Online traffic and shopping skyrocketed in 2020 due to the pandemic and brick-and-mortar closures, which predictably continued into the holiday season. And 2021 holiday shopping season looks to be even bigger, with an 11% increase over last year.
In August 2020, online sales increased 42%, year over year, and consumers spent $63 billion, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index. To give you an idea of just how much more online shopping went on in 2020, in 2019, there were only two $2 billion days outside the holiday season.
As of August 2020, there were 130 days that passed that milestone.
Large brands already started teasing Black Friday and other deals in September. And, ecommerce is expected to account for 18% of holiday retail shopping this year.
How to make the most of increased digital holiday traffic
To put together a list of actionable advice for ecommerce entrepreneurs, we asked other sites for their best tips and tricks with proven success. While you should certainly employ these strategies to leverage increased digital holiday traffic — and end the year strong — you can also use these tactics as we roll into the new year!
Prioritize site speed
We know site owners hear this all the time — you’ve seen the famous stat that a one-second delay in load time could cost Amazon $1.6 billion in sales. But it bears repeating because site and page speed matter.
Of the many website managers and owners we spoke to, that same piece of advice kept coming up — prioritize speed.
Calloway Cook, president of Illuminate Labs, confirmed that a faster load time on their product pages led to increased conversions. Cook explained simple steps for you to do the same: “Shed unnecessary apps, optimize images, minify code, and do everything you can to get your page load time under 2.5 or so seconds.”
Consider limiting functionality to improve site performance and speed. A faster load time can turn visitors into customers.
During the prime-time holiday shopping blitz, you might even consider limiting functionality to improve site performance and speed, advised Zohar Gilad, CEO of InstantSearch+.
Those fancy graphics won’t help turn visitors into customers, but a faster load time will. Gilad offered further tips to bolster speed: “invest in hosting and servers, improve mobile performance, compress files, remove redundant pages, and fix any broken links.”
The holiday season is a hectic period with never-ending to-do lists—don’t waste your shopper’s time with slow site speed. What’s more, don’t risk losing a potential customer.
Don’t neglect customer service
“People shop more during the holiday season, the more they shop, the more issues arise,” points out Lucas Robinson, CMO of Crediful. A simple concept but one easily forgotten. Everyone wants more sales, but ecommerce managers often forget that means increased customer service needs as well.
Robinson provided his tips for improving customer service during the busy holiday period:
- Reduce your average response time.
- Provide omnichannel customer service (more on that below).
- Add a self-service option on your website.
A chatbot can help field low-level customer service inquiries and route customers to the appropriate representatives.
According to that same LivePerson survey, 68% of consumers trust an online retailer more when their customer service reps are readily available via a messaging platform, and 77% confirm they’re more likely to buy from a website that allows live chatting.
Kris Brooks, CRO of Pixel Perfect HTML, suggested offering 24/7 support or live chat options during your peak holiday shopping days.
Stanley Tate, the founder of Tate Law, further leveled up his chatbot by integrating customized intro videos. (See it in action on his website). This strategy led to three times more conversions.
While Tate offers a digital service rather than a typical ecommerce product, the concept can be translated into any type of online business. Simply record a customer service rep answering common inquiries but don’t forget to have a pathway to a real chat. Tate explains that videos humanize your brand and automate basic questions to save your team’s valuable time.
Grow your subscriber list
As overall digital holiday traffic grows, use that increase in interest to cultivate your email subscriber list.
“Building a mailing list is not a new ninja strategy,” says Jack Chronos, CMO of IronMonk Solutions.
“But just think about how many people like to do their holiday shopping in person and will now be relegated to doing it online. These people may have never been exposed to your brand, so getting them on your mailing list allows you to build that brand awareness through the new year.”
While you might not capture every possible sale during the holiday season, a larger subscriber base keeps those interested site visitors in the loop (especially the hesitant online holiday shopper).
Plan for an out-of-stock experience
Increased traffic and sales are generally positive; however, it may lead to low inventory, which can be difficult to replenish around the busy holiday season.
Depending on preliminary data, you could scale up your inventory, or look at last year’s sales trends to predict popular products, then increase stock.
However, it’s always best to have plans in place for all scenarios. Grant Tilus of Cro Metrics shared his out-of-stock strategy:
“Without a doubt, assessing and optimizing for a quality out-of-stock experience can help you successfully steer your ship during the changing tides of a pandemic holiday season. We utilized A/B testing tools such as Optimizely. We then directed users that landed on out-of-stock product pages to discover similar products for purchase by inserting 'You May Also Like’ recommendations.”
The results were a 10x increase in clicks to those product recommendations, a 9% increase in products added to cart, and an 18% increase in completed orders.
If you’re already seeing higher sales, make sure to plan for low inventory on your most popular products, so you don’t lose an interested customer.
Promote or partner with a philanthropic cause
‘Tis the season for giving — a sentiment that can also extend to the charity or nonprofit of your choice.
Give back to your community or industry by choosing an organization to partner with during this festive time of year.
