[2020 Holidays] Prediction & Checklist to Maximize Ecommerce Sales

increase-ecommerce-sales-this-holiday-season

[2020 Holidays] Prediction & Checklist to Maximize Ecommerce Sales

To increase ecommerce sales on holidays seems easy but actually needs so much effort from businesses to win the massive competition. A blurred online store will not get the chance to capture the increase in shopping needs. 

 

Being store owners, what have you prepared to maximize ecommerce revenue during this great time? No matter how you have prepared, this post still provides a must-have checklist so that you will not miss important things. 

 

Before moving to the checklist, you might want to save these occasions to increase ecommerce sales. 

2020-holiday-calendar

 

2020 Holiday Ecommerce Predictions 

Will ecommerce sales explode this holiday season? 

Ecommerce looks different in 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19. On every day in April, ecommerce sites overall even got more traffic than what they saw on Black Friday 2019. For the holiday season 2020, Deloitte – a Big Four accounting firm – is expecting e-commerce sales to increase by 25% to 35%, reaching between $182 billion and $196 billion on their annual holiday retail forecast. Though nobody’s sure yet, merchants can hope for a bustling shopping season with the best readiness. 

What factors will make shoppers excited?

The following Digital Commerce 360’s survey was conducted on 1000 online shoppers, providing useful insights into key factors in which customers make purchase decisions. Online merchants can refer to this data to make proper efforts for the upcoming holiday season. According to the survey, free shipping and competitive pricing are by far the top two most important factors that shoppers concern about when opting for an online retailer. Besides, the stock availability of an item is another factor having a huge impact on their decision.

important-factors-in-choosing-an-online-store

When do shoppers plan to start/finish their shopping for holidays? 

Also, the survey partly reveals the most exciting time when a large portion of shoppers will start or finish their shopping for this holiday season in the following charts. As what the numbers say, the time from early November to the week before Christmas is when people shop most frantically.

holiday-shopping-plan

holiday-shopping-finish

Wait no more, the checklist to increase ecommerce sales in the 2020 holiday season is at your fingertips. 

I – Set Goals for The Holiday Season 

Numbers don’t tell you much and the performance of holiday campaigns cannot be measured without specific goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). This group of data will play an important role in orienting your actions and efforts to reach the ultimate sales goals or marketing goals. Select from these metrics and set an expected number for each one. 

 

KPIs to measure sales  KPIs to measure marketing 
  • Average Order Revenue (AOV)
  • Gross Profit
  • Conversion Rate
  • Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate
  • Shopping Cart Conversion Rate
  • Average Profit Margin 
  • Website Traffic
  • Average Session
  • Unique Pageviews
  • Bounce Rate
  • Email List Growth Rate
  • Email Open Rate/Click Rate
  • Social Media Engagement 
  • PPC, CPC, …

 

KPIs to measure customer service  Store performance management
  • Customer Satisfaction Score 
  • Refund/return Rate 
  • Average Complaint Resolution Time 
  • Return on Investment (ROI) 
  • Cost Variance 

II – Check and Optimize Your Website 

2.1  Evaluate the overall store experience 

 

Test your website performance 

Any hot deal of your holiday campaigns can bring traffic spikes on ecommerce websites. The increase in traffic is such a good thing, but store owners need to prepare for this or your site may be put at risk of shutting down when getting an unusual amount of traffic. Make sure that your store is able to handle a surge in traffic and transactions. The answer will be determined through some critical points of performance testing, such as load, scalability. 

 

  • Conduct those tests based on the daily/hourly peak order quantity/traffic in the 2019 holiday season and the predicted increase in 2020. 
  • Call your hosting provider to ensure they can cope with the expected traffic/sessions and consider adding extra server capacity where needed. 
  • Through performance testing, identify bottlenecks and find improvement areas. 

LEARN MORE about 7 Points of Website Performance Testing to make sure your site is ready for traffic spikes this holiday season. 

Test your page speed 

test-your-pagespeed

Besides those points, page speed is one of the deciding factors that impact customers’ willingness to buy. According to a Forbes statement, nearly 70% of customers agree with this. Notably, a slow loading time also decreases the chances they will return a website in the future. A breakdown of the data reveals 22% of shoppers said they would leave the website, 15% would go to a competitor’s site, and 12% would tell others about their experience with a negative impression. 

 

If you are wondering how fast is fast enough? The answer is ‘faster means better.” In general, the page load time should not exceed 3 seconds across devices. 

 

Google Pagespeed Insights or GTmetrix will give you the most critical data about a page’s performance with an overall score and let you know what points need to be optimized. If technical reports and guidance are not familiar to you, it’s easier to get help from experts specializing in relevant platforms like Magento Speed Optimization Consultants.         

