How to prepare and protect your business for a fruitful holiday season
The holidays are the season for sales
The holiday season drives some of the biggest sales of the year, presenting businesses with a massive opportunity for growth. Whether it’s on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles Day, or throughout the holiday shopping season, millions of customers rush to get their hands on gifts for their friends, their loved ones, and themselves. Last year, online holiday sales grew 5% worldwide to reach a record US$1.14 trillion. This year, there will still be a flurry of eCommerce activity around the holidays, but businesses need to be extra prepared to deal with the possible effects of inflation on consumer spending habits.
Global inflation is projected to increase to 6.7% this year, the highest level in four decades. At the same time, consumer sentiment, charted by the Global Consumer Confidence Index, which indicates households’ future consumption and saving, is trending downward, reflecting the disruptive effects of inflation. Even as overall spending remains strong, some categories of customers spending have flatlined or even fallen. Grocery spending, for instance, is up year-over-year, but that’s due to inflation, not greater consumption. In categories such as travel and restaurants, customers are paying more but consuming less.
No matter your industry, you must reckon with the new realities of record inflation and develop solutions that sustain your business, retain customers, and ensure growth for the long term.
You’ll have to consider how customers’ shopping behaviours are changing — like the fact that roughly half of global customers, or 2.5 billion people, are willing to switch brands this holiday season for a lower-priced alternative.
Businesses have always needed to be prepared to handle the increased competition and customer demand during the holidays. But this year, with ongoing supply-chain issues, inflation concerns, tightening budgets, and an explosion in eCommerce, businesses need to be extra prepared if they want to be customers go-to this holiday shopping season. See how you can achieve this by making your customers’ shopping experience — from choosing what to buy to deciding how to pay — easy, safe, flexible, and personalised to their individual needs.
Holiday shopping, by the numbers
IT’S THE SEASON FOR FRAUD
Suspected fraud attempts increased 25% during 2021’s holiday shopping season.
PRICING PUTS PRESSURE ON BRAND LOYALTY
2.5 billion holiday shoppers worldwide could switch brands due to price concerns.
THE IMPACT OF HOLIDAY SHOPPING
The holiday quarter accounts for more than 30% of total annual retail sales in some sectors.
How to prepare your business for the holidays
Holiday business success is dependent on being prepared for the influx of holiday shoppers — and the competition. It’s crucial for businesses to prepare thoroughly and as soon as possible, using data to guide you. To make this holiday season your most successful one yet, focus on these three core areas:
Marketing your online business:
Win your customers’ attention with timely, personalized experiences and promotions.
The holiday shopping season has great potential to be lucrative, which is one of the reasons it’s so competitive among businesses. Take this opportunity to give your bottom line a major boost by effectively marketing your online business so your busiest season can also be
your most successful.
Drive traffic with seasonal content and promotions
Give your content a festive refresh.
When it comes to driving search traffic, content is king. In other words, content that attracts and engages customers can increase your search ranking and ultimately drive sales.
Build loyalty through holiday promotions and incentives
The holidays are a crucial time for businesses and shoppers alike. Consider the following to help your business stand out and boost customer loyalty by making them feel valued:
- Create personalized gift guides with special discounts to entice shoppers to purchase multiple items at once to save on shipping.
- Offer seasonal services such as free gift wrapping.
- Create limited-time offers and holiday bundles to add urgency and provide incentives for customers with tight budgets.
- Stay up to date on holiday shopping trends to determine which products to promote.
- Widen your product variety to encourage customers to buy multiple gifts in one place, saving them on shipping costs and keeping them from looking to your competitors.
- Offer free shipping and returns to ensure a positive customer experience and drive loyalty.
- Set up a referral program to expand your customer base while helping current customers save.
Here are a few ways you can create search-optimised holiday content:
- Optimise your on-site content with holiday-specific keywords. Study last year’s search trends and the highest-performing keywords through tools like Google Keyword Planner or Google Trends. Long-tail keywords — that are a couple words long — are also important as these are highly specific search phrases that customers use when they’re closer to purchase.
- Create holiday-specific landing pages for seasonal sales. Make sure to plan, create, and optimise the landing pages well in advance of the holidays. Website crawlers, or bots that learn what webpages are about, need time to scan and index the landing pages so they can show up in search.
- Launch holiday-specific Search Engine Marketing (SEM) ads.
Launch holiday-themed email campaigns that utilise similar search terms and reinforce your message.
- Launch a social influencer campaign centred around the holiday season or leverage trending and highly searchable hashtags such as #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt.
Attract holiday shoppers with personalised experiences
Personalise your site experience
During a competitive season like the holidays, analyse customer preferences closely and frequently, as customers are becoming less brand-loyal and turning to private-brand goods to cope with inflation7. In short, every customer interaction matters. Here’s how to make them valuable:
- Use AI-based tools that rely on data from prior customer behaviour to serve up relevant product recommendations, content, and product collections.
- Customise site search to autocomplete popular keywords and keyword phrases so customers can easily find what they need.
- Showcase related products based on customers’ browsing history on your website. The more opportunities that customers have to buy relevant products targeted at them, the better.
