As December rolls around, this is the busiest period of eCommerce. Black Friday and Cyber Monday could be the biggest weekend but December is by far the business month as customers are gearing up to buy Christmas gifts. This festive season is a great opportunity to boost your store sales and show customers you care about them. For some stores, online sales during Christmas can reach up to 30% of annual revenue. It is therefore worth it to prepare early and ensure that your clients have the best experience.
At DataCue, we have been showing more than 2 million of recommendations for eCommerce websites around the world every year. We are in a unique position to share with you the insights from successful stores and their holiday season strategies. This time, we have joined forces with 5 other eCommerce experts who are giving away tips that they tell their clients:
With the objective to help you sell more, we have created this easy and practical guide. You can even download this article in a PDF version and a free checklist to get your store better prepared for Christmas.
1. Your KPI, success indicators
If it is not measured… it does not exist. Your key performance indicators (KPI) are the ones that tell you how successful your efforts are. Unfortunately, there are way too many. Which ones do you really need to focus on? Be careful not to measure vanity metrics, these are 'feel-good metrics' like number of Facebook followers or Instagram likes. They can be easily manipulated and do not correlate to your bottomline.
But are the KPIs you should be tracking during this holiday season different from the usual metrics? According to the experts, not really!
(…) The main key indicator should be Conversion Rate. But it depends on your business objective. That is the first thing you need to define.
—Rocío, Grupo Voltio
Like the majority of eCommerce stores, your end objective is revenue. A lot of stores make the mistake of measuring only conversion rate. It's important to add more metrics that give a broader and more holistic picture of your store's health, such as bounce rate, abandoned cart, number of sessions and average order value. After all, it's not the same to compare a 2% conversion rate of 5.000 sessions with 0.5% of 100.000 sessions.
During Christmas, the first thing to do is establish your business objectives. Based on last year's data, what is a realistic projection and expectation? Your objective could be 20% increase in sales or a percentage increase in conversion. The key is to pick a few metrics that you want to improve. Now you have those, define how you'll reach them with your marketing strategy. The way to see if you are improving over time, is tracking, measuring and comparing them.
- Traffic (monthly sessions): Traffic will increase during these events, although it is important that you plan a message in advance to generate interest amongst your potential customers. Make sure you have attractive graphics and offers on the site. Get into the Christmas spirit with Christmas banners and graphics.
- Average order value: This depends on each business, but it is easily improved if you can deliver something relevant to your visits. Offer attractive discount campaigns, gift guides, or real-time product recommendations.
- Conversion Rate: This is the key indicator of the overall quality of your store. A healthy industry conversion rate is around 1%. You can measure the conversion rate for the different channels you have.
- Bounce rate: It is no use to bring visitors to your store only for them to leave within the first 30 seconds. Know the quality of the content you show and the usability of your site. A healthy bounce rate should not exceed 40%. You can install a tool like Crazyeggs and hotjar or a free tool such as Google analytics to tell you where the drop-off points are. Perform stress tests and ask your customers for feedback to know what your shortcomings are. To reduce rebound, make sure to have attractive landing pages.
- Abandoned Cart Rate: This indicator should not exceed 70%. One way to resume the purchases that were left in the car is with effective email campaigns.
- Delivery times: An indicator that should be considered with greater anticipation and dedication than in other periods of the year. Find out the reasons in item 3 of the article.
- Repeat customers: Knowing who and how many are your repeat customers, and serving their needs in the right way, leads to higher customer loyalty and engagement.
2. Timing is everything
Patience is not the forte of online customers. They will leave your website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. It is estimated that 1 second extra in loading time leads to a 7% loss in conversion.
With higher traffic on your website during Christmas, this comes with a higher probability of downtimes or slower speed. However, end of year events are “different from Cyber Monday, when this usually means 10 times increase in traffic " says Magdalena—Director of Lab51—a company that builds and manages eCommerce websites. Magdalena says that the increase in traffic is visible from the third week of November and reaches its peak during the second week of December. This has an easy explanation for her: "For the third week of December, people are not completely sure if they will get their orders on time".
