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Commentary: Listen to...Your Mom!

Posted on 10.01.2015

By Allison Howen, Associate Editor

Like a bratty teenager, Internet professionals think they know it all when it comes to how an e-commerce website should look and function.

This holiday season, however, it's once-a-year online shoppers who brands can learn the most from. After all, as the world becomes more connected and technology becomes more accessible, even those who are not tech-savvy are dabbling in the e-commerce waters.

What those shoppers are asking for, however, really isn't all that complicated - especially for retailers fortunate enough to have a focus group just a call away.

Don't display out-of-stock items

Customers spend a lot of time looking for the "perfect gift" and when they discover the item is out of stock once they get to the product page, they are sure to be upset. Or even worse, they could have an experience like my mom, who made a purchase on Black Friday only to be informed via email a week before Christmas that the item was no longer in stock. This not only results in a lost customer for the retailer, but makes the annual online shopper (like my mom) have a negative outlook on e-commerce altogether. And, their kids are sure to hear about it - especially if they work in the industry.

Fortunately retailers can remedy this problem by verifying their inventory levels match up across channels before the holiday season begins. Retailers should also ensure their merchandising software updates inventory in real-time and either removes out-of-stock items from their website completely, or prominently highlights items that are out of stock on inventory listing pages and offers a back-in-stock notification option on the product page (discover four back-in-stock solutions at Lastly, never wait until a week before the holiday to give your customer notice that the item will not ship - it's rude to both novice and veteran shoppers alike.

Make checkouts painless

Shopping online to avoid a mile-long line at a brick-and-mortar store is only a positive experience if the e-commerce site has a painless checkout - which is not always the case.

To give a pleasant experience to every skill level of online shoppers, retailers should provide a simple checkout by offering easy payment options like PayPal. Surprisingly (at least for me), PayPal is my mom's favorite way to complete an online checkout, which goes to prove that PayPal may be just as popular as an easy-to-use platform like Facebook is with those who are not tech-savvy.

Motivation may be required

Traditional brick-and-mortar shoppers like my mom have a habit of thinking they can hunt down the best sales by searching the weekly periodical ads and scouring the store shelves - especially during the peak of the holiday season. To motivate these consumers to convert online, e-commerce retailers must do much more than send Black Friday promotion emails and offer free shipping. In addition, they should consider offering free gifts with online purchases and exclusive flash sales to online shoppers. While it is obvious why everyone loves a free gift, offering limited-time sales promotes a sense of urgency, which motivates shoppers to take action immediately due to the fear of missing out (FOMO). Plus, exclusive online promotions enable retailers to satisfy even the most bargain-hungry shopper, and this can quickly turn a veteran brick-and-mortar customer into a motivated online-shopper-in-training.

Cater to the novice online shopper this holiday season

Although it may seem that shoppers like my mom have some catching up to do when it comes to learning the ins-and-outs of online shopping, it is this customer segment that retailers can learn from the most. After all, veteran online shoppers are more likely to have patience when they run into a virtual roadblock. Novice online shoppers, however, still need e-commerce retailers to prove themselves as superior to their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

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