You could promote their holiday-specific campaigns or goals or pledge a portion of your profits. By leveraging the increased digital holiday traffic, you can boost not only your own sales but also funnel more individuals to a philanthropic cause.
Yaniv Masjedi, CMO of Nextiva, explains why promoting a charity is a win-win: “Appeal to shoppers’ altruistic nature. When consumers see an opportunity to give back to their community, especially if the cause is close to their hearts, they feel encouraged to purchase.”
Katie Fellenz, head of marketing at Trust & Will, agreed: “Consumers are looking for ways to make their dollar count for their community past their point of purchase, so companies should look for ways to offer deals that benefit the community at the same time as helping the customer solve a problem.”
When you focus on more than just sales, shoppers will notice and are likely to remember your business or brand long after the holidays are over.
Update your keyword strategy
For ecommerce businesses that use content marketing to increase their organic reach, a holiday-specific keyword strategy can help you target new customers during the busiest shopping weeks.
Adam Rizzieri, CMO of Agency Partner Interactive, described the keyword tweaks he made, plus the benefits of each:
Using geographic keywords and references to the holidays could help boost your organic traffic.
“Run through existing blogs and landing pages and give them a very brief update to include a mixture of geographic and calendar keywords. Geographic keywords could include the name of cities or states that your customers live in. The inclusion of these will help you compete for local searches. Inclusion of the year, month and explicit references to the holidays will tell Google that your site is relevant and timely.”
Rizzieri said those small changes could lead to a big boost in organic traffic, i.e., taking advantage of those holiday-related searches during popular shopping times.
Remember to keep keywords or phrases relevant to your content and business (otherwise, you could be keyword stuffing, an SEO black hat tactic that can backfire). Also, don’t forget to change those holiday-related keywords back come January.
You can use this strategy all-year-round by including geographic keywords in content (where and when it makes sense). If you see an increase in traffic when you test this out, you can also update pages with other holiday/seasonal keywords, think Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc.
Create competitive Cyber Week buzz
Camille Chulick, the co-founder of Averr Aglow, astutely pointed out that small ecommerce businesses need to optimize their digital experience in order to compete with big-box stores, especially for the important shopping days.
Chulick outlined actionable steps to build buzz around your Cyber Week campaigns and promotions:
- Send out targeted emails ASAP. Make them short and sweet and well-designed.
- Offer sneak peeks in your initial emails describing your holiday offerings, for example, discounts, limited-time sales, free-shipping, contests, etc.
- Give your full advertisements for cyber week campaigns two days before. Remember, promotions need to get your customers excited, so they know to add your site to their list of places to hit on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Make the most of these Cyber Week promotions, even after the holidays, by using your data to analyze effective marketing strategies. What promotions performed best, whether it was via email or social media?
Look at your email marketing, social platforms and website metrics to gauge the effectiveness and overall reach. If you find success with a holiday campaign, remember you can repurpose that tactic or use it to optimize future strategy in 2021.
Focus on trust and UGC
While digital holiday traffic continues to rise, the nature of 2020 is that some consumers will be more conscious of their spending.
“The economy is unpredictable right now. Even though more people will be shopping online, they’re going to be more selective in the products they choose,” explains Ian Sells, CEO of RebateKey.
As such, consumers will spend more time seeking out high-quality products. One of the best ways to show your value is to bolster trust via reviews, testimonials and user-generated content (UGC). Sells advises all ecommerce businesses to generate (and promote) as many positive reviews as they can.
“Consumers are going to be more careful with their spending this year, and they'll be reading reviews more thoroughly,” says Sells.
Find the best reviews on your site, or consider sending an email to previous customers to encourage them to review your products.
Also, look to social media — 60% of consumers agree that UGC is the most authentic form of content. Search for your brand name, tagged posts, or hashtags and look for happy customers using, engaging, or posting about your product. Then ensure that testimonials, reviews, or UGC is front-and-center on your product pages to hook those research-savvy holiday shoppers.
Leverage increased digital holiday traffic now
Even though holiday shopping has already started, you still have time to prep campaigns and promotions to take advantage of increased digital holiday traffic and rack-up year-end sales. To sum it up:
- Optimize your site speed to be able to handle increased traffic and convert more visitors.
- Focus on customer service even more than usual; consider using chatbots and live chat options. Remember that positive customer service interactions lead to a better overall customer experience and more sales.
- Push new site visitors to your email list so you can capture the increased interest and hopefully convert those hesitant shoppers in the New Year.
- Have a back-up-plan for out-of-stock products, so you don’t lose a sale.
- Promote a relevant charity during the holiday season to not only give back to your community but offer your customers a chance to as well.
- Consider adding geographic or holiday-specific keywords to content to pick up those targeted holiday searches and bolster organic traffic.
- Develop a competitive and cohesive Cyber Week plan to intrigue your target audience.
- Incorporate UGC to build trust and convince research-driven shoppers of your product value.
The beauty of the above strategies is that you can also use them after the holidays as well. The best time to test new tactics is on engaged and motivated shoppers. See what works for your business, website and target customer!