Isabel, Business Developer of Fullkom, 360 e-commerce, agrees with this opinion. Traffic is more smooth because “Christmas is still a big event for every channel: it is both offline and online". Nevertheless, eCommerce trends from all over the world tell us the online channel is growing exponentially every year, gaining ground over physical stores.
Any store that has been participating in Cyber events know how to handle traffic increases and optimize its website. However, it is still good to be prepared.
Before uploading Christmas graphics, we always check that they are ready for eCommerce. They don't have to be heavy, need good resolution and won't make the loading time slower. We also check with Stress Tests, as part of the procedure with any eCommerce website.
As above, the same suggestion applies to Grupo Voltio. As Rocío, its Commercial Director pointed out, “[we suggest] to perform tests for the delivery logistic and other internal tests that allow you to anticipate potential errors and high increases in traffic".
Speed of your website is not only important for a user-friendly site, but also for easy navigation. Loading affects your SEO. We advise you to check this factor periodically, there are plenty of free tools to do so.
3. Logistics—a promise that must be lived up to
As Isabel from Fullkom pointed out, sales objectives are useless without the stock needed to supply them. What can never happen is an out of stock situation. She advised to do a sales projection, considering at least 30% additional stock from a usual month. It is useful to create an internal alert for your team to know when a product is running low and have the timeframe needed to deliver it. If you also have physical stores, make sure to separate warehouses for offline and online sales. And, finally, comply with the committed time of delivery.
Logistics is a topic that's very important during Christmas. People want to buy today, and get the product on the same day. Times of delivery are usually slow and although it sounds easy to comply, it is not.
Magdalena agrees on the importance of logistics. For her, more than creating a beautiful Christmas-themed landing page, to successfully compete in Christmas you must “coordinate with your delivery partners, and know exactly until what day and time they will be delivering". Magdalena is also a cofounder of a successful Shopify store Depto51. She knows first hand what this means. By not being prepared enough, in 2017, Magdalena said they lost potential sales of the last week of December. "We believed the people were going to buy well before Christmas], but it was us who had to organize, not them. It was a mistake" she said. It is important to explicitly communicate on your website if you are going to deliver products on the 24th of December, if you can stick to it, of course. Commitment is key.
[Give your users] a delivery time that's close to Christmas...but only if you are sure you can make it. People are very sensitive and you are playing life or death here. You must be commited (...). At the beginning, [at Depto51] we ended up delivering ourselves during the same 24th all over Santiago, because our delivery companies closed that day at 3pm!
4. More than a purchase, an experience
When asking our experts what changes will they suggest to eCommerce owners, the topic immediately comes to mind is user experience. Many stores care only about sales, without looking at the ease of navigation on their website.
As a user, it's important you get what you look for. That there is a search bar that gives you options and recommendations. For example, if your website does not sell a red hoodie and that's what I am looking for, I should get substitutes or similar products as recommendations.
Personalization of your user experience is one of the ways you can be sure your website is providing a user experience that converts. One option is to add a Gifts Guide in your Home or Landing page. To do so, think of your main client segments (you can look at your top selling products and categories to get an idea) and what do they look for. Create a collection that addresses their needs.
Magdalena, from Depto 51, understands the importance of simplifying the buying process of the users by creating a Gift Guide, and that is what she has in her own store. On top of that, there are some other ways to positively surprise your customer. "If you can send the products wrapped in gift paper, people value this a lot" she says.
If you have already targeted your clients by segment, maybe it's time to do it individually. You can't do this manually, unfortunately, but you can use smart recommendations tools and technology.
By analyzing behavioural data of your visitors, tools like DataCue can show the right content for each of them, this inspires and accelerates their buying decisions.
