5 Ecommerce Tips for Ensuring a Happy Holiday for your Online Customers

Doug Heise
by Doug Heise 03 Nov, 2014

Each year, consumers express surprise at how early the holiday shopping season begins. Halloween has barely passed before we are being asked to hit the stores with our shopping lists in hand. But from a retailer's perspective, it's never too early to start thinking about how to drive sales and improve the holiday shopping experience. Many retailers depend on holiday shoppers to meet their revenue projections. 

The holidays are particularly important for online retailers. The National Retail Federation (NRF)  predicts that 56 percent of holiday shoppers expect to do at least some part of their holiday shopping online this year and those shoppers plan to spend 16 percent more than all other holiday shoppers on gifts, decorations and food for the holidays. But with the continued global growth of ecommerce and the unrelenting pressure from online discounters, finding a way to differentiate yourself online has never been more challenging.

These days it's not enough to simply deliver a wide range of products at a low price. Many consumers expect online retailers to address a broader range of their goals. Here are five tips on how to ensure that customers visit your shop first - and stick around once they get there. 

1. Focus on Customer Personality Types, not just Demographics

The days of one-size-fits-all shopping are long gone. Targeting and segmentation based on broad demographics are becoming the norm. Many retailers are still failing to respond to the many different shopping "styles" and personalities of the modern, mobile-centric consumer. Some shoppers know exactly what they want - others are looking to be inspired. Some are extremely price-conscious - others are looking for a specific brand experience. Some shoppers are looking for practical gifts - others just want to buy something fun. Get to know the behavior of the shoppers who frequent your online store and cater to their specific needs.

2. Make it Fun and Keep it Fresh

Even the most enthusiastic online shopper can find gift buying tedious or overwhelming. Make the shopping experience fun with contests, games and interactivity. Enlist social media experts and influential community members to provide content for your site. Give people reasons to return to your store often with frequently refreshed content and unique product offers - including daily deals and an ever-changing "What's New" section. Most of all, make it a highly visual and creative experience.

3. Leverage Common Search Terms to Boost Sales of Top Performing Products

Remember, your customers can't buy a product if they can't find it. Make sure that the products in your top-performing categories are tagged using the terms that your customers actually use.  Are you selling "jackets" when your shoppers are looking for "hoodies"? Update your top product taxonomies to reflect the interests and search terms that you've uncovered through analytics.

4. Prevent Problems by Encouraging your Customers to Shop Early

Too many customers completing their purchases at the same time can cause enormous fulfillment problems for retailers that are dependent on the same handful of delivery companies. Make sure your customers aren't all waiting until the final moment to buy their holiday gifts. Make it easy for shoppers to buy early and often. Target them with reminder messages across multiple channels. Provide them with incentives such as discounts or limited time offers. Make it easier for them to know what their loved ones want by supporting wish lists.

5. Don't Forget the Follow Through

Data collected by the IBM Institute for Business Value has shown that the most important phase in the customer journey for ensuring ongoing customer loyalty is the post-purchase phase. Unfortunately, many online retailers don't pay enough attention to this critical phase. Make sure that you are fully prepared to offer easy product support and ongoing maintenance. Give your customers a chance to talk about their experiences with a product. Reach out to them regularly in ways that are relevant, socially connected and fun. Make them feel like a member of a community, not just a one-time shopper.

Doug Heise serves as Global Director of Product Marketing for CoreMedia. Doug has more than 17 years of experience as a digital media strategist and marketing specialist, including co-founding The Content Group, a San Francisco-based consulting and professional services firm that was one of the first companies to focus exclusively on the field of digital media management.