Many shoppers prefer to shop online these days for a number of good reasons. For starters, online stores are always open. There are no long lines, something that is particularly attractive during the hodgepodges that occur at local esplanades during the holiday shopping season. And, typically, online stores offer better prices, as well as reduced or no state sales taxes, something that can be offset by the cost of shipping and handling (which we will delve into later), and plenty of options as far sizing, color, add-ons and features are concerned (think clothing, oddities, sundries, etc.), that can be more difficult to procure locally. Then there are, of course, the added benefits of drop-shipping and front door delivery. Needless to say, it’s not in question why people enjoy shopping online; the benefits are obvious. What is in question is how can you attract more customers to your online store this year previous to the holiday season, as well as during, before and after it commences?
Ecommerce is Booming
Online shopping is big business. As a matter of fact, ecommerce sales have surged in recent years to unprecedented heights. According to a 2012 ComScore report (mind you, this is nearly two years ago), online holiday sales have increased by over 40% from 2008 to 2012, increasing from $27.9 billion (2008) to $42.3 billion by 2012. The numbers today could very well exceed $50 billion once Q4 of 2014 has commenced. As you can tell from the chart (above), online sales are immensely impressive come the yultide ecommerce gift shop-a-thon. Use these following expert tips to assure that your ecommerce hub generates as much revenue as possible this forthcoming holiday season.
Offer Fast, Low-Cost or Free Shipping
Most customers will try to shop in a timely manner, but you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t cater to last-minute shoppers. Consider offering affordable last-minute shipping. You can use discount USPS options available through entities like Express 1 (which offers cheap USPS shipping rates), Endicia or Stamps.com. Using these providers, you can offer the best rates on Priority Mail and Priority Express Mail with a one-to-three business day delivery window. Also, consider using carriers like FedEx and UPS to offer overnight shipping at a reasonable rate (most offer holiday shipping deals to ecommerce stores). (Read our blog about How to Combat Common Issues with Shipping and Handling.)
Feature Free Returns Shipping
Customers want a generous returns policy, especially over the holidays. A study that was conducted by Forrester Research for UPS found that 81% of people shopping online want an easy and convenient returns policy. The same study found that over 80% of shoppers want generous returns, such as those which are offered by Zappos. In addition, the same study also found that shoppers who make the most returns are also typically your most loyal shoppers. Offering easy returns is a smart way to encourage more people to make purchases from your store. They don’t have to worry if the item doesn’t work out after the fact (which, by the way, in about 65% of all returns, the error occurred from the store and not from the customer). (Read our blog about Offering Generous, Effective Returns Management to Improve Online Sales.)
Host Attractive, Holiday-Exclusive Sales
Make sure you are doing everything that you can to attract more customers to your online store. This includes offering holiday-exclusive sales, specials and discounts. For instance, assure that your online Black Friday sales are well advertised and competitive to drive more sales. You should be well prepared for the largest shopping day of the year online, Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Consider rolling ads out before Thanksgiving and ushering in these special holidays sales deals prior to your competitors. For example, as opposed to just doing a Cyber Monday sale, instead run an ad that says it will now be “Cyber Week.” Offer the incredible bargains that other stores will only be offering for one day for an entire week leading up to and through the actual holidays. Use creative thinking such as this to maximize on the holiday sales funnel. (Read our blog about How to Boost Ecommerce Sales Over the Holidays with Cheap USPS Shipping.)
Deliver White-Gloved Live Support
Your shoppers want superb support. Nothing less will do the trick. Be sure that you have fabulous support systems in place that your shoppers can rely upon. This means that you offer telephone, email and chat support. Consider implementing a support ticket system to expedite support issues, and always have a live chat support system in place. If you are using a call center for your ecommerce store, be sure that the staff uses a branded message that intrigues callers and reminds them of the holiday savings that you offer. Remember, good customer support ultimately amounts to drastically improved retention; and the lack thereof equates to lost customers and reduced sales.
Be Engaging, Proactive on Social Media Channels
A good practice is to make sure that you are engaging your customers actively on social media. Consider posting pictures of the most sought after gifts and using simple tag lines like: “Wonder how dad will freak out when he sees this under the tree?” A simple link back to a blog post talking about this subject matter on your website will do wonders for intriguing customers on your social channels, consumers who may not have converted into a sale otherwise. In addition, getting customers to your store can also lead to future sales when they see other products and deals that they find to be attractive.
Don’t Leave Out Mobile Shoppers
Make sure that your website is equipped for optimized view and transactions on mobile devices. Don’t dissuade a large portion of the online ecommerce demographic of eager shoppers. According to Juniper Research’s “Mobile Payments for Digital and Physical Goods: Opportunity Analysis 2012 – 2017” report, this year, over 580 million consumers will be shopping online for goods from their mobile devices, an increase of over 380 million since 2012. Don’t limit your online sales to just desktop users. Optimize your site for mobile shoppers and increase your sales this holiday season.
Rely Upon Online Marketing
Online marketing is a key cadre in driving increased sales over any period, especially during the thick of the holiday shopping season. Consider upping your PPC budget substantially. Look to bid on keywords that are trending in Google Trends to get a better idea of which high traffic keywords that you can bid on to drive more customers to your online store. Don’t forget about email marketing and your newsletter, either; where you can approach prequalified organic leads directly to increase consumer awareness and drive targeted, organic traffic and, ultimately, more sales.
Issue a Press Release to Announce Sales
Press releases are powerful news tools that can position your ecommerce business in the spotlight in major news feeds around the world. Good distribution can net you thousands of reads and thousands of click-throughs. Use them to announce major sales, like the “Cyber Week” example that was offered above. We all can’t be experts at writing press releases, which is why you can rely upon this guest blog that we wrote on KissMetrics regarding the 12 Incremental Rules of Issuing Press Releases. Use this step-by-step guide to write the most winningest press releases for your online store.
Use Effective Order Management Systems
Last but not least, your sales all depend upon getting orders fulfilled and shipped to your customers in an expedient manner. This involves not only using a great shipping software application like ReadyShipper, but also assuring that you combine this solution with an order management software solution like OrderMotion. Using two solutions such as this, you can expedite the order, fulfillment and shipping processes, better manage returns and assure that order errors are minimized to the greatest extent as is possible. Do these things, and you can kick off the holiday sales drive this year in style, and watch in awe as your sales skyrocket like they never have before.