Personalized recommendations for every user help your visitors discover new products, and the ones they see have a higher buying probability. These techniques increase conversion. But they have other benefits as well. “Product recommendations work well, boosting cross-sell and upsell, thus, increasing average size ticket". Not only the user experience is enhanced but also the eCommerce owner's experience, who does not need to set up complex rules or spend a lot of time managing the solution. Everything works automatically.
You can start simple by adding a carrousel of "Recently Viewed Products". You'll be surprised by how much this action helps your visitors accelerate their purchase decisions. It's highly probable they will spend some time browsing around and comparing products and prices. Then, having this carrousel will make it easier for them to re-discover products they have seen and eventually add to cart.
User experience is related to what happens after the sell as well. Your relationship with your client is not over after your customers have made an order. Besides delivery times, we advise you to clearly specify your exchange and return policy. As Isabel pointed out, "give your user the chance to change their minds and give them deadlines for this". Do not forget a follow up email! You can create some loyalty and get valuable feedback that will help you to improve in an ongoing way.
5. Deliver a message effectively
Before even thinking about how to drive traffic to your website, think of what those visitors are going to see once they land on your store. You will need a Christmas look for your store. Graphics, promotions and information have to be attractive and deliver a message that builds trust.
Some websites are not infused with the Christmas spirit, and therefore make them look outdated, this could create distrust. Is there someone checking behind the website? Is someone going to check my order? (…) If there is a budget to invest, this is something that will return.
Once your website is ready to welcome visitors, spread the word. Use Digital Marketing campaings. Everything is about making your clients feel special, and today, technology enables you to do so. This is one of the benefits of successful email marketing. "E-mail marketing is one of the most used tools for this purpose, being the one with the highest ROI" said Santiago, Country Manager of iCommkt, a platform for marketing automation. To do an effective mailing campaign, everything starts by segmenting clients. It's important to understand who are your repeat and loyal clients -through RFM. Communication must be directed according to their preferences.
Start delivering [emails] with anticipation. Launch a campaing before Christmas, enabling your users to buy their gifts with time. Send the emails according to preferences. I wouldn't send the same message to a Discount Hunter and to a VIP client!
Rocío from Grupo Voltio considered, besides emailing, to use social media and Google ads. She emphasized the importance of measuring their results. Effectiveness of each campaing depends on its objective, thus, it's a good idea to divide them by channel, establish their purpose, and measure.
6. Final considerations
Remember this time of the year gives you a unique and special opportunity. It allows you to show your clients the value of your brand. Be careful to not make the same mistake as many other stores do when they "generally do not segment and send the same communications to everyone" as Santiago mentions. Be clear that you understand their needs by delivering a dedicated message and complying with your promises.
Prepare ahead of time. Think of your business objectives, your clients, and the message you want to deliver, both to attract them to your website and once they arrive at your store, make them feel special with Christmas-themed graphics, special promotions, Gift Guides and personalized recommendations. Prepare a nice experience, inside and outside your store. Align with your distribution and logistics team, and customer service. Above all, do not promise things you cannot comply with.
If there were 3 advices to give: have the stock needed to avoid out-of-stock at all cost, anticipate your customers, and prepare your email strategy.
—Juan Antonio, Haciéndola
7. Facing 2020
For online and offline stores, after New Year is usually known for being slow in sales. People are not worried about buying, they will continue to buy but expect to continue your discount campaigns well after the holiday period.
All retail will be with discounts. People already are expecting that from everyone.
From now, we suggest you create a calendar for discounts and promotions you'll implement after Christmas. Even when sales per client slow down, volume is there. As Isabel told us, in Fullkom "we have a calendar (…). January is the time for discounts campaings, big offers and outlets".
We hope these advices have helped you prepare your store for the upcoming Christmas. We thank the partners that supported us and made this article more insightful with their experience, to support online sellers like yourself.
From the DataCue Team, we wish you the best of luck and Merry Christmas!