eCommerce: Preparing for the holiday season, what you need to know

Posted by Murray Sye

on Tue, Sep 2, 2014 @ 08:57 AM

I'm writing this post with only 113 days, 17 hours and 21 minutes away from Christmas. It may seem a little far-fetched to most of us to be thinking of the holidays but to cash in on Christmas sales, many eCommerce marketers need to begin executing coordinated marketing campaigns now.

eCommerce  Preparing for the holiday season, what you need to know

It's only just September, but it's never too early to start preparing for the Christmas season. There's a good reason for that: the holiday season annually accounts for nearly 20 percent of all retailers' sales (with some estimates citing as high as 40 percent). This should be all the encouragement you need to start working on holiday promotions. Here are a few tips that online retailers can use to attract and retain larger audiences this holiday season.

1) Offer free shipping

Here's an alarming statistic: retailers lose $18 billion annually due to shopping cart abandonment with 44% of shoppers leaving a cart due to high shipping costs. To the majority of online shoppers, free shipping isn't a special offer, it's now a customer expectation. Over 70% of online shoppers consider free shipping 'critical' to their purchase decisions. So, what can you do? 

Free shipping has always been a proven sales-closer. No online business wants to absorb shipping fees, but there are ways to satisfy both customer and marketer, for example; free shipping is applied only to those above a certain dollar value. Or, companies like offer tailored solutions so that eCommerce sites of any size can offer customers appealing, money-saving benefits throughout the year.

Before the holiday season heats up, consider how you can offer free shipping. You'll be one step closer to keeping that sale from abandoning their cart.

2) Are you mobile ready?

If you haven't considered the mobile platform, you'd better. Consumers now spend more time interacting with online retailers on smartphones and tablets than they do on desktops and laptops. eCommerce companies that don't have a mobile commerce plan and don't optimize their sites with responsive or adaptive web design risk losing customers on virtually a daily basis.

eCommerce marketers can reach customers more effectively through email marketing. A recent report on consumer preferences found that 65% of marketing emails are now opened on mobile devices. Better yet, at least one-third of mobile users spend 15 seconds or more reading those emails. A well-designed mobile marketing campaign, with emphasis on email, should be employed – when shopping is on everyone's mind – all the time.

3) Make returns easier

Abandoned shopping carts are quite often the result of a cumbersome returns policy. Endicia recently surveyed more than 1,000 consumers and found that the majority of folks who have never purchased an item online cite "returns" as the reason for cold feet. Returns are a necessary evil every holiday season, shoppers scrutinize retailers' policies closely before making purchases. Shoppers don't think they should have to pay for return shipping, since they don't have to pay for in-store returns, while retailers worry that paying those costs will adversely affect their bottom line.

To keep customers happy, eliminate or minimize the cost of return shipping. Fully 65% of a recent survey from UPS chose "free return shipping options" as the most preferred element of an ideal returns experience, and similar percentages said that if an online retailer offered a hassle-free returns policy, they'd both "shop more with that retailer" and "recommend the retailer to a friend." To help offset those costs, retailers could direct customers to programs such as Return Saver, which offers free shipping via; FedEx Ground® when shoppers return online purchases.

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Flickr Photo Credit: by Royce Bair

Written by Murray Sye

Murray is the CEO and Creative Director with the award-winning
Toronto HubSpot agency partner, WhiteSpace. You can
connect with Murray on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

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