages that will address the broad range of search terms. Use Google’s keyword tool to see what people are searching for and then search for that same phrase to see what comes up in the results. Remember to target long-tail (longer, specific phrases) and short-tail (short, generic phrases) keywords. Constantly monitor for optimal results, it will help.
5. REFRESH PRODUCT IMAGES AND VIDEO
Attractive and comprehensive imagery (like this babydoll shot by Fleur of England) and product videos not only encourage more shoppers to buy your products, but they make it more likely that they are happy with those products when they receive them. But that’s not all. Better product imagery can also boost your search rankings. Take this time to add keyword rich descriptions and alt tags to these on-page elements so that search engine crawlers can find them. Imagine a video of your product displayed in the results for the search query ‘luxury babydoll sexy Fifty Shades.’ And a picture is worth a thousand words. Don’t skimp. Poor photography can do more harm than good. Keep a spreadsheet featuring the image name, alt tag and description for your webmaster’s reference.
6. ANALYSE AND OPTIMISE
By checking click patterns and exit pages through your analytics reports, you can often identify areas of friction or, alternatively, elements or items that are most popular on your e-commerce site. Armed with that information, you can make changes to some page features. Then run A/B tests to find out if the changes make a difference in your conversion rate.
If a change, such as making product images larger or highlighting your great shipping policy, increases your conversion rate or average order value, you’ve got a winner. If not, then keep testing. Because these tests usually need to run for a month, on average, you need to start right away to ensure that your web store is running like a well-oiled machine by the time the holidays arrive.
The first way is running an actual remarketing campaign through AdWords. Remarketing through AdWords allows you to display an ad (or, preferably, a rotation of ads) on Google’s display network to shoppers who have recently visited your website. You should segment your campaign based on the product or product category they looked at and, also, based on timely offers related to the holiday countdown. Make sure you customise the campaign to exclude those who have already completed their purchase. The second way to remarket is through targeted emails to shoppers who have abandoned their online shopping cart.
The first email should be service oriented and ask if there was any problem with the purchase that could be addressed. The second can remind them of your free or flat rate shipping or your stellar return policy. Finally, you can offer a discount if they purchase right away. Or, if you aren’t ready to discount, send them another email featuring customer reviews or media accolades about the product. Just make sure you aren’t targeting shoppers who have completed a purchase. Narrow or widen the scope of your AdWords remarketing campaign in accordance with your budget and the success of each remarketing group.
If you are emailing a discount offer to abandoned shopping cart customers, consider adding an I already purchased it link that brings shoppers to a landing page offering a similar discount on a complementary item.
8. CONSIDER IN-STORE PICK UP
I’m willing to wager that, if you surveyed a handful of your competitors, very few of them would be giving shoppers the option of in-store pickup. That’s why you should. During the holidays, in particular, shoppers love the convenience of in-store pickup, citing shipping charges, waiting for packages and shipping time as the top reasons. In the two-week lead up to Christmas Day, in-store pickup really picks up and you could net a nice little sales boost if you offer it.
In addition to the clear evidence that shoppers buy more during order pickup, the in-store pickup experience also increases the shopper’s familiarity with your retail location, increasing the likelihood of them returning in the future to make additional purchases. One week before Christmas day, send an email reminding shoppers of the items that can be ordered online and picked up in store. If possible, flag online items in your online store that are available for in-store pickup.
9. EMAIL IS STILL POWERFUL
In today’s world, you have to fight desperately for clicks and opens, so don’t take a knife to a gunfight. Personalise and segment your emails based on purchase history or, if possible, browsing history. Send an email saying, You got a lingerie set, why not show it off in one of our gorgous silk robes? and include some information on your latest wraps. Personalising your emails makes your offer more relevant. Plus, it shows you’re listening and you know about your customer. If you care about them, they will care about you.
You can’t always offer a discount, so the focus of your other emails should be to add value to your customers’ lives or make their lives easier. Don’t churn out emails with generic subject lines like New Holiday Products. Get specific. Say Ten Christmas Must Haves for Under £50 and then back up your claim in the body of your email. Or, make a Gift Ideas for Girlfriend, £25 and Up email featuring a selection of popular women’s products. In the body, don’t stop the momentum. If they clicked, you have their attention. Keep selling by including media references of your product.
10. OFFER FREE SHIPPING
If free shipping didn’t matter there wouldn’t be a day named after it (in the US, Free Shipping Day falls on December 17, this year). Shipping costs make or break a hefty percentage of all online sales. Of course, absorbing all those shipping charges has to be factored in, but there is a point where the increase in sales volume makes up for it. Free shipping directly translates to more sales and an increasing number of shoppers will abandon your store in search of free shipping if you are not willing or able to offer it.
The key is not to write off free shipping as profit damaging, but to configure a program that allows you to participate in a way that generates the maximum profit for your business. Free shipping could be the most powerful, effective promotion you run. Dedicate some of your marketing budget to offset the shipping costs.