Although it might seem like summer just ended, the holidays are right around the corner, and this time of year always brings a little extra hustle and bustle.
With the unmatched convenience of online shopping, it’s no surprise that more consumers than ever are going online for their holiday shopping needs — according to Fortunly, more than 60% of shoppers in the U.S. prefer to shop for gifts online. Even among those who still prefer to shop brick-and-mortar, 60% will conduct online research before making a purchase.
The rise of online shopping has also meant an increase in competition in the ecommerce world. In a world where over 30% of Americans planned to purchase half to three-quarters of their holiday gifts from Amazon last year, how do smaller D2C ecommerce brands compete?
Nogin is here to help. From the nuts and bolts of your site like product listing pages to marketing and everything in between, let’s run through everything you’ll need to consider as your business gears up for the holidays.
Five ways you can prepare for the holidays
Globally, holiday retail is a trillion-dollar business — and we don’t want you to miss out on these major opportunities to grow yours. Here are just a few of the things you can start thinking about to get ahead of the game.
When you walk into a physical store around the holidays (and often months in advance), you expect to find carefully thought-out displays, on-theme bundles and even a calendar of sales and deals that will roll out throughout the season. All these initiatives serve the common goal of getting your customers excited about shopping at your store.
And if you’ve ever worked retail around the holidays, you know that there’s a level of preparation that goes into every little detail — from November through December, it’s all-hands-on-deck.
However, many consumers will do a large portion of their shopping online. How can you put the same thought and planning into creating a fun, engaging holiday atmosphere for your ecommerce store?
The key is to start planning yesterday – or as soon as possible. If you don’t have one already, create a calendar of all the important upcoming ecommerce events you’d like to capitalize on — i.e. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, even Boxing Day. Once you know the dates of these events, work backwards to create marketing materials like newsletters and targeted ads that will get your current and future customers excited about what’s to come.
Whether you have a revenue benchmark you’d like to hit or a specific volume of sales that will help your store expand, figure out what it is you’d like to accomplish as a business this holiday season, and then lay out steps for how to achieve those goals. Spend some time clearly outlining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you can communicate with your sales and marketing teams so that everyone is on the same page before Mariah Carey sings her first note.
Some KPIs you could use as a starting point for this holiday season include:
- Average Order Value (AOV)
- Cart Abandonment Rate
- Return on Ad Spending (ROAS)
These metrics will help you determine how successful your holiday campaigns and promotions are so that you can adjust for an even better season next year. Make sure you have a system in place to track each KPI and record the data for future reference.
Do some competitor research.
One reason Amazon wins the holidays every year is that it invests billions of dollars yearly into its business through research and development. R&D helps brands get into the minds of their ideal target customers and guides strategies to entice them to become loyal, repeat shoppers.
When you invest in R&D, you understand your ideal customer better and are better-equipped to personalize their ecommerce experience. But what if you don’t have a massive budget (or the time) to devote to research and test campaigns?
It’s time to put your ideal-customer-hat on and research the competition.
If you’re not already subscribed to your competitors’ newsletters and mailing lists, it’s time to subscribe, in addition to pressing “follow” on all forms of social media. Even if you don’t have direct competitors for your product or service, you can look to similar-size brands and even the e-commerce giants like Amazon or Walmart for inspiration.
At the very least, you’ll gain some inspiration for your own brand. But you’ll also start to catch on to what resonates with customers and what doesn’t, and you can begin to apply these concepts to your own current and future shoppers.
Prep your site.
One key mistake many retailers make is not preparing all aspects of their business for the busiest season of the year.
Your marketing team might have an awesome plan — but if your customer service team is not well-informed or, worse, if you don’t have enough people on your customer service team to field increased site traffic — you might be setting yourself (and your team) up to fail.
Consider hiring out some seasonal help to make sure your site and business are able to run properly even with heavy traffic.
You’ll also want to ensure that your site itself is ready for increased traffic. When a customer shows up at Walmart at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, they expect the doors to work and the lights to be on — and if the doors don’t work, they’re likely to drive to a Target or Best Buy down the road.