76% of customers said receiving personalised communications is a key factor in making them consider a brand8
Retarget shoppers with personalised incentives
You might think that an abandoned cart is evidence of a customer you’ve lost for good, but that’s not always the case. There are many reasons why shoppers abandon their cart, from technical issues to time-consuming checkout flows. It’s always a good idea to circle back to those customers and try to recover the sale with abandoned cart emails
You can incentivise shoppers to complete a purchase by following these simple steps:
- Send cart-recovery notifications via email and text to remind shoppers of the remaining items in their cart.
- Engage shoppers who have abandoned their cart with discounts that encourage them to complete their purchase.
- Create a sense of urgency with alerts that highlight when limited-time deals are expiring, or which items are about to go out of stock.
- Launch holiday email campaigns to reconnect with past customers.
Optimising the shopping experience:
Make customer support and checkout smooth and simple.
Driving customers to your site is a strong start for a successful holiday season but making sure they want to stay will set your business apart.
Leading up to your busiest shopping season, explore how you can drive as many conversions as possible with a site experience that keeps your customers coming back.
Amplify your customer support
Ramp up customer service around the holidays Customers are willing to spend more with a business that responds to their inquiries quickly — ideally within 24 to 48 hours.
Be upfront with your customers
Shoppers expect honesty and transparency. Here’s how to demonstrate it:
- Show all costs and fees, such as taxes and shipping, at checkout.
- Set expectations and provide timely updates to customers if there are delivery delays.
- Make your return policy clear by indicating cut off dates and a step-by-step process to initiate a return.
During the holiday season, customer service inquiries increased by 75%
Reduce customer service response time with these steps:
- Have a dedicated support staff.
- Set up chat bots to automate responses to less complex inquiries.
- Ensure your website-hosting service and digital infrastructure can handle a traffic increase.
- Keep your online contact information accurate and up to date.
- Publish an informative, easy-to-understand FAQ page as a self-service support option for customers.
Make checkout as frictionless as possible
To maximize holiday sales during a busy, stressful time for customers, you need to remove unnecessary barriers or friction points that could otherwise deter customers from completing a purchase. Here’s how:
Remove unnecessary barriers or friction points during the checkout process
Customers expect a fast, frictionless checkout, or they’ll go elsewhere if your site doesn’t offer it. One in five customers abandon their shopping carts due to complicated or lengthy checkout processes.
How to help ensure a fast, frictionless checkout:
- Offer guest checkout so customers aren’t required to create an account.
- Optimise the checkout process to be seamless on any device, from phones and tablets to desktops and laptops.
- Remove unnecessary form fields.
- Reduce the number of clicks in the checkout process. For instance, place a Buy Now button on the product pages that sends customers directly to checkout with one click, skipping the need to add the product to their cart.
- Provide multiple ways to pay — such as buy now pay later (BNPL), PayPal, digital wallets, and credit and debit cards — so customers can make a purchase with their preferred payment method.
Make customers feel safe at checkout
Trust plays a critical role in a customer’s decision to buy online. Gaining a customer’s trust makes them feel confident to buy from you. Given the sensitivity of data at checkout, it’s important that customers trust that their information is safe and secure.
- Offer buyer protection* that will reimburse customers in case they do not receive their order or if it arrives not as described.
- Display security protocols at checkout, such as shields or locks, to help make customers feel protected.
- Highlight customer testimonials that give customers an honest sense of what your products are like.
Protecting your online business:
The holiday shopping season is a bustling time for businesses, but it also sees an uptick in online fraud. Although it can be difficult to balance an increase in both customer and fraud activity, there are steps you can take to mitigate fraudulent activity before it starts. See how you can keep your business safe during your busiest time of year.
Online payment fraud caused an estimated US$20B in global eCommerce losses over 2021
Build strong cybersecurity for holiday success
Keep a close eye on your site activity
An increase in site traffic is usually good for business, but it can also mean greater attention — and threats — from fraudsters. Your first line of defence should be monitoring your site activity, so you can quickly detect suspicious activity that could hinder business growth during the crucial holiday season.
Here’s what you can keep an eye out for:
- An unusually large number of account creations.
- Excessive order amounts.
- Billing and shipping addresses that don’t match.
- Email addresses that look auto-generated.
- Multiple credit cards for the same order.
Secure transactions and customer data
Data leaks and stolen credit card information can wreak havoc on your business and its reputation. However, you can take certain actions to avoid falling victim to fraudsters and keep your transactions
safe and secure:
- Enable multi-factor authentication such as one-time codes that are sent to customers’ phones or emails.
- Encrypt your data with secure connections. Data encryption converts data into code, so if sensitive information does fall into the wrong hands, it’ll be unusable.
- Implement an Address Verification System (AVS) or Card Verification Value (CVV) for an added layer of protection on card-not-present purchases.
- Regularly update your software to prevent any breaches.
Keep your business safe from fraud and secure your customers’ data and transactions.
Holiday sales success starts with ImaAppweb
Online sales are booming, the holidays are getting closer, and seasonal e-commerce shoppers are worrying about getting scammed. To capitalise on these holiday opportunities while protecting your reputation and bottom line, it’s important to follow proven business tactics and implement data-driven tools that will help grow your business. What better time to start preparing for the holiday sales rush than right now?
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