With many retailers doing a third or more of annual sales during the last six to eight weeks of the year, it`s crucial to get the web channel prepared for the rush. Experts offer several steps that e-merchants can take in June to prepare for November.
Among the relatively quick fixes and upgrades that can have the biggest effect on engaging and converting holiday shoppers, according to analysts and retailers, are:
Deploying product-comparison tools to help shoppers decide what to buy, especially in consumer electronics and other products with multiple specifications that consumers often like to compare. "These can be invaluable in helping shoppers decide how much to spend," says Gene Alvarez, vice president and retail analyst at advisory firm Gartner Inc. Most retailers could deploy a product-comparison tool within 90 days, he adds.
Updating an online store locator to ensure that it provides an accurate listing of stores. Although the ideal is to deploy a system, as part of long-term project, that automatically updates store data as retailers close non-performing stores and open new ones, retailers should at least manually check and update store locators just before the Thanksgiving weekend, experts say.
Deploying a customer ratings and reviews application, a process that can take about 90 days, Alvarez says. Although it can take much longer than 90 days to get a system populated with a large amount of content, any customer-generated content can help win over other shoppers, and the holiday season is an ideal time to attract content, he adds. Moreover, products rated highly by customers have return rates 26% lower than those of unrated products, says Fiona Dias, executive vice president of partner strategy and marketing for e-commerce technology and services provider GSI Commerce Inc.
Offering gift finders that recommend gifts, such as for members of a family. These typically produce higher average order values, Dias says.
Planning a gift card program. Although these are known to be most effective during the last 20-30 days of the holiday shopping season, as shoppers run out of ideas of what to buy as gifts, retailers should begin promoting them in September to make early shoppers aware of them, says Ken Burke, chairman and founder of e-commerce platform provider MarketLive Inc.
Testing more effective search marketing strategies. Burke advises retailers to tie search marketing efforts to offers that run for a limited time to create urgency among shoppers.