The dawn of Thanksgiving marks the holiday sales period and retailers are preparing for the frenziest week of the year. Holiday sales generate the biggest revenue of the entire year for almost all online retailers. On Cyber Monday 2020 alone, online sales reached $10.8 billion in the US, making it the biggest ever e-commerce sales till date.
However, online retailers need to be extra cautious with their stores as the holiday rush can also bring in some terrible nightmares like website crashing, checkout issues, empty stock, etc. But worry not! There’s still time to ace the sale season and get maximum profit from your marketplace. Here’s how you can optimize your marketplace before the onset of the most awaited sale of the year.
1. Take site performance seriously
The biggest nightmare of online retailers during the sales week is a website crash. An “Error 404” or even a “try back again later” message can do more harm to your customer retention graph than a bad customer service. Companies lose millions within minutes when their websites have a downtime right during the sale. Even big brands like Microcenter, J. Crew and GlassesUSA faced major outages during the 2019 Cyber Week sale, leading to customer dissatisfaction outrages on social media. J. Crew alone lost around $775,000 in sales and angered thousands of customers in just a single holiday afternoon.
It is imperative that your marketplace would experience a sudden surge of traffic during the sales. Therefore, even before you plan promoting your offers, start optimizing your website for the cyber week’s pressure. Bob Buffone, the CTO of the web optimization software company Yotta, says that if a website is not load tested for at least five times the usual traffic, it’s probably going to fail.
A good assessment might take several months, but it’s never too late. Tools like Google’s TestMySite and PageSpeed Insights could give your site a thorough check and suggest fixations. Here are some of the things that you can try to speed up your site performance:
- Use a reverse proxy server (an HTTP gateway) and load balancers.
- Cache certain necessary sections of the website. Storing and releasing data and files could induce server lag. Caching data or documents could satisfy certain requests directly and fasten up file retrieval, thereby, speeding performance.
- Check and enhance the databases for the increased amount of orders.
- Temporarily change certain dynamic pages of your website into static pages. Dynamic pages like dynamic pricing pages, recommendations and social media content can consume a lot of CPU cycle leading to slower loading time.
2. Optimize for mobile buying
About 37% of the digital sales during Cyber Week last year came solely from mobile phones. Needless to say, mobile phones are the most convenient method of online shopping. If your mobile site experience isn’t at par with your competitors’, they’re going to switch to their sites. Therefore, focus on providing an easy yet interactive mobile shopping experience to your customers to hook them to your marketplace.
Now, you might think that your website is fully mobile-responsive, and that’s where people go wrong. A mobile responsive design and a mobile site aren’t the same thing. A responsive design resizes and modifies the website design to make it fit and look good on a mobile. On the other hand, a mobile site has a different UX which is created keeping in mind a browser’s/shopper’s navigation and usability requirements. Consider adding features like quick and easy login and one-touch buying which are essentially beneficial for the holiday rush.
Alternatively, having a mobile application could take you to a level higher. When Domino’s Pizza launched their app, they saw a 28% rise in their sales. App downloads jumped by 42.2% during Cyber Week 2019 as compared to 2019. If you have enough time and resources, you can also invest in having your own marketplace app before the holiday sales begin. Keep your app simple to use, optimize its speed, integrate social media connection to the app and see your sales soar! WCFM Customer App can help you get your own marketplace app.
3. Improve your site navigation
Imagine a customer buying from your site during the last few minutes of your Cyber Monday sale and he is struggling through your site to find the perfect gift for his family. It is frustrating to navigate through a poorly designed site menu or a products page, especially when people are rushing through the sale hours. And not just for the holiday sales, but improving your website navigation could increase your site conversion rate by 18.5%. Likewise, about 80% of visitors will abandon your site if they experience navigation issues.
Declutter your main menu and categorize into different sections or subsections. Bring the categories under offers to the front and highlight the offers clearly even under the menu section. Don’t try to fit everything under a drop-down menu; instead, you can introduce dedicated pages to show categories. But do keep in mind that opening a page takes more loading time than a drop menu, so limit it to wherever necessary.
Amazon categorizes their products on the basis of the discount offers or price cap which makes it easier to search items on price/offer preference.
Search result optimization is necessary too. Make sure that the search results display the products according to their relevance. It should also compensate for misspellings.
A strategic and concise site map would help your customers navigate better during the shopping spree and will provide a smoother shopping experience.
4. Simplify the checkout process
A lot of shoppers buy stuff out of impulse during the holiday season. In order to boost this “impulse shopping” and to make more sales, reducing the checkout barriers could be beneficial. A one-click purchase option on the products list page will help single-product buyers check out immediately.
Reduce the number of steps before the actual check out. If someone has shopped from you previously, save his/her preferred payment option and display it as the default payment option on the checkout page. Entering card details during checkout is often time-consuming. Along with the card payment, provide wallet payment as a payment option which can be a quicker method for checkout. Dynamic checkout buttons that are preset with the customer’s preferred payment method will also speed up the process.
5. Recover abandoned carts
The number of abandoned carts increases during the holiday sales. Believe it or not, worldwide online cart abandonment is almost at 70% today. In Black Friday 2019 alone, the abandonment rate was 73.78%. Abandoned cart popup messages are just not enough. Shoppers today simply ignore them. A good way to catch the fleeting visitor’s eyes is by offering a special discount and highlighting the discount on the popup message.
The same goes for abandoned cart emails – the offer must be mentioned in the subject line itself. Take cue from your customer’s shopping trait and offer them personalized discounts. Some customers also visit Facebook shopping sites so make sure you revert them through Facebook Messenger. Integrate an automated solution that would pick up the leads and send offers via emails or messages.
6. Prepare a holiday shipping plan
There’s a reason why this week-long sale is known as the holiday sale. People shop for the purpose of gifting their loved ones. It’s obvious that they would want it to be delivered before the holidays begin. Let your customers know if the added product(s) could be shipped within a quick time range or atleast the expected delivery date. You can also add a separate category for products that have guaranteed delivery before the holidays. This would be beneficial for people who don’t have much preference for gifts and only want timely delivery. If certain products in the cart cannot be delivered before or during the holidays, alert the customers before they checkout and ship them separately.
If you’re not offering free shipping yet, consider applying now. According to a survey by Forbes, a staggering 84% of customers purchase online specifically because of free shipping. Check your profit margins and set your selling price according to the profit threshold. In case of self fulfilment, increase the strength of your fulfilment team, if possible, in order to facilitate smoother shipping during the rush days.
7. Fix your return policies
Impulse shopping means frequent purchase bloops, leading to more returns. Poor return policies would further disappoint your customers. However, most merchants have difficult return policies during the sale like delayed reverse pickups and returns, no return on sale products, no free returns, etc. Fix your return policies and try to make them more customer-friendly. 80% of shoppers expect free returns, so this is something that should be a must in your list of sale amends. Offering easy returns can actually enhance customer retention so work up your return policies before the sale.
Experts predict that this year’s Cyber Week sale is going to be massive and might break all records of the previous years. It’s time to tighten up our belts and get on to some serious action. We still have some time before people start sojourning your site! Do a thorough checking of your website, fix up the issues and let your customers have a great shopping experience this sale week. Provide hard-to-miss deals and promote them on your social media channels. The best time of the year is here and it’s better not to miss this opportunity!
Happy Cyber Week!