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Thursday, November 17, 2011

10 Retail Tips for Improving 2011 Online Holiday Sales

This blog first appeared on imediaconnection on November 16, 2011.

Well, it’s arrived: the holiday shopping season. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, December sales, January promotions…you get it. This year, the Associated Press says, retailers are focused on price in hopes to counter the (still) worn down economy, while the National Retail Federation claims that shopper’s shouldn’t expect lower prices than any other year, but rather free shipping, deals and giveaways.
Any way you look at, the competition, both online and offline, will likely be cut-throat, yet again. As consumers becoming more shopping savvy and consult your website for their gift-buying tasks, it’s important you make sure you’re ready to serve them the best performing content, offers and online experience that turns them from browsers and bargain-hunters into paying customers.
1. Get in the holiday spirit. #Obvious
Hopefully you’re already on this one, but customizing your website with a festive look and feel lets people know your holiday sales have started. Clearly display the items most likely to sell during the holiday season on the most popular pages.
2. Don’t Overdo Dynamic Elements
Resist the urge to have snow falling, lights flashing and stars sparkling all over home page. Video, banner ads and flash can be great elements to enhance the online customer experience, but only in small doses. Numerous tests with our clients have shown that visitors need at least 1-2 static page elements in order to maintain their focus, and thus their ability to convert into a paying customer.
3. Test your campaigns, now and later
Yes, retail sites undoubtedly stay busy year-round, with peak selling times during the obvious seasons. But if you’ve waited to test and optimize your promotions or discount offers on the day before Christmas, you’re too late.
Holiday shopping is going to bring you wealth of new and returning visitors. It’s a great time to (well any time is) to enlist the help of live multivariate testing and iterative tweaking to drive higher conversion rates. Even subtle changes such as font size, color and language can have a huge impact on revenues. Continually test different variations to see what yields the best results, and monitor results for both in-season and off-season traffic.
4. Segment & Personalize for the Season
As I said, you know you’ll have an influx in traffic and purchases, and you’ve put in a lot of work into your sales, promotions and branding. Personalization and targeting are excellent for increasing conversion, but remember, people are buying gifts, not shopping for themselves. So don’t spend too much time targeting based on their past purchases in the off-season—it may not have much of an impact since they are shopping for a loved one, friend, co-worker, etc.
5. Highlight the Timely Items: Shipping and Stock Status
For the inner-procrastinator in all of us! Those visitors who fall into mad-dash-last-minute shopping segment are need to focus on two important elements: shipping dates and stock status. The comfort this consumer receives in knowing that you have it in stock and they’ll receive it on time, no matter if there is a slight price difference, can help to ensure you win the business instantly. This is a huge factor in behavioral targeting and personalization, since consumer mindset inevitably changes, and purchase behavior, as well as browsing activity, will be impacted.
6. Analyze your Shopping Cart
Speaking of customer behavior, there is no better place to plan for and understand your actual consumers than at the check-out process. Analyzing buyer behavior from all your channels (not just the website!) is the most indicative and predictive data set for setting up successful segmentation and recommendations: discover what people actually buy, uncover buying patterns and help influence inventory decisions.
Marrying offline and online data from CRM, web analytics, POS output, call centers and mobile commerce will ensure you have a 360-degree buyer view to begin targeting and tailoring for your consumers. After the all the data nuptials are complete, analyzing behaviors such as “Bought this, Bought That” and “Best Sellers” will have you homing in on the best cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, for all your point-of-sale outlets.
7. Play Around with Pricing Presentation
You’ve probably got a few sales, discounts and promotions planned this season, but have you thought about how they actually look, rather than what they say? Time and time again, marketers are surprised at the impact that font, location, showing/not showing, and color of product pricing has on website conversion rates, While no single pricing strategy is correct for all brands, don’t be afraid to test it. We have found that some sites perform better without revealing the price before the product gets to the cart, while others convert visitors better by being up front about it. See what your visitors think—the results may surprise you.

8.  Don’t Be Afraid to Let Go of Brand Guidelines
It’s not likely that your brand guidelines always fit directly with the website elements—especially during the holiday season—that are the best converting content. That’s why multivariate testing and A/B testing is an investigation not only into your website elements, but also your brand. If your consumers perceive you differently than you believe them to, your website approach could be hurting conversions. Sticking strictly to the brand guidelines—whether in what you choose to test or change—might never lead you to discover that some brand-approved copy, tone, colors, page template, or call-to-actions, are holding you back from higher conversion rates.
9.  Share the Love, Corporately Speaking
It’s no secret that it takes many forms (and people) of marketing in order to meet your brands revenue goals. And today’s internet-savvy consumer population is sure to land on your website at some point, so it’s best keep the lines of optimization communication open. Ensure all marketing departments and relevant employees are in the loop about your goals, website changes and promotions for this holiday season —so that SEO, direct mail, email, PPC, call centers, etc. are primed to collect and use the right optimization data when you’re ready to move to a true multi-channel marketing approach.
10. Get ready for the January sales
Many consumers are now spending just as much money in the New Year as they are in true holiday buying season. Make sure you are able to hit the ground running in January with fresh mobile content and product offers in order to stand out from the crowd. Remember to use live testing to help determine which offers have the most positive impact on your sales.
To learn more about conversion rate optimization in the online retail industry, check out the new retail white paper, "Capturing the Promiscuous Customer: How Online Retailers Can Use Testing & Targeting to Curb Disloyalty & Increase Conversion Rates" just released by Maxymiser—a company specializing in increasing the online revenue potential of online retailers. Find out more on to make your business faster, smarter and better with testing and optimization.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All great points and in my opinion Usability Testing is critical. I use a live User Testing Service (such as to see what real website users really think while they use my websites. I am always amazed at what I learn.