Since your site is your storefront as a D2C ecommerce retailer, you want to ensure that the possibility of glacial load times or going offline due to heavy traffic is as low as possible.
Have your IT team double-check your site’s server limits, run some site metric tests, and optimize your mobile version. Making sure you run through a checklist of site maintenance and upgrades now will save you (and your customers) huge headaches on Black Friday.
Merchandise and personalize.
The holidays are the prime time for ecommerce retailers to hone in on how they present their products and who they present them to.
If they’re not already, merchandising and personalization should be in your ecommerce vocabulary.
The goal of merchandising is to present and promote your online store’s products to influence your customers’ shopping decisions and enhance their overall experience buying from your site. This is where you pay attention to how your products or services are categorized, how they are displayed and how they are promoted.
User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) are part of ecommerce merchandising strategy. For example, you’ll want to have:
- Mobile-friendly design
- Engaging graphics
- An easy-to-use and easy-to-find search bar
- Compelling visuals to go with each product
When you have a solid strategy in place for merchandising, you’re able to address your customers’ interest in the product or service you offer by meeting them with a solution that addresses their needs.
This is also where personalization comes into play. In the era of targeted ads, a personalized shopping experience matters to your customers — according to Salesforce research, 66% of customers expect companies to anticipate their unique needs, and 52% expect every offer they receive to be personalized.
For more on how to leverage customer data to create a personalized experience that will help you grow your business, check out the Top 5 Ecommerce Personalization Strategies to Maximize Conversions.
Streamline the customer experience from start to finish.
Whether your customers found you through Twitter, Instagram or a Google ad, you want them to have a positive experience with your brand from start to finish.
A great customer service experience is key here. When you are able to provide responsive, personable and helpful service to your customers, they’re more likely to leave with a positive impression of your business.
You might consider implementing some kind of customer service automation tool, and/or a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section on your site to help lighten the load on your service team.
You’ll also want to communicate a clear shipping and returns policy to your customers. Maybe you offer free shipping and returns on big sales days, or after customers reach a certain purchase volume.
Logistics might seem like just one piece of the puzzle, but they can really impact customer satisfaction — there’s data to show that 92% of consumers are more likely to shop with a retailer again if the returns process is easy.
Among the heavy competition that ecommerce retailers like you are up against at this time of year, making every effort to create a truly positive customer experience will win you major brownie points that might just make or break your holiday KPIs.
Nogin can help you win at ecommerce this holiday season
You can capitalize on the holiday season by letting Nogin do all the heavy lifting. When you work with us, you’ll gain access to:
- A Team of Fractional Experts: Nogin solves staffing and infrastructure challanges, providing on-demand access to a team of seasoned specialists in key areas like fulfillment, customer service, performance marketing, photography, IT, and finance.
- AI-Powered Customer Segmentation: Build and optimize customer segments by leveraging over ten years of anonymized data mined from Nogin’s CaaS technology.
- Algorithmic Merchandising: Automatically extend native merchandising capabilities with sophisticated features predicting both shopper behavior and inventory constraints.
- Smart Promotion Optimization: Maximize campaign potential with channel-sensitive, self-optimizing A/B testing and campaign optimization features and automatically create coupons and other infrastructure required for testing.
- Enhanced Shopify Theme: Our Luminate Theme is fast-loading, endlessly customizable and comes pre-linked with many of the top apps—including Klayiyo, Yotpo, Postscript, and Nosto—making integration a breeze and eliminating the need to pay for a development agency.
- Enterprise-level tools: Intelligent Commerce supercharges Shopify with over 40 market-leading features that improve conversions, reduce customer acquisition costs, and lower shipping and returns costs.
Gain the world-leading enterprise tech, team and resources you need to compete with Amazon and big retail, derisk your P&L and drive superior growth. Best of all, we’ll free your team to focus on your brand while running as much or as little of the infrastructure as you choose — all at no upfront cost to you.
Schedule a consultation with one of our Nogin experts today and discover how our Intelligent Commerce solutions can revolutionize your D2C ecommerce business.