Online Retail Today

Five Unconventional eCommerce Tactics to Enact Now to Win the Holidays

personalization features updates for the holidays
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It’s October, which means that the holidays are right around the corner. In fact, holiday-themed ads are already making the rounds, and even before Halloween, more than one eCommerce site has launched holiday sections featuring decor, early gift ideas, Black Friday sneak previews, and more.

With the clock ticking down, most merchants are fine-turning their promotional calendars and battening down the hatches for the frenzied season to come. But as Kibo’s strategists revealed in a recent Kibo Academy webinar, there are still plenty of small-but-mighty changes merchants can implement to make the most of the holidays.

Some of these tactics are downright counterintuitive and fly in the face of conventional eCommerce holiday wisdom, but often help push Kibo merchants’ holiday sales to the next level. Among them:

Conventional wisdom: Save deals for the peak season
New take: Prime the pump with early offers now

Many merchants are using the weeks prior to Thanksgiving to attract new email subscribers and social media followers via targeted campaigns and content plays. But once enlisted, these potential customers need proof that merchants’ messaging is worth seeking out. Otherwise, once inboxes and social media feeds become cluttered with offers, they may skip or, worse, cull merchants from the list. Pre-season flash sales, Black Friday weekend sneak peeks, and exclusive limited-time discounts featuring relevant items and categories can convince followers that their attention during the holidays will be rewarded — and may help boost sales in the meantime.

 

Conventional wisdom: It’s too late to improve SEO
New take: Work the attributes you can to draw traffic

While it’s true that climbing to a top position on page one of natural search rankings takes more time than now 

remains before the holidays, merchants can still do plenty to improve their chances when it comes to acquiring traffic through natural search.

For starters, changes to page attributes such as title and meta-data are reflected reasonably quickly in search results listings, so merchants should optimize verbiage to highlight seasonal promotions and offerings. And merchants can adjust settings in Google’s Webmaster Tools to exclude URLs they don’t want displayed as site links under main results, thereby eliminating customer service links and outdated seasonal categories and boosting the likelihood that key holiday content will be front and center.

 

Conventional wisdom: Once we’re in code freeze, we’re all set
New take: It’s the data, not just the code

Most merchants — and their technology partners — know better than to launch major new functionality or undertake a technical upgrade a week before Black Friday. But in many cases, code is only half the story when it comes to proper display of products and content on the site. Data feeds — for product and pricing information, value added content, reviews, and more — are often just as crucial to site functionality. So merchants should thoroughly vet their data feeds now to iron out any glitches and test any new product attributes or price change routines in advance of crunch time.

 

Conventional wisdom: Put customer service info in a product page tab
New take: Optimize critical messaging for mobile

Merchants typically provide easy access to shipping and returns information via tabs on the product page (when viewing on a computer) or accordion-style dropdown content on mobile devices. But given the importance of shipping cutoff dates, in-store fulfillment options, and return policies during the holidays, merchants should do more to highlight this content — and they should adopt a “mobile-first” design approach, so that whatever format they choose renders well on small screens.

Last holiday season, Kibo merchant Cost Plus World Market featured an engaging mobile display for Free Shipping Day that highlighted the final shipping cutoff date as well as a shortcut to items that qualified for free delivery.

 

Conventional wisdom: We can’t afford/don’t have time to run usability tests for the holiday
New take: Enlist an ad hoc army of testers to shop the site — especially on the go

For most merchants, formal usability testing is too expensive to undertake for temporary seasonal promotions — even for the critical holiday season. And when it comes to testing mobile offerings, the more than 18,000 Android devices and dozens of Apple products can make it difficult to ensure that content and design are rendering well across the board.

But merchants can go a long way toward uncovering functionality and design glitches in advance using an ad hoc army of testers. By first using analytics to identify which devices are most popular for their audience and then putting out the word both internally throughout the organization and with family and friends, merchants can find willing volunteers who can shop the site, conduct mock checkouts, and report functionality and site speed issues. By touching base with this volunteer corps throughout the season, merchants can gather real-world feedback on the fly.

What last-minute tactics are you enacting to set the stage for holiday success?

 

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