 

Make sure all functions work well 

No matter how hot your deals are, they would not be appealing enough if customers have a bad experience on your site because of a not-working function, for example, the “Clear Cart” button or “Update Cart” button. That’s why we mention this point in the checklist. 

 

If you haven’t performed functional testing on your site for a long time, let’s do it with all functions in important pages before the holidays come. Homepage, Product Page, Category Listing Page, Cart Page, Checkout Page are unskippable pages throughout customer journey and should be given equal importance so that customers will not be stuck in any step. 

 

GET YOUR SITE TESTED with Web Function Testing to make sure everything is smooth! 

Review third-party integration        

Large ecommerce sites now use many third-party add-ons/technologies for their websites, to which store owners usually have little control over. So what happens when these add-ons fail during this holiday season? 

 

You should be preparing now, before holidays arrive, to ensure an unforeseen 3rd-party failure will not take down your holiday expectations. What you need to do with third-party add-ons/technologies is to check if they are up-to-date. Also, test them, make sure they can work well during peak-traffic conditions. 

 

Enable cart abandonment notifications 

cart-abandonment-notification

(Source: Push Alert)

 

According to the research of Statista.com on 19 industries in March 2020, 88.05% of online shopping orders were abandoned. The highest rate reached up to 96.88%. 

 

What do we conclude from those numbers? It’s really difficult to persuade a customer to leave an order. They might have several reasons to leave your site even when they’ve added full items to the shopping cart. So, sometimes you should be ready to retarget potential customers if possible. 

 

How do we do that? Send those customers a push notification to remind them of the items they left behind. You can consider giving them festive special discounts to drive them to purchase decisions. If you have the live chat feature integrated into your website, it should trigger a conversation to remind customers of their abandoned cart and realize what are problems immediately. 

2.2  Update your merchandising strategy 

 

Showcase your holiday products 

Store owners can choose to sell seasonal and festive products this holiday season. Besides individual products, specific holiday bundles are also commonly applied. In this case, let’s start with thinking about items that can go together naturally according to three common approaches:  

 

  • Items that real customers have bought together in the past or usually be used together (e.g., makeup remover and cotton packs ) 
  • Items that customers are most likely to need when buying a more expensive item (e.g., a case for a tablet or a smartphone)
  • Items that may be needed in sets (e.g., sets of clothes)

product-bundling

Next, consider how you’ll display special holiday items/bundles on your site. Organizing all of them in a holiday-specific category in your site navigation is a good idea to make shopping easy. Here are some helpful tips for you when creating bundles: 

 

  • You don’t need to offer substantial cost savings, but you should make them noticeable. To avoid big discounts, consider adding a really cool free item with nice margins.
  • Be mindful of options when offering clothing or similar bundles and make sure shoppers can choose their size, color, etc. for each item in the bundle. 
  • Last but not least, check your stock before offering bundles and avoid bundling items with drastically different inventory levels.

 

Personalize your product recommendations 

Holiday seasons are the greatest time of the year to maximize sales potential. It’s such a waste if you do not take drastic actions to push the right items to customers and evoke their potential needs. 

 

Personalized product recommendation has proven its effectiveness in motivating customers to buy more than they initially need. By analyzing customer behaviors, data (location, demographic, etc.), and contextual data, together with business-related data like margin and inventory, you can suggest relevant items to inspire shoppers and encourage them to make a purchase. Previous browsing history is another data that can be used to get valuable insights. 

product-recommendation

    

 

Optimize your site search 

Firstly, make sure your on-site search returns accurate items that customers are looking for. If they face problems and can’t reach what they’re looking for on your site, they’ll find it somewhere else. 

 

Secondly, it’s important for the on-site search engine to recognize users’ mistakes and attempt to fix them. For example, a message like “Did you mean …?” may be shown under the search bar when users make a spelling error. 

2.3  Optimize the checkout process 

 

Simplify your checkout page 

Loading multiple pages gives customers time to leave your site, especially on mobile devices. 

 

By including all of the checkout steps on a single page (shipping address, shipping method, payment methods), you make the process easier and quicker for customers to complete. The single-checkout-page feature allows customers to be satisfied with their shopping experience and positively impacts the retention rate in the long run. 

 

Whatever ecommerce platform you are using, you also easily find one-page-checkout solutions to simplify your checkout process. Magento 2 One Step Checkout extension is an example of ecommerce websites using Magento 2. 

 

Additional tips to optimize the checkout experience: 

 

  • Allow order modification 
  • Keep the back button functional 
  • Show a progress indicator 
  • Give shoppers a simple checkout interface 

 

automate_the_checkout_process

(Magento 2 One Step Checkout – BSS Commerce)

 

Enable guest checkout 

Many websites only allow customers to place orders with a logged-in account. Meanwhile, most first-time customers usually feel uncomfortable leaving their information during the initial visit. Consequently, “having to create a user account” is one of the top reasons causing shopping cart abandonment. 

