We spoke with a few ecommerce agencies to get their advice and quick tips on how merchants can be successful during this shopping frenzy. Below are passages and quotes pulled from individual interviews we conducted with leading agencies who work with retailers and ecommerce businesses around the world.
Danny Phillips, Founder and director, Arkade
It’s no surprise that retailers and brands see a huge spike in sales volume during the holiday season, and for many, it may be the first and last time they ever see that consumer. Brands and retailers often center their focus and key performance indicators (KPIs) around sales numbers and getting people “in the door” during Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM). However, Danny suggests a slightly different way to measure success during this chaotic time. “Make sure you have a strategy in place to measure how many customers you’ve captured during holiday. I am not referring to how many new email subscribers you’ve added, but rather how many new customers you captured and turned into return buyers. If you come out of this holiday season with a solid group of new customers that you can directly influence, that is what keeps the lights on."
“Doing a post mortem to understand how many first-time shoppers come back for a second shop within the next 30-60-90 days is key.” If you want a point of comparison to benchmark your success against, a quick way to determine a target is to simply look at last year. “Look at 6-month spend based off the customer’s first time purchase or ‘join month’. Analyzing these different cohorts will give you a good indication of what percentage of new customers from last November/December actually converted into long term and repeat customers.”
Aaron Quinn, CEO and founder, eHouse Studios
Keeping with the theme around customer acquisition and retention, Aaron shared some tips to ensure that you, as the merchant, are creating opportunities and taking the right steps to create a great customer experience. “Think about the whole picture and put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. The promotional aspects are typically top of mind for retailers as we go into Q4 (ad campaigns, promotional emails, discount codes, etc.), but the customer journey and experience are equally important.” Often it is the simple experiences that can make a difference. Things like site navigation, site speed, easy search and discoverability, product curation and personalization are measures can help make the customer’s experience effortless.
“Often times we think ‘They bought it! The race is over!’. But the reality is, they can return it. Be proactive. Once they make the purchase, make sure the customer has all the critical information they need before it hits their door; tracking number, estimated delivery date, information on how to change your shipping address, and return policy. If your product requires some sort of set up, send the instructions right after they’ve received their order. These are proactive steps retailers and brands can take to mitigate frustrated customers, reduce customer support inquiries, and ultimately delight and convert a customer.”
Simon Turner, President and co-founder, Myagi
Customer support and service teams should not be seen as a cost center. Simon Turner from Myagi agrees with this perspective and adds that service should be treated as a point of brand differentiation. “Your customer service team can actually be a revenue generating operation, if you structure it right. A little bit of sales and product training can go a long way, in both the pre- and post- purchase experience.
“During holiday, consumers will typically have some sort of fixed budget in mind. Equipped with the right talking points and product specs, an inbound question to your support team can not only turn into a sale, but could include attachment products, capturing more of that consumer’s budget, and ultimately increase the value of their shopping cart.” Simon was equally passionate about the post-purchase interaction as well. “A return or refund is that golden nugget. View this event as an opportunity versus a problem. The customer is actually coming to you, live; it is another opportunity to engage with a customer that you may not otherwise gotten.”
A good way to take advantage of those opportunities is to bring all your customer-facing teams, including support, up to speed on your product catalog. They don’t have to be knowledgeable on every product you carry, but being informed on your highest selling products and the ones that may be going on sale during BFCM, will position your customer service team to make proactive product recommendations, and be better revenue generators.
Richard E. Chalme’, CEO, BlueSwitch
Mobile and online sales continue to rise, with 2017 seeing a 14.7% increase in online sales during November 1 - December 31st, according to data released by Adobe Digital Insights at the National Retail Federation 2018 conference earlier this year.
While mobile isn’t necessarily a new theme, it can be overlooked. “A tremendous amount of shopping is happening on mobile and tablets. The experience is different, the marketing ads are different, and the customer experience is different. For online merchants, there is an obvious economy of scale on the customer service side.” Richard from New York based BlueSwitch mentions. “Think about a telephone call (1:1) versus chat (1:many). Generally a customer service agent can handle more concurrent interactions via chat versus phone calls. People like to multitask, and the reality is that people shop online while they are at work, especially on Cyber Monday. If you work in an open environment and are trying to browse discreetly, consumers prefer to either self-serve or communicate via chat. In these scenarios, people are ok with potentially being in a chat queue that is minimized because they don’t have to leave their desks and they don’t have to visibly be on the phone.”
Brian Benic, Director of global sales Corra
The fourth quarter can be a merchant’s most important. “It can either make or break your year, so we often see companies allocate a large portion of their marketing budget to Q4 in order to bring in more sales. However, as your sales increase, so can your expenses. That can be a dilemma for retailers and brands; how do you break away from putting all your eggs in the holiday season basket?”
Brian points to Amazon as a great example. “Amazon had one of the biggest commerce days in one of the (traditionally) worst commerce months, with Amazon Prime Day in July. It sends a good message to all retailers, both small and large, that you can create a linear business and try to distribute sales throughout the year. Buyers have created this expectation of sales during November and the question is ‘How do we create this type of shopping pattern in a different time of the year?’ Think about creating your own personal day. You can start small, for example only offering it up to your loyalty rewards customers or utilize your overstock merchandise. If you are using a platform like Shopify, it is very easy to clone your store to create something special for the day. This allows for a spike in the business to offset the dependency on the holiday season. Ultimately, making your business more well-rounded and merchants could see their profit number go up, versus just revenue.”