1. Shopper & Customer

Winning E-Commerce Strategies Retailers Should Zero in On to Make Sales Ring Over the Holidays

Retailers are working feverishly behind the scenes to optimize their e-commerce operations for the upcoming 2022 holiday shopping season. This year, retailers will face some of the same challenges they did during the 2021 holiday shopping season — with additional new challenges brought about by excess inventory, inflation and general volatility, uncertainty, chaos and ambiguity (VUCA).

Below is a look at key strategies retailers will be executing this year to maximize holiday sales.

Working to Reduce Returns

Experts estimate the average return costs retailers between 15 percent to 30 percent of the original purchase price, and $550 billion annually. It’s an area that retailers need to focus on. In fact, returns have escalated with more e-commerce sales. Returns were up 70 percent year-over-year in 2020.

By getting product information right, retailers have a solid opportunity to reduce their returns rate, which is not only good for the bottom line, but also enhances the customer experience by helping ensure shoppers get the exact products they want.

Listen closely to customers’ reasons for returns; they can provide a “map of the world” of what needs improvement:

  • “Not as described” — perhaps product descriptions are unclear or not detailed enough. Be sure the description includes the materials the product is made of
  • “Size too small or big” — move now to retool size charts if customers are finding they’re inaccurate. Be sure to include information about the models in product images and videos, such as their height and the size they’re wearing.
  • “Fit not as expected” — this could mean product descriptions and images don’t accurately communicate the fit or how the products appear when worn. To solve for this problem, include Information on the fit type (oversized, true-to-size, etc). Additional details can also assist; for example, it may be difficult for consumers to gauge the length of a skirt with only an image to refer to. By providing the back length measurement, shoppers can tell exactly where the skirt will fall on them to better align with expectations.

Other valuable resources for shoppers in this area can include customer reviews, videos, and live chat capabilities for guidance in choosing the right size or product.

Dialing in Search Engine Relevance

According to Accenture, 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember and provide relevant offers and recommendations.

Most online search systems today interpret user intent based on phrasing and context to discern transactional, navigational or informational intent. However, without conceptual data, e-commerce sites can fail to surface the specific products desired as well as relevant recommendations and content to aid the customer journey.

Adding advanced search engine relevancy technology that combines artificial intelligence, machine learning and behavioral-driven algorithms is an easy lift for retailers to improve the IQ of their search engines. This can be a big differentiator in today’s modern commerce landscape, and vital to support rich and rewarding digital experiences that consumers crave.

Supercharging Customer Data Strategies

It’s a good time to re-envision loyalty programs in advance of the holiday season. Winning and well-architected loyalty programs are essential when consumers and retailers alike are struggling financially. Furthermore, strategic loyalty program design can help retailers incentivize customers to adopt “new normal” pandemic-era shopping behaviors such as orders placed online for pick up in-store or curbside.

Additionally, stricter privacy laws and the deprecation of third-party cookies are necessitating retailers shift and get creative about the methods and means to collect first- and zero-party data. Loyalty programs can serve a dual purpose of helping collect customer data and preferences that can then be used to personalize offers throughout the year ahead.

This zero-party data is especially valuable for retailers as it’s indicative of those customers who are most interested in forming a relationship with a brand, as the information given is done so voluntarily.

Last, But Not Least

Be sure to revisit your digital commerce basics! All the bells and whistles available won’t fix anything unless your digital commerce foundation is sound. Continuously revisit the customer journey and focus on basics such as website performance, findability, relevance, content layout shift, content quality, and number of clicks for vital parts of the customer journey such as add to cart, complete full checkout, contact us, and product returns. Don’t forget to test all this functionality on all relevant devices.

Every retailer is hoping to take full advantage of the robust holiday shopping season, but hope isn’t a strategy. With a hyperfocus on these four focus areas, retailers can plan for success.

Johan Liljeros is general manager and senior commerce advisor, North America, at Avensia, experts in modern commerce.

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