 

Don’t prevent ecommerce sales from increasing with such an annoying requirement and enable customers to checkout as guests instead. 

 

Add more payment methods if necessary 

Customers have no reasons to turn back the ecommerce website that does not support his/her payment method of choice.  

 

Right now, it’s the best time to consider if your store needs any additional payment methods. If it has been run over the last holiday season, review the indicators of that time again to analyze if payment methods had significantly impacted the customer journey. Also, don’t forget to research what payment methods major competitors are using and check whether your store already supports them. 

2.4  Implement PWA in your website 

According to Button’s data, mobile spending per shopper climbed by 68% from Nov 24, 2019, to Jan 3, 2020, compared with the same period one year ago. Before the heat of mobile ecommerce, it’s more important than ever to make your website easily accessible and deliver a better browsing experience through devices before this holiday season. 

 

Progressive Web App (PWA) technology combines both modern browsers and mobile apps’ features. For this reason, it is superior to a native app and a responsive web as well and is shaping ecommerce’s future. To support the view, we’ve made a quick PWA vs. Native Apps Comparison and given some PWA Examples.

A progressive web app can be added to the home screen easily, so the next time back only wastes customers one click.

PWA-example

Regardless of what ecommerce platform your store is using, you can turn your online store into a progressive web app in different ways, such as: 

 

  • Hire a PWA development service 
  • Use a PWA extension 
  • Install a PWA theme

Want a PWA theme for your Magento? Speedy – Magento 2 PWA Theme is a must-try.

This free Magento 2 PWA Theme from BSS Commerce brings notable changes to the users’ experience, creates a responsive web design, and boosts SEO, conversions, and sales of your website. With BSS Commerce’s support, store owners can easily download and use the theme after a few steps. 

2.5  Don’t forget to decorate 

A festive look is indispensable on a particular holiday campaign to inspire customers and positively motivates their engagement. 

 

You can do many things to draw customer attention and amuse them, from changing the theme, designing new header banners, to decorating the logo. Be mindful of the color combination to make sure it drastically influences visitors with a fantastic shopping vibe.  

 

More than a festive look, consider adding interactive elements to encourage customers’ interactions with your brand, such as countdown timer or lucky wheels. 

decorate-your-store-with-spinner

(Source: WisePops) 

 

III – Selling, Shipping, Fulfillment 

3.1  Expand your sales channels 

Your website is not the only one to spread holiday cheer. Thousands of online stores out there also do it. Therefore, it’s more effective to reach customers with multi-channels. In addition to your website, consider expanding your sales channels to: 

 

  • Online marketplaces: offer products on popular marketplaces like Amazon, Jet, Walmart, etc. 
  • Social commerce: sell products directly through social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, etc. 
  • Comparison shopping engines: If other merchants also stock the products you sell, you may want to get your items listed in comparison shopping engines like Google Shopping. For many price-conscious shoppers, this kind of website is a first-stop. So if you offer competitive prices, this might be one of your choices. 

google-shopping

3.2  Determine how you will carry out shipping and fulfillment 

During this holiday season, your store will likely experience an increase in orders. You cannot be ready for peak time without preparation of how you will handle shipping and fulfillment. Below, we’ve listed three primary options: 

 

Handle shipping and fulfillment in-house

In this option, merchants manage the inventory and the shipment for all of the orders. For many online firms, this method is convenient and works just fine. However, when the number of orders hits a certain amount, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with managing all of the steps it takes to get products safely out the door.

 

Hire a third-party logistics provider 

If your business is not ready to handle shipping and fulfillment in-house, third-party logistics providers will help you take care of this part. The pros of this method are bulk shipping discounts and advanced tracking technology and faster delivery. If there are any questions or issues around the shipment, customers can reach out to the logistics provider. 

 

Have a dropshipping supplier

You might want to offer some products that are not stocked in your warehouse, and then they are directly delivered to customers from the wholesale supplier. You will earn from the gap between the supplier’s price and the price you offer to customers for each drop-ship order. That is an explanation of the Drop Shipping model. 

 

In what cases should you consider dropshipping? 

 

  • You want to cut costs related to shipping 
  • You afraid of overstocking, so you want to have a dropshipping supplier as a backup 
  • You don’t want to stock high-maintenance products 
  • You are not sure if a product will bring good sales, so you don’t want to stock it. 

3.3  Have a clear return policy 

Both customers and merchants are not happy when it comes to returns or refunds as well. However, return policy should be clear, transparent, and fair to avoid troubles, especially at peak season. 

 

Right now, it’s time to review all cases in the past that customers ask for returns and answer some questions: 

 

  • Was your return policy clear enough to address those cases? 
  • Were there any special cases out of the return policy that should be addressed additionally? 
  • How do you feel about your return policy if you were in the customer’s shoes? 

