Online sales for J.Jill are growing and hit $228 million for the 12 months ended Oct. 29.
With one big rush down and three weeks to go, online retailers can cater to their existing customers and keep targeting them with emails.
Diving into the details about existing customers can make a difference in holiday performance for online retailers, especially during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas
Knowing who bought what during this time last year can pay off this year, says Abe Garver, managing director of BG Strategic Advisors. “If I’m in charge at any online retailer who’s not in the top 250, I’m looking at who I’ve sold to before and going through those orders. I’m emailing them. If it takes calling customers on the phone, I’m doing that.”
Acquiring new customers is expensive, so it makes sense, especially for an e-retailer who isn’t Amazon.com or Kohl’s or Wal-Mart, to dig into its existing customer base and get those consumers to become repeat customers, he says. “The (retailers) at the top have been giving money away. It’s a sandbox that 750 (of the Top 1000) should not be in,” he says.
Building customer loyalty is a holiday and long-term strategy. Those retailers already have customers’ emails and phone numbers, so “be close to your top and existing customers and don’t chase everybody,” Garver says.
Email marketing figures to be a big part of many e-retailers’ strategy in the next three weeks. During Thanksgiving weekend, email marketing accounted for more than 15% of sales referrals between Thanksgiving and Sunday, and the number of sales generated by shoppers clicking from an email and buying jumped 25% over the same period a year ago, according to a report by Adobe Systems Inc.’s Adobe Digital Index. A report by marketing platform vendor Custora found that 25.1% of e-commerce transactions on Friday stemmed from shoppers clicking from emails.
Shipping deadline reminders are another way to motivate consumers to act, says Scot Wingo, chairman at ChannelAdvisor, which helps companies selling on Amazon Marketplace and other such venues. “Remind them of your shipping deadline as a helpful 'nudge' to get them to take action to make sure their items arrive for the holidays,” he says. “Another idea is weather. Let's say a snow storm is coming to the Northeast in five days—letting customers know of potential weather-related delays in that region could be enough to get them to take action to beat the snow.”
Amazon sellers need to focus on maintaining seller performance and managing their inventory, whether they’re using Fulfillment by Amazon to fulfill orders or handling that task themselves, says Peter Kearns, a former member of the Amazon Services team and now strategic customer success manager at automatic repricing services platform Feedvisor.
Seller performance also requires attention, Kearns says. “Sellers must be checking their Perfect Order Percentage (found under Account Health in Customer Satisfaction) to make sure it's over 95%. If it's not, they can download the bottom-performing ASINs (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers) report to make corrections or stop selling problematic ASINS,” he says.
Any notifications from Amazon require immediate attention and must not be ignored, Kearns says. “Now is not the time to get suspended, as it usually takes a few weeks for an account to be reinstated. An account suspension today will most likely mean the seller will be missing out on the rest of the holiday shopping season.”
And don’t forget how much procrastinators can add to the season.
A Deloitte study found that 44% of consumers surveyed planned to do most of their shopping in December and January, an increase from the 37% who said the same thing in 2013, when the study was last done.
“Use this prolonged shopping pattern to your advantage,” Ruth Hamer, director of digital marketing for pricing software company Marketyze, writes in a blog. “Purchases more evenly spread out across the holiday season means that you can fine-tune your supply chain logistics, as well as make sure that your deliveries are timely and customer satisfaction remains high.” Coupons for redemption later in the season or free shipping days can prompt customers to buy beyond peak days, she says.
“There's definitely a 'U shape' to the holiday,” Wingo says. Buyers are drawn in by Cyber Monday and the deals that follow that week, then they take a break and return as Dec. 25 nears. “Anything you can do to get folks out of that cycle is a huge benefit,” he says.