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While the holiday season is still a few weeks away, consumers are already very concerned about how they will afford this year’s gifts as inflation continues to rise. In fact, more than half — about 59 percent — of Americans are worried about making it through the holiday season, according to a Bankrate survey.
As a result, many consumers are beginning to shop early in order to get a head start, with half of holiday shoppers planning to make their holiday purchases before Halloween.
Explains Ted Rossman, Bankrate’s senior industry analyst: “Holiday shopping will look different this year with inflation around 40-year highs. Starting earlier could help because it gives you time to spread out your cash flow and find the best deals.”
Because retailers rely heavily on the holiday season to earn a large amount of their annual revenue, it is extremely important to be prepared for the holiday shopping season. Below are several suggestions for making this a successful holiday season:
Plan ahead for large amounts of shopping traffic: Increased online traffic goes hand in hand with the holiday shopping experience. Consequently, retailers must consistently check their website’s reliability and ensure that inventory is adequately stocked at all times. In addition to focusing on site speed and security, be aware that your retail site should have the scalability and stability to successfully manage increased demands on your web infrastructure. Key events that will put your site to the test will be black friday and cyber monday.
Ensure a stress-free customer experience: In order to provide customers with a seamless online shopping experience, always test your site speed and maintain a site that is easy to navigate. Additionally, think about making your site mobile or if the resources allow it, create an app. This is vital, considering mobile commerce is projected to make up more than $700 billion in e-commerce sales by the year 2025.
Understand the importance of personalizing the shopping experience: All customers want an experience that’s unique to them. According to McKinsey research, more than 70 percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76 percent of consumers get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. In fact, the same McKinsey study found that personalization drives performance and better customer outcomes. Fast-growing companies drive 40 percent more of their revenue from personalization than their slower-growing counterparts.
To achieve this personalization, consistently inspire customers and encourage them to make purchases using customer data, such as location or demographics, and pay attention to insights from past browsing history. This effort will ultimately lead to an increase in conversion rates and a decrease in abandoned carts.
Additionally, consider personalizing the customer experience by using AI to interpret buying behavior. For example, Jake Cohen, Vice President at Klaviyo, a unified customer platform that gives online brands direct ownership of their customer data, recommends the following: “Ask people ahead of time (via surveys and pop ups) who they have to shop for this holiday season. Tag their profile so when it comes time to send promotional content, you can send content that is relevant to shopping for a specific person, such as a cousin, uncle, or daughter, to people who actually have to shop for that specific person or loved one. This will increase conversion rates and revenue.” This is true to also consider when planning your email campaigns and holiday promotions.
Enhance the checkout experience: Online retailers want every customer to complete their purchase before leaving the site. After all, abandoned shopping carts are not good for e-commerce business. To ensure purchases are completed, it is critical to optimize your checkout page for your online store so the checkout process is as smooth as possible. You can create a seamless checkout experience with the following:
—Simplify your checkout to just one page
–Enable anonymous / guest checkout capabilities
–Offer several payment options, such as PayPal, Venmo, Amazon Pay, or American Express. Providing as many secure payment options as possible is convenient for customers who want to choose how they pay.
–Enable multi-recipient functionality
–Offer several different shipping options
–Provide shipping insurance to give shoppers peace of mind
–Offer shipment tracking to remove customer anxiety about lost or delayed shipments
Develop a clear and fair return policy: Studies show that about half of consumers consider free returns or exchanges when deciding whether to purchase products from a retailer. And if you want consumers to feel confident buying from you and to feel valued, you must develop a generous return policy. Keep in mind that retailers who have overly strict return policies during the holiday season risk losing sales. And remember that the season of giving is the perfect time to be flexible and provide convenience to all loyal customers.
As we all look forward to this year’s holiday season, we can only hope for a return to normalcy—or at least a return to the new normal. And developing a simple, enjoyable shopping experience will give each and every consumer a great reason to choose your store over the competition.
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