Here come the holidays. The good news is that 86% of retailers expect holiday sales to increase YOY, and online sales will be the fastest growing segment. The challenge is that sub $10M ecommerce brands and Fortune 500 corporations prepare for retail’s biggest season in dramatically different ways. Most notably, SMBs don’t have the staff and resources to offer the volume and breadth of promotions, web site optimizations, marketing campaigns and volume discounts that are standard for mega-retailers. So what can SMBs do to increase efficiency and sales given constrained resources? Stick to the basics: focus on these five areas to deliver an awesome shopping experience and maximize revenue regardless of your brand size.
Get your mobile experience right.
Many of Symphony brands see upwards of 45% of traffic coming from a mobile phone or tablet. And guess what? Some of the biggest brands are difficult to shop on mobile—it’s hard to build a mobile site on top of decades-old technology. Here’s where being a smaller, more agile brand works to your advantage. Optimize your marketing emails to be read on mobile phones, use large call to action buttons in these emails to direct traffic to your site, and make sure it’s as easy to browse and checkout from a phone as it is from a computer.
Keep your online store open 24/7.
Shoppers can’t buy from you if your site goes down. Last year, Symphony’s top clients experienced 1100% increase in traffic during peak periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Check with your hosting provider to make sure that your site has sufficient bandwidth to handle demand spikes without going black.
Focus on the big five days.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day, Shipping Cutoff Day, and Christmas Eve each require a different messaging strategy to tap into the holiday buying cycle. For Black Friday and Cyber Monday, set up your email and social campaigns in advance and offer your most competitive pricing – shoppers are cruising online for deals before they hit the mall and your online ads should be firing at maximum capacity during this time. At a minimum, ensure that your ads, emails and landing pages are all aligned with the same messaging.
For Free Shipping Day and Shipping Cutoff, messaging switches to delivery times and “Guaranteed Delivery” messages should be more prominently displayed. Once these dates pass, make sure to pull your ads and swap them out with the next promotion messaging. Expect to severely slash your online advertising after Shipping Cutoff, and switch all messaging over to “last minute gifts” such as digital gift cards.
Christmas Eve is the biggest day of the year for digital gift cards. Yes, all of those last minute shoppers are desperate for something to stuff in a card or wrap under the tree, and digital gift cards that have a coupon or promotion code are just the ticket. Make sure your brand is ready and able to cash in on this trend.
Plan your shipping strategy.
As an SMB, the economics of fulfillment and shipping are stacked against you: you can’t negotiate the volume discounts that the mega-retailers can. Worse, 71% of consumers EXPECT free shipping, which puts pressure on your brand to compete on services that eat into your bottom line. As an alternative to a blanket free shipping policy, SMBs can implement smarter and more targeted promotions such as tiered shipping rates, free shipping to your best customers, free shipping on certain days (Today Only!), free shipping in exchange for referring a friend, or even free shipping in exchange for social media participation such as liking you on Facebook.
Optimize your web site for holiday shoppers.
For many shoppers, this may be their first experience with your brand, so your first impression has to be a great one.
Leading up to Christmas, make it easy for customers to find what they want by creating gift guides (“Gifts for Him”, “Gifts for Her”, “Gifts Under $100,”), easy to understand return policies (in case the gift doesn’t fit), explicit delivery times (including updating your normal shipping delivery times to account for holiday delays), easy gift messaging options, and automated package tracking so frazzled customers can quickly locate where their package is and confirm it will arrive on time without burdening your customer service team.
After opening presents on Christmas Day, consumers are back online looking to spend those nifty gift cards and hunting for bargains on gifts they wanted but didn’t receive. Make sure your site messaging ties into post-Christmas shopping experience by featuring new items (at full price) for those gift card shoppers who want to splurge, and swap out your gift catalogs with “After Christmas Sales” to move excess or seasonal inventory. Whatever they want to buy, redeeming their gift card should be quick and easy.
From planning to promotions, there is much that brands can do to boost holiday sales. For SMBs, just keeping up with holiday demand can be a daunting task. By covering the basics, SMBs will be ready to take on this holiday season with a strategy that addresses consumers needs on five levels: be where your customers are shopping (mobile), be open when your customers want you (increase site bandwidth), communicate differently during the buying cycle (pay attention to calendar milestones), anticipate consumer demand for free shipping (craft your free shipping strategy) and make sure your customers have a great online shopping experience (optimize your site for gift buyers).