While coronavirus warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are keeping many people out of brick and mortar stores this holiday, new studies show they are moving online to buy gifts and are expected to ring up record sales. According to the newest McKinsey report, half of Americans plan to spend more money online than they do shopping in-store this holiday season.
That means holiday e-commerce will add up like never before. Adobe Analytics predicts COVID-19 will drive online holiday spending to $189 billion, or 33% more than last year. In a recent press release, Adobe went even further, predicting $200 billion of online spending if the flu season also keeps people out of stores. The surge in e-commerce isn’t expected to end with the noisemakers on New Year’s Eve. Nearly half of all consumers plan to keep shopping on their computers, tablets, and smartphones post COVID-19.
Retailers who focus on their customer’s health and connect with them on a personal level are sure to have good tidings this season and a happy New Year.
Here are five tips to maximize your holiday sales safely:
Experts say retailers can capitalize on the pandemic that’s keeping shoppers homebound by engaging with them. Retailers should be offering discounts, free shipping, subscription deals and reward programs. Engagement helps build a loyal customer base and can capture critical customer data to make future sales more personalized. The store Kohl’s has mastered the art of capturing returning customers by offering Kohl’s Cash with every purchase that can only be used on future dates. When retailers make shoppers feel valued, in control and rewarded, they are more likely to become return customers.
Retailers can also engage with their customers by giving them empathetic messages on receipts, emails, and text messages. It’s a great way to tell shoppers how your business is keeping them safe and healthy in your physical stores, and that they’re also appreciated when they are shopping remotely.
Visually engage online shoppers. While many merchants know to re-decorate or change products in the front of their brick-and-mortar stores, they are not used to doing the same thing with their online store. But now more than ever it is important for retailers to update their online stores with new images and videos for the changing seasons, holidays, and trends so it stays fresh and appealing.
Simplify & Focus on Safety
Retailers can keep online customers coming back with simple, seamless shopping streams and secure check-out processes. Ensure the shopping experience is consistent, reliable, and safe. With cybercrime expected to top $12 billion this year alone, merchants must be able to accept and process credit card payments online securely. The software company Red Maple offers a safe and effective solution called StagedPay.
In brick-and-mortar stores, it’s just as critical that your point of sale PIN pads are sanitized, easy to use and secure.
To learn more about how to ensure your credit card processing is safe and secure online and in person, click here for three tips to prevent theft and fraud.
Also, make sure consumers can find you on the world’s largest search engine, Google. Your website should be optimized with key words so that your business shows up whenever someone conducts a relevant search. Merchants should set up business listings on Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other social media platforms.
Consider marketing your website where your target customers are – on social media. Connect with them by offering peer support, how-to-videos, reviews, and recommendations. Retailers can use new social interactions such as live chats to create an interactive and immersive experience for customers.
Reply to your followers as quickly as possible with thoughtful answers and thanks. Consider offering rewards or discounts to customers who reach out and share your posts. Also remember to share their content, when appropriate, to build and improve relationships.
With the data you collected from membership and loyalty programs, you can also text or alert customers when they get near your store (also called geofencing) about sales and new items.
What’s your story? Retailers who share their backstory, as well as their business’s vision, purpose and passion can often increase sales, customer loyalty and profitability. Make your brand more human by adding personal touches to your online presence about your struggles and accomplishments. A study by Mintel also shows 29% of consumers share their support of ethical companies on social media, while 58% say buying ethically produced products makes them feel good.
And merchants can use the newest technology to personalize the shopper experience. When retailers make product recommendations based on predictive analytics or by reviewing what is in a consumer’s cart, it can drive up conversion rates by 40%. Technology can also show customers what clothing items look like on virtual models with different body shapes and sizes, allowing them to see what it might look like on them.
Intelligent chatbots can engage customers with a merchant’s chat service to get personal questions answered. The technology can also be integrated with customer loyalty experience. For example, REI shoppers who buy a tent will get messages about how to set it up and take care of it, with suggestions about other complimentary items to buy.
Provide great service
With the growing concern for health and safety, online stores must cater to their customers online by providing great service. By offering your customers curbside service, you are providing the best of both worlds; safe shopping and getting the product immediately. Retailers must have an easy and convenient online ordering and inventory system so that customers know how to get their items quickly.
A new trend for retailers in this area is “click and collect” shopping with curbside pickup. That shopping method is expected to jump this holiday season by 60% according to eMarketer. In this model, customers buy something online and then choose a location to pick up their purchase, instead of having it delivered to their home. This allows customers to check the quality of their product and return it immediately if there are any problems. In a study, the International Council of Shopping Centres found that 61% of shoppers who used the click and collect model also went into the physical store and purchased more goods.
Retailers who focus on shoppers’ health and safety concerns and go all out to engage and personalize service are sure to earn loyalty and more e-commerce business well into 2021.