Written by AJ Leale, Sr. Director eCommerce
A hectic holiday season leaves many marketers frustrated and exhausted, even before the sales start. Black Friday heavily impacts sales associates in physical stores, but as more and more shopping takes place online, eCommerce faces similar issues as well.
Every store must compete against its rivals in a rapidly diminishing window of time when impatient customers will shift to a competitor in a matter of seconds to get their deal if a site is faltering. This blog post will teach you how to make sure you don’t get caught in any of the avoidable traps.
The Black Friday Costco Crash: a retailer’s nightmare
Costco’s troubles began even before the Black Friday sale had officially started. Holiday shoppers were prevented from shopping online due to technical issues on both the website and the app. This was particularly impactful since the brick-and-mortar shops were closed for the day.
Outraged customers took to Twitter and other social media outlets describing the issues they faced: a PR nightmare.
Nordstrom Rack, Facebook, and Instagram all faced similar problems after a sudden boost in visitor numbers leading up to Black Friday.
The net effect of the Costco problems is estimated to have cost them up to $11 million!
Lack of inventory, the customer’s nightmare
There is nothing worse than getting a customer excited to buy a product and then telling them that you don’t have it in stock. While customers might be more understanding in the context of limited-time deals, surprise out-of-stock experiences severely impact customer trust and confidence in the site and will drive them to find products elsewhere. If they want to buy a medium shirt but see product after product with only XXL and XS, they’ll quickly give up and look for another place to shop.
Avoiding this UX nightmare is not a simple task, and supply and demand forecasting must be very closely tied to marketing and site promotion.
How to avoid these issues and improve your customers’ experiences during the holiday season
So, we’ve established that hitting the holiday shopping season with weak websites and poor UX is a big mistake.
The good news is that there are many ways to improve your customer experience from system and UX perspectives, as long as you know where to look.
Strive for simplicity and speed
Improving website speed is crucial in reducing cart abandonment rates, especially for mobile shoppers. A Google research report found that 53% of users expect mobile sites to load less than three seconds.
If customers have to wait more than five seconds for a page to load on mobile, your bounce rate will dramatically increase and your website’s search ranking will sink. Google recommended that marketers “keep people engaged on mobile and focus on building mobile-first experiences.” In fact, Google even ranks mobile-optimized sites higher in searches conducted on mobile.
You can improve website speed in several ways:
- Image optimization — compressing them with Tinypng or a similar converter makes them load faster;
- Enable HTML caching;
- Use the Content Delivery Network (CDN);
- Code minification and compression;
- Limit the number of website plugins;
- Reduce the server response time, or TTFB (time to first byte).
Apart from one-time reductions and improvement, make sure to monitor website performance. Tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Gmetrix can help, as well as timely tests before the holiday shoppers start flooding in.
Improving its speed will also increase the throughput of your site. If a customer presses reload or stays on the site for extra time to load server-intensive pages, the server load will increase, resulting in a reduction in the number of concurrent users you can support and potentially leading to a crash.
Plan your assortments months in advance, and adjust quickly
Make sure you have enough inventory for the sizes and colors you plan to sell and market most; not too much, but enough to sell it all by mid-December. If your customers exceed your plan, always have back up products and de-emphasize products with limited product availability. Get rid of styles with only XXS and XXL remaining by putting them into the sale category.
The best deals belong on the homepage
Promote your best holiday deals left and right — starting on your website’s homepage.
Put your best foot forward with a striking, informative CTA. Highlight the discount amount with the discount percentage, show a countdown form to induce FOMO, and combine discounts with favorable shipping options and/or BOGO deals.
Limited-time doorbusters are a good way to attract customers, but remove those products and suggest alternatives as soon as your stock is depleted, to avoid customer frustration.
Gamification is a good way to engage with the customers, especially something like “spin the wheel to get your discount” where they seem almost guaranteed to win something.
Create landing pages focused on conversion
In order to create a landing page that pushes holiday shoppers through the sales funnel with ease, follow these best-practice steps:
- Create a short, to-the-point headline that illustrates the offer well and attracts attention
- Keep your landing page layout clean and simple, so customers have an instant, intuitive way to the CTA buttons
- Create the copy as you would craft an elevator pitch: in 30 seconds tell them the problem the product/service would solve, as well as its key functionalities and benefits while keeping it festive
- Use CTAs that stand out and are always visible as the user scrolls
- Your CTA page should be responsive at all times — optimize its elements and remove any unnecessary clutter that weighs the page down
- Limit navigation to ensure a clear path to purchase
- Remember mobile traffic — create a separate mobile landing page, implement click-to-scroll and click-to-call buttons, include sticky navigation, shorten the copy, and place the CTA and the most important items above the fold
Smooth checkout process
The shorter your checkout pages, the better. Enable guest checkout, don’t push customers to register to purchase, and use this as an opportunity to request them to register after the purchase. By employing the option that saves customers’ payment and address details for the next purchase, customers are more likely to opt in after they purchase than before.
Showing the shopping steps in advance with interactive diagrams will also improve the UX, along with limiting the amount of information they need to enter in order to make a purchase.
For some tangible examples of what a smooth and streamlined checkout process looks like, visit the Visionet Digital blog.
Include popular payment methods
A diverse choice of fast, convenient payment methods will ensure that customers don’t abandon their purchase at the very last step just because they cannot use their preferred payment methods.
PayPal is probably the most well-known online payment method; it boasts more than 200 million users, and it is very easy for eCommerce solutions to integrate the PayPal button to the checkout.
More than half US citizens use Apple devices — so Apple Pay service is highly popular and works as a mobile wallet, while Google Pay went even further and enabled integration with Paypal and Visa Checkout.
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