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By October, retailers are in theory ready for the holiday season. However, as a service provider for thousands of retailers large and small, we can tell you that there is always room for more preparedness to avoid scenarios like this:

Here, we’ll give you a few simple strategies to prevent costly hiccups and supercharge your site for customer delight. And if you’d like to get a little more information, watch our webinar on the same topic.

Are all your systems ready to handle the pressure?

Holidays are a time of massive increase in web traffic to retail sites and, hand-in-hand with it, an increase in search on these sites. This makes for a stressful time of the year for everybody. For consumers, because it’s hard to resist the latest and greatest item with a 50% discount. For retailers, because their platforms are experiencing multiples of their normal site traffic load, causing them to pay cloud providers an equal of a GDP of a small country. For service providers like us, because we support our customers in their efforts and their load is projected on us.

This holiday season, just like any other time, shoppers will expect a Google or Amazon-like experience on your website. But more than any other time, the cost of failing that expectation is gigantic.

Cost of poor website performance

And the bar is even higher for mobile users:

Cost of poor mobile performance

Whether you handle your own search infrastructure or trust a search provider, you should make sure your systems are ready to handle such load increases.

Lacoste search

Is the entire experience ready for mobile?

On Christmas Day, 69% of online traffic came from mobile devices in the US, and 75% from mobile devices in Europe (source: BazaarVoice).

From landing pages to payment, your mobile shopping experience should not be an afterthought. Building mobile experiences means much more than having a responsive website. For instance, many of the difficulties on the mobile platform come from the extreme limitation of display space ( more in our Mobile E-commerce Experience eBook).

A common mistake is wanting to display all the data at hand like you would on a desktop. Start by understanding how shoppers browse your catalog. For items that are selected visually, like shoes or clothes, you could present search results as enlarged pictures.

Keep inventory up to date

While creating scarcity is a powerful strategy to accelerate the purchase decision, showing products that won’t be shipped to your shoppers before the end of the holiday season will cause users to bounce. It also wastes screen real estate for products that won’t generate any sales.

So make sure that wherever you display products on your website, whether as a recommendation, your homepage, or search results, you don’t expose out-of-stock items.

Considering the volume and frequency of transactions during the holiday season, it sometimes means millions of updates to your product database every day. Every system needs to pick up on these changes, and this requires a very large scale, agile system.

Anticipate your shoppers’ wishes

Your product offering is one of your greatest assets, so make sure it answers your customer’s needs. Use your search analytics to discover what articles your shoppers are searching for ahead of the holiday season, and most importantly, what they are searching for but not finding. Use those insights to adapt your catalog and plan deals, or to improve your advertising and SEO strategy.

Shoppers who know what products they want will probably perform refined searches to find out if you sell them, or similar items. You can lead them to the right offers on your site by proposing saved search and search alerts. The shoppers will have an incentive to come back to your store (or you’ll have a strong reason to ping them).

Leverage your content

45% of shoppers now report reading reviews before purchasing products in brick-and-mortar locations.

You and your shoppers generate valuable content about products you sell, including blog posts, guides, product reviews and social media posts. This content can influence the purchasing decision of your shoppers, and position you as a knowledgeable seller, so don’t hesitate to surface it in your online store, alongside product pages — or even in your search results.

User-generated content in search results

 

There has also been a +111% conversion lift among consumers interacting with visual content. Embrace it!

Be proactive with your merchandising

Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, you have the luxury to reorganize your storefront in one click, or even automatically. Use it!

Shoppers will look for the best deals, so use the discount rate in the ranking of your search results. Create scarcity by ranking products with limited sales time first. Have a doorbuster offer, but still want to preserve your margins? Rank this doorbuster first for relevant queries, and then add your post-discount margins in your ranking logic. The parameters you can play with are endless. The important thing is to be able to configure the ranking logic of your search according to what matters to your shoppers, and you.

 

Of course, whether you like it or not, you will miss some trends and discover high-selling offers that you wish you had promoted more. Well, it’s not too late! Tweak your search result ranking logic to promote your best selling products, and capture even more sales.

After the rush is over…

Turn first time shoppers into engaged customers

Through your site search, your shoppers literally speak to you. Leverage those valuable insights! What were they looking for that you did not offer? What search results converted the most? How did people navigate your store?  Did they filter by a specific brand when looking for TVs? All this data can help you improve your offering and the way you surface it to your shoppers next year.

Throughout the holiday season, you will acquire new shoppers, thanks to your unmatched offers on specific products and increased advertising efforts. Chances are, if they like the overall experience, they’ll return to your store. So when things calm down, reflect on what went well and what did not, and start planning long-term investments for your user experience. Studies report that every $1 invested in UX yields a $2 to $100 return.

Competition continues to innovate…

…and so should you. Things to think about in 2020:

  • Personalization. 50% of consumers are more likely to purchase or become loyal to a brand if the content is personalized
  • Voice. There’s been a+165% YoY use of smart speakers and voice assistants to make purchases.
  • Analytics. 35.9% of retailers see search tool’s testing and analytics capabilities as the biggest obstacle to achieving their performance goals.

We have more tips and best practices on site search, and views on how to make your online store more competitive.

Get in touch!

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