By David Rekuc, Marketing Director, Ripen E-commerce
It's three days before the Christmas party and you still don't have that Secret Santa gift for your cousin. You head to the perfume store, hoping for the right present to make up for a year of no calls and absent-minded Facebook likes. You find a gift and check the price online only to see it is 15 bucks cheaper. Do you make the online purchase and risk it getting delivered in time? Or walk out with a more expensive, but safer deal? This is the mindset of your typical holiday shopper.
Although it seems far away, the holiday sales season is something e-commerce retailers should already be considering. The biggest challenge? How to provide consumers with a cohesive omnichannel shopping experience. Whether it is last-minute in-store shopping, express shipping, in-store pickups, or instant gift credit, the savvy e-commerce retailer should have all locations working in sync to accommodate their patrons.
Early in the season you need to account for the shrewd comparison shoppers. According to the December 2013 MIT Technology Review Business Report, 80% of store shoppers check prices online. A great way to stand out from competitors is by encouraging showroom shopping at your physical locations. Provide fast Wi-Fi connection in-stores and use your site as the homepage. Make sure product names yields good search results, as patrons are more likely to look-up specifics if they're standing in front of the product.
Also check that your prices are the same in-store as online (or at least very close). Your customers shouldn't feel like they could get a better deal somewhere else or that your prices are arbitrary. You can also show complete transparency by placing a QR code or UPC scan next to the product that leads directly to your product page. If you make the process too difficult, your customers might go elsewhere. As Best Buy CEO Hubery Joly said, "Once customers are in our stores, they’re ours to lose.”
For those a little behind on their to-buy list, consider offering in-store pickups of online orders in addition to in-store and online shopping. This way your orders continue up until the last possible moment while guaranteeing your customer will receive it. It also provides peace of mind that they can (or let the gift receiver) return it at a physical location. The 2013 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper reports that 62% of shoppers want to buy items online and return in-store while 44% would choose in-store pickups. Provide as many options as possible to keep your shoppers in the holiday spirit.
For those seriously behind in their shopping (you're at the party already) you can offer the ultimate last resort – electronically delivered gift cards. They are an easy, set it and forget it revenue source that should be a staple on every e-commerce site. Just be sure the codes for these gifts are accepted in brick and mortar stores if you have them. In addition to being a fast, easy a large portion of online credit will go unused or will be used for a purchase of higher value.
You can even offer these cards at a discount to increase sales. "Our $50 gift cards are now $40!" Or better yet, offer an increased value gift card. "$50 cards will be bumped up to $60!"
The holiday shopping season focuses on time, price, and convenience. Creating an omnichannel experience gives your customers an array of option, allowing them to choose one that suits them. And having that varied source of customer service will build brand trust, bringing them back to your site throughout the rest of the year.