There’s a reason why the shopping season after Nov. 1 feels like the Super Bowl of retailing. According to industry data, almost half of all retailers’ sales occur between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. The newest forecast from eMarketer predicts U.S. retail sales for the 2019 holiday season will climb 3.8 percent to $1.008 trillion, with U.S. retail ecommerce spending rising 13.2 percent to $135.35 billion. Consumers will plan their strategy from multiple angles, with 40 percent choosing to shop both online and in-store.
As if the holiday shopping season wasn’t stressful enough, this season is a full six days shorter as a result of the calendar structure. This blip happens every six years when there are only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Compare that to 32 shopping days in 2018. Shoppers will be scrambling as will retailers, which could lose out on millions in sales if they’re not prepared. Here are 10 key strategies retailers need to implement now in order to provide the consistent and seamless shopping experiences consumers have come to expect:
- Prioritize performance testing and optimization as soon as possible. If this has yet to be done, make sure that’s first on the holiday preparation list next year.
- Align marketing strategies and visuals across all channels to create a unified experience.
- Ensure emails are optimally rendering across devices. Potential shoppers will view these from screens of all sizes.
- Highlight free shipping, return and exchange policies to prevent losing consumers who identify these features as critical selling points when checking out online.
- Know your shoppers’ preferred payment methods. Juniper Research has estimated that nearly 2.1 billion consumers worldwide will use a mobile wallet to make a payment this year. Having the right technology in place will prevent an increase in cart abandonment if shoppers don’t see their payment method of choice.
- Reinforce deals and sales across your site for maximum awareness.
- Identify pertinent search terminology to uncover areas of opportunities and target the right audience.
- Expand real estate on any search engine results page (SERP) by utilizing ad extensions, embracing Product Listing Ads, and optimizing organic presence for starters.
- Create engaging and interactive content that’s unique and fun for visitors to actively connect and participate with. This will ensure shoppers leave with a positive mind-set towards the brand and encourage repeat purchases.
- Be mindful of any drastic changes made to the online experience close to or during your holiday rush. Frequent buyers will be frustrated trying to navigate a totally new site during the holidays.
As the countdown begins, retailers need to be prepared for the onslaught of online activity from shoppers who will expect a friction-free experience no matter which device they’re using. Ideally retailers started planning for the 2019 holiday season last January, but if you didn’t, there’s still time to take action and not miss out on the biggest sales event of the year.
James Gagliardi is chief product officer at Digital River, a global ecommerce solutions provider.