Pumpkin spice lattes.
And cool weather.
Yes, the 2016 holiday shopping season is here!
Consumers are gearing up to buy family and friends unforgettable gifts. But before they head to the checkout cart, more than 50% of buyers will conduct research online for their holiday shopping needs.
Because people don’t want to purchase just any gift. Consumers will hunt for the latest products at the best price.
Comparison shopping is like a holiday tradition, and store owners shouldn’t dread it. Rather, prepare your team to market specific information to persuade buyers.
Help potential customers as they compare products. And give them a reason to choose your brand over competitors.
Help Them Get The Best Their Money Can Buy
Holiday buyers are spending countless hours searching for gifts for their loved ones. They want the perfect gift that fits their limited budgets.
For shoppers, bargain hunting is an enjoyable neurological event. A research team discovered that “when they showed one of the study’s subjects a desirable object for sale, the pleasure center, or nucleus accumbens, in the subject’s brain lit up.”
The joy of shopping is not only about buying something we like, but also centers around how much we like it compared to what retailers charge us for it. And that’s where the opportunity lies for your ecommerce store.
On the quest to find the perfect gift, shoppers will compare your product offers to every competitor on the market. So, do the heavy lifting by differentiating your business.
Create your very own competitor analysis for the holiday buyer. Using comparison charts is an effective strategy—showing buyers how your promotions reign supreme.
"By monitoring competitors on an ongoing basis, you get to know their behavior and so can start to anticipate what they will be likely to do next. You can then plan your own strategies so that you keep your customers and win (not steal) customers away from competitors,” says Arthur Weiss, managing director of Aware.
Be mindful of what aspects to compare. Depending on the industry, you may want to emphasize in-store pickup options, extended warranties, or customer support.
Comparison charts must be simple and straightforward. Piling too much information on a chart may confuse the consumer. So, make your point and move the conversation forward.
Below is a chart comparing VersaTables.com to other major retailers. The comparison focuses on traits that matter most to the buyer, like quality, craftsmanship, and service.
IMAGE VIA VERSATABLES.COM
Holiday comparison shoppers are price-sensitive, too. Instead of competing on price, highlight how much money the buyer will save.
Hal Williams, brand manager at Pixel Union, writes:
“For most holiday shoppers, a good deal is way more important than brand loyalty or after-sales service. Merchants should do everything they can to advertise discounts. Don’t stop at highlighting discounted products on the homepage. Make the discount as clear as possible on the product detail page.”
Walmart executes this technique with its Rollback program that puts a spotlight on its sales items. The big box retailer tells consumers how much money they will save in red font and offers the option for free shipping if the product is picked up at one of its stores.
IMAGE VIA WALMART
Now, let’s turn your team’s attention to how to serve the shopper on a personal level.
Offer Up a Savvy Personal Shopper
Holiday shopping can be overwhelming. Consumers must find gifts for family members, friends, and even co-workers. A gift-buying list that started with 20 recipients can easily become a laundry list of 60+ people.
According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 25% of Americans reported feeling “extreme stress” come holiday time. Fifty-one percent of people are stressed out about the “pressure to give or get gifts,” and 69% are stressed by the feeling of having “lack of time.”
And that’s where your team can help. Alleviate the anxiety of the buyer by becoming a personal shopper that creates a memorable shopping experience—saving them time and money.
Effective personal shopping is founded on customer service, and that service may translate into offering customized gift recommendations, educating the buyer about different product benefits, and saving the shopper some extra cash.
“Poor customer service can take away from opportunities to maximize holiday sales and make it difficult for you to attract more business. Keep in mind that great customer service is critical to the success of your brand and company,” says Sabah Karimi, a marketing and operations manager for small businesses.
Satisfy your consumers by making the decision-making process easier, in return removing the mental burden of holiday shopping.
Global fashion and lifestyle brand Opening Ceremony offers personal shopping. Customers are asked to fill out a simple questionnaire. Then, a personal shopper selects the best gifts for their holiday shoppers—a service made available for both online and in-store consumers.
IMAGE VIA OPENING CEREMONY
Some brands have built their entire businesses around personal shopping. Online clothing retailer Stitch Fix uses customer profiles, algorithms, and human curators to match shoppers with the latest wardrobe styles. This unique model is producing significant gains: Forbes estimates that Stitch Fix brought in $250 million of revenue in 2015.
IMAGE VIA STITCH FIX
Train customer reps to build actual relationships with holiday shoppers. Equip your team with tools, like surveys and catalogs, to select the right products for buyers.
“The Internet’s massive accumulation of data on individuals and the ability to shape that information into meaningful recommendations have created a digital version of the old-school Main Street shopkeeper who knew everybody’s size and taste and could always make a sale,” writes Sharyn Jackson, staff writer at Star Tribune.
Lure customers into your store by offering to do the shopping for them. The holiday buyer will be less stressed, and your company can boost sales.
