Each holiday retail season, merchants race to be the first to
corner the lucrative gift-buying market. Many retailers are now
dubbing November 1 as the new “official” start of the season.
“Grey November” is the 3-week lead up to Black Friday and Cyber
Monday, which are no longer the formal kick-off point of the
holiday season; but are now somewhere near the middle. How can
retailers gain competitive advantage in the holiday online
retail market without tiring out their customers with months of
promotions? Data is the key.

1. Work Smarter, Not Harder

The midst of the holiday season is not the ideal time for A/B
testing, heavy UX experimentation, or not knowing target
demographics inside-and-out. An industry-leading online
retailer will have already worked out the optimal experience
for their consumers well before the gift-buying season begins.
Providing customers with a relevant, targeted experience should
happen several months before Quarter 4, but it does not need to
be a stress-inducing project.

There are endless statistics for site monitoring, analytics and
reporting. Big data is just that: big. To avoid wasting
valuable holiday preparation time, focus on the following two
metrics to get to actionable information:

  • Average Order Volume: Increasing the
    incremental value of each customer purchase is one of the
    most effective ways to drive additional revenue. A customer
    that already crossed checkout barriers such as account
    set-up and shipping costs for a product they want is much
    easier to sell smaller-ticket additional items to. Setting
    up cross-sells, related products and upsells at several
    points during checkout is crucial during holiday. Focusing
    on Average Order Value, rather than repeat purchase
    frequency is the more effective strategy for holiday, a
    time when shoppers are browsing many sites for the best
    deal. Aim for having these processes set up by the end of
    October.

  • Reactivating Lapsed Customers: Your
    customer database is a goldmine. Instead of focusing
    long-term efforts on acquiring new customers during
    holiday, focus on customers that you know are brand
    evangelists, they just might need to be reminded! Hosting a
    special private sale for customers on your marketing lists
    that have not made a purchase for 6-12 months,
    strategically coinciding with the start of the holiday
    season, may just be enough to encourage them to check off
    their gift-giving lists with your site.

2. Leave No Cracks in the Foundation

Analytics blog Kissmetrics found that 40
percent of shoppers abandon a website
 that takes
longer than three seconds to load. Ensuring optimal performance
during peak traffic times such as holiday requires a scalable,
agile solution. The ultimate goal of any retailer should be to
work with a technology partner or their in-house IT team for an
audit of customer site experience from the back-end
perspective.

Decreased load times, support for complex product catalogs and
eliminating diminished performance due to seasonal traffic
should be the goal of any marketer looking to enhance customer
experience from a site-functionality standpoint. Shaving off
even just a few seconds from each page load time is proven to
decrease customer exit rate and increase conversion rate.

Best-in-class retailers don’t end holiday preparation with a
just performance audit, a customer experience audit should
include a full look at the site for potential bottlenecks in
the customer journey. A user experience clean-up needs to
identify and eliminate:

  • Dead pages and 404 links

  • Sold out and stocked out items

  • Missing or inaccurate attributes and tags on products

  • Old or outdated promo codes or sale pages

Doing away with these common pitfalls is a perfect project for
the dog days of summer, when seasonal closeout sales and
promotions are not putting heavy stress on the marketing and
eCommerce team.

3. Create Loyal Customers

Holiday brings a treasure-trove of new customers to your site,
undoubtedly more than any other time of the year. The
experience a first-time customer on your site has will dictate
whether they become a repeat buyer post-holiday. Collecting and
organizing customer data throughout the holiday season can help
you organize a post-mortem strategy for the traditional drop in
traffic in January.

Buying behaviors during certain points in the holiday season
can help organize demographic data on your customers. Black
Friday, according to NBCNews, sees about a quarter
of consumers “self-gifting,” while up to 30 percent of men
cited Cyber Monday as a day for purchasing for themselves.

Additionally, Green Monday, the online retail industry term to
describe its best sales day in December, is traditionally a day
when consumers are rounding out the last of their gift giving.
Using this purchasing data can tell you more about the
customer’s buying patterns and behavior. For example, a
sizeable purchase of children’s toys, clothes and accessories
can signal that this customer either has a family or children
close to them to buy for at other points throughout the year
such as birthdays and back-to-school.

Data-driven personalization can influence your year-round
marketing strategy to target and segment customers more
effectively, but only if you are collecting what you need
during the holidays.

A Bigger Piece of the Pie

The analysts at The National Retail Federation report that
online holiday sales exceeded their forecasts in 2016, reaching
a staggering $122.9 billion in just November
and December 2016. The eCommerce market gets more crowded every
year, with more retailers switching their strategic focus to
lucrative online sales. Holiday readiness does not have to be
an eleventh-hour headache with the right solutions in place.
Achieving the ultimate goal of any online commerce merchant to
stand out from—and ultimately lead—the pack can be attained.

About the Author and Web Solutions NYC

Karah
Finan
is the Marketing Manager for Web
Solutions NYC
, a Magento Commerce Solutions Partner and
Magento 2-trained solutions provider with a decade of
experience in end-to-end planning, development, design and
maintenance for mid-market and enterprise eCommerce merchants.
Karah has over five years in eCommerce, and a decades-long
interest in technology, and she’s passionate about disruption
and innovation in the online landscape. With a 100% Magento
certified team of developers, Web Solutions NYC, provides
clients in verticals such as consumer products and services,
packaged goods, fashion, healthcare and business-to-business
online retail with revenue-driving eCommerce operations and an
exceptional working relationship.