4 Simple Steps Retailers Can Take to Boost Holiday Sales Through Web Optimization

Dec 15, 2017


BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Article ImageMajor shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday can become make-or-break moments for online retailers. This year, Black Friday shopping was dominated by online sales. Americans spent a record $5 billion online in 24 hours this Black Friday, an increase of 16.9% since last year, according to data from Adobe Digital Insights. On Cyber Monday, Americans spent a blockbuster $6.6 billion online. For e-retailers, this shopping frenzy can mean soaring profits or lost customers, depending on website performance.

Not all online shopping experiences are created equal. Poor web and mobile experiences like load time delays, error messages and lost shopping carts can damage a company’s reputation and turn customers away. A recent report found that just a two-second delay in load time increases bounce rates by 103%. Meanwhile, positive web experiences that utilize interactivity and third party content can drive sales.

Here are four strategies e-retailers can use to optimize their websites to meet peak demand not only during the holidays, but throughout the entire year.

1. Scale Your Website to Meet Peak Traffic Periods

E-commerce companies must be ready for an influx of customers at any time, not just around the holidays. Everything from a promotional campaign to a change in the news cycle can drive traffic to a website. If a company is not prepared, its user experience will suffer. Consequences include not only lost revenue, but long-term damage to brand reputation. When a website loads slowly or a customer cannot purchase the items in their shopping cart because the backend system is overloaded, that customer can lose trust in the brand. Shoppers always remember a poor experience.

In order to handle the rush that comes with a peak traffic period, companies should optimize their marketing and e-commerce platforms to ensure predictable behavior at scale. Websites need to have the right amount of server power to avoid slow load times, errors and other negative user experiences. They need to process online orders and credit card information quickly and efficiently. Companies should also look to provide a positive and predictable online waiting room experience to keep customers engaged while a site adjusts to heavy traffic. Platforms should always be tested at scale to ensure they can handle an influx of traffic throughout the year.

2. Get Mobile Right

E-retailers should ask themselves one crucial question: does my company see more customer engagement via mobile web or mobile apps, and how is each interaction unique? If you’re not asking this question, you’re missing revenue and customer loyalty opportunities. It’s important to analyze your mobile web and app platforms independently to determine the right unique experiences that each should provide.

A mobile app platform often comes with a barrier to entry. The extra step consumers need to take to download an app can limit adoption. To overcome this hurdle, companies can position mobile apps as an option within their websites and provide a unique app experience or incentive. Wayfair does this well by including a message on its mobile website suggesting that customers download the app for an even better user experience. From there, Wayfair provides a unique experience by implementing augmented reality (AR). Customers can use the app to create 3D renderings that show how a piece of furniture will look in their own homes without having to purchase it or go through a trial period.

Similarly, Apple incentivizes the use of its mobile app by allowing customers to buy certain items directly off of the shelves without having to wait in line in store. Customers can scan and pay for an item with their phones by using the app. Talk about convenience!

3. Focus on Interactivity for a Better Experience

Companies can optimize mobile apps through interactivity. Integrating video, AR, chatbots and other tools can create an impactful and positive experience. Interactivity can also overcome many of the barriers facing retail businesses today. The fashion and interior design industries are using AR to overcome barriers to purchase by enabling customers to try things out instantly. Like Wayfair, Ikea’s app also shows customers a 3D rendering of what specific furniture will look like in their homes. Not all customers trust online reviews and photos. AR ups the e-commerce game by enabling customers to try out furniture or clothing virtually without the logistic complexities of free return policies or month-long trials.

Another example is in-store kiosks, which create streamlined e-commerce portals leveraging brick-and-mortar store locations. For example, customers often want to see an item in person before they buy it, but they might not want to wait for an available staff member to learn about it. Home Depot’s touch screen kiosks solve this problem by bringing the tablet experience into stores. A customer can locate a specific item, access product reviews, see different color options and make a purchase right from the kiosk. This provides an interactive in-store experience through an e-commerce platform that matches the company’s website experience.

4. Choose Your Third Party Content Wisely

Effective use of third parties can enhance a website, but making assumptions about performance, scalability, and availability can lead to delays and errors that compromise the customer experience. Integrating third party content allows companies to provide key web services they otherwise could not. For example, not every company has access to a large enough user base to provide the Amazon-level reviews that customers expect, or enough metadata to drive personalized ratings and reviews. Third party services can provide these engaging elements via simple Javascript or API integrations and make a big impact on metrics like average order value and revenue per visit.

Payment gateways are another third party offering that many retailers are tapping into today. As online shopping has become ubiquitous, many companies partner with PayPal or Verified by Visa for secure payment management. In fact, the NCC Group found that most websites are made up of 15% or more third party content. All of these features are being loaded into the site in real time and must load quickly to be successful. If any of these third party services go wrong, customers will lose faith in a site.

Improving the Online Customer Experience All Year-Round

While the holidays offer extra incentive for companies to optimize their websites, these tactics are important year-round. Don’t let your guard down once the holiday season ends. E-commerce companies should adhere to these practices beyond the traditional Q4 push. Other global holidays such as Lunar New Year Golden Week in China, Diwali in India, and Boxing Day in Australia contribute to holiday sales, which account for 20% of global retail annual sales, according to the National Retail Foundation (NRF). E-retail websites must be able to consistently handle the global ebb and flow of customers, while maintaining a fast, easy and enjoyable shopping experience.

 


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