Because every merchant wants to maximize revenue through each holiday season, the return policy should also be special and more than just transparent and fair. The too strict return policy may hurt potential sales. Instead, some flexibility will increase their willingness to place orders.

IV – Marketing & Promotion 

4.1  Adopt promotional strategies to engage customers

When it comes to planning a campaign specific to a certain holiday, the important thing is to bring in customers with promotions while simultaneously helping them celebrate the holiday season. Depending on business features, customer features, and budget, there are different promotion ideas for online businesses to choose from:  

 

  • Offer free shipping and wrapping  
  • Run flash sales
  • Bundling discounts
  • Host contest, sweepstakes, and giveaways
  • Give customers limited-time coupons or discounts 
  • Attach free sample or low-priced products 
  • Have a reward or a loyalty program 

Here is an example of a bundling discount – one of the most commonly-used promotional strategies.

showcase-product-for-holidays

(Source: Junk Mail)

4.2  Create a marketing & communication strategy 

Keeping a constant stream of content flowing is important in the holidays’ marketing & communication strategy. Even when you can unleash your creativity, your marketing efforts must be timely, seamless, and relevant to the context. Once you ensure those things, more chances are customers will be swept up in your content and the flow you want to lead them. While those efforts might involve multiple marketing & communication channels, these are important ones you should pay more attention to. 

Email marketing 

Email marketing contributes so much to campaign success. If your store is coming up with hot deals or special offers, don’t wait until the last minute to share it with customers. Take advantage of automated email features to get the message out early about holiday promotions. This proactive approach is the best thing you can do to boost conversions when you need them most. 

 

Prepare a dedicated mailing list for specific holidays then have a plan of how many emails you will send, when, and to which groups. If you want your email to be catchy, why don’t use a festive theme for each email to capture audiences’ attention and help them feel that you’re celebrating the holiday with them. But don’t ignore mobile-responsiveness because many customers will check emails on their mobile. Besides the presentation, real-time content is still the key factor to persuade readers and motivate them to action. 

 

Abandoned cart email is another necessity in holidays to remind customers of items they’ve added to the shopping cart. Since consumers usually shop from multiple online stores during this time, your superficial effort might give customers to competitors. If your store hasn’t integrated with an ecommerce marketing platform, do it now not to waste customer data.

 

email-marketing-for-holidays

(Source: GetResponse)

 

Paid advertising 

Organic traffic is valuable, but SEO efforts are often not enough to lift your website to Google’s top positions. This is where paid advertising comes in to boost your brand in a saturated market and garner thousands of more views. 

 

When running paid advertising, it’s important to set clear expectations on a spend. This way, you can focus on keeping costly aspects of a campaign in check and adjust before your whole budget is spent. Instead of a fixed amount, a budget based on revenue will allow scalability during traffic fluctuation while maintaining profitability. Otherwise, make sure you take the time to:

 

  • Predict the most active days that people are most likely to buy
  • Do some analysis to see which audience groups are converting the best
  • Run a small test in advance to see if there’s a specific product or service converting best
  • Customize your ads to each specific day

Always remember that paid advertising will be a waste if your landing pages are not optimized. Advertising only drives traffic, while your landing pages will drive sales. 

 

Social media

The increase of social media users and the time they spend on platforms like Facebook, Instagram makes these places great to grow your brand visibility. If your brand hasn’t had a profile on any social media before, consider creating one now and get the word out about why shoppers should visit your store. Instagram stories, Facebook posts, or a tweet on Twitter promoting deals are just some of the various ways to spread your holiday campaign with a hashtag and slogan. 

 

If you find some paid ads is necessary on Facebook, for example, make the most out of supported features to design insightful advertising, including Lead Ads, Engagement Ads on Wall Posts, Demographic Targeting, Behavioral Targeting, and more. An up-to-date buyer persona and behavior should be ready for this.

facebook_ads

(Source: Adweek) 

 

4.3  Review and optimize the SEO performance 

Reviewing current SEO performance now is necessary to make sure you make the most of seasonal SEO opportunities. High SEO scores help reduce dependency on paid ads to rank higher on Google and help improve performance across other marketing channels. 

 

  • Do some research with keywords that can be used to search your products and figure out what keywords you should target to optimize your product pages. 
  • Review if your product descriptions are optimized with buzz words with targeted “Black Friday” keywords.
  • Review technical SEO aspects: check for 404 errors/301 errors, optimize meta tags. 

SEOquake is a free, easy-to-use tool allowing everyone to check the SEO score of a webpage. Even if you do not have an SEO basis, you can still understand what the tool reports and how you should improve your overall SEO score. 

Wrapping Up 

The best time to increase ecommerce sales in 2020 is coming up with successive special occasions. However, success only happens to those who have good preparation and readiness. And now, you’ve known what to do. 

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