Offer Something in Exchange For Social Proof
ConversionXL reports that “98%—nearly ALL—consumers prefer reading reviews before making a purchase decision.” Online reviews are a powerful influence on customer behavior, and a chance to lead consumers to your ecommerce brand.
When holiday shoppers conduct research, they’re seeking relevant information to confirm your brand’s credibility. They seek details about the quality of your products and how you treat your customers.
Shoppers want to know whether your team responds quickly to customer requests, handles product returns in a timely manner, and sells non-defective products. And for the busy consumer, sometimes that’s all they need to click ‘buy now’ on your site.
Ask your current customers to provide product reviews and incentivize the process by offering 10% off coupons to persuade them to participate. Then, place the reviews on the actual product page for shoppers to easily find.
IMAGE VIA UNDERARMOUR
Customers love additional perks when shopping. Value-added bonuses give shoppers another reason to buy from your store, and it’s an effective method to draw consumers away from the competition.
Take the time to research the best perks for your target audience—revisit your buyer personas and examine your historical sales data. Observe how your competitors attract consumers, reviewing the holiday campaigns they executed last year.
Offer a free gift with a $50 purchase or more. Or advertise that the first 100 customers will receive a door crasher. For socially-conscious buyers, pledge to donate 5% of the sale to a local nonprofit.
The video game industry is well-known for offering gamers relevant perks. Below is a GameStop promotion encouraging consumers to pre-order the popular game Call of Duty, as a result they will receive bonus content.
IMAGE VIA GAMESTOP
Every shopper that lands on your site isn’t going to convert on the first visit—the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate is more than 68%.
Most people will just be window shopping, comparing prices, saving items for later, and exploring gift options. Although these reasons for checkout abandonment may seem unavoidable, your team can still keep your brand top of mind by retargeting shoppers.
Retargeting persuades the potential consumer to come back to your ecommerce store. So, when the shopper is browsing another website, your ad will pop up on the page, prompting them to remember your brand.
IMAGE VIA CNN MONEY
If your team is new to retargeting, try Shoelace—a Shopify app that retargets ads on Facebook and Instagram. This bot-like software installs tracking pixels, segments visitors, and recommends personalized campaigns.
As customers research your business, make it easy for them to choose you. Then, set business goals to retain their loyalty.
Don't Forget to Keep Them Coming Back
Comparison shopping doesn’t end after the first purchase. Shoppers must be reminded of your brand’s value beyond the pumpkin spice latte season.
It’s important for your team to transform holiday shoppers into lifelong customers because the average ecommerce store generates 43% of its revenue from repeat purchases.
Implement value-added strategies that focus on retaining consumers. Provide multiple forms of customer support channels, like Twitter and community forums. Initiate a loyalty program that surprises customers with rewards. Develop an automated email campaign to talk directly to your customers.
For instance, create an email series to welcome new customers to your brand. The campaign can introduce a how-to video about the newly purchased item or promote discounted accessories that complement the item.
Successful email campaigns are personalized to fit the customer's behavior. Optimize your emails by mentioning the person’s name, sending them at optimal times, and producing relevant messaging.
“Brands that send personalized email deliver 6x higher transaction rates compared to non-personalized email. Bring on the help of a modern marketing software that aggregates rich data on your customer base, including what they are interested in,” writes Janelle Vreeland, former digital content developer at lonelybrand.
After receiving my brand-new Fitbit Alta in the mail, the company emailed me a message to help me program my device. The email included links to step-by-step instructions and quick tips to get me started.
IMAGE VIA FITBIT
But what if shoppers never become customers? You still should aim to capture their email addresses.
People who don't buy today may purchase something tomorrow. There’s an opportunity to nurture these qualified consumers down your sales funnel.
Website pop-ups are an effective way to gain a shopper’s contact information. Sumome reports that the very best pop-ups average a 9.28% conversion rate.
Earn more email subscribers by writing a straightforward headline, offering something of value, and stating a clear call-to-action. Always run A/B tests to learn what works best for your company.
“Never forget that different people seek the same thing for different reasons, and for optimum effectiveness your pitch needs to reflect their reasons. If the pop-up offers meat-free ‘low-fat diet recipes’ to a visitor who wants dinner without animal cruelty, that’s closer, but still not on target,” says Rob Carpenter, former director of marketing at Evergage.
Women’s clothing retailer White House Black Market entices shoppers to sign up to its email list by offering a 10% discount. IMAGE VIA WHITE HOUSE BLACK MARKET
From researching promotions to learning about cool perks, holiday shoppers want gifts that please their loved ones and fit their budgets. Use personal shopping and email campaigns to retain more customers.
Be The One Stop Resource They Need
People have already begun their holiday shopping. But before they click ‘purchase,’ shoppers want to compare products deals.
Create comparison charts to show consumers why your brand outweighs the competitor. Transform customer service reps into personal shoppers to customize the shopping experience. And don’t forget to focus on customer retention during this holiday season.
Shoppers will do the research. Be the holiday resource they need.