During the final two weeks of the Christmas shopping season, consumers are looking for the best deals online. Whether you sell exclusive products they can’t find elsewhere, or carry items also found in local department stores, simplifying the ordering process is key. This includes answering their questions before they even ask them.
Here are eight changes to make for the final shopping days. All of these can be done quickly on most shopping carts. Be sure to back up existing configurations so you can easily change back — but you might find some of these should remain in place.
1. Place a top-of-page banner hyping the most important offer(s). This can include free shipping, special deals, and coupon codes. Free shipping will entice more visitors to shop, especially if it’s an expedited method.
2. Link to the most appropriate, in-stock items on the home page. Make it festive and don’t give too many choices. Most procrastinators are looking for direction. Keep an eye on stock levels so shoppers aren’t directed to pages of items they cannot order.
3. Offer gift wrapping. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top fancy. By offering free gift wrapping, or wrapping for a nominal fee (no more than $3), you can attract more last-minute buyers — especially men shopping for wives or girlfriends. Be sure to include a gift message option if shipping to another address, and a blank gift tag if delivering right to the purchaser. There’s a reason department store gift-wrapping lines get rather long in the final days. Yet few online stores offer such a service.
4. Post cutoff times. Be sure to tell shoppers which shipping methods are required for gifts to arrive in time for Christmas. Be realistic — people are more understanding about having to pay a little extra for guaranteed delivery by December 25.
5. Display your phone number within the checkout process, even if it’s already posted elsewhere. Last-minute shoppers are in a rush. Don’t make them hunt for anything, including help. If your site offers live chat, make that apparent and make sure the chat is online and functioning.
6. Make sure the return policy is front and center. The ability to return or exchange Christmas gifts is a huge selling point for many shoppers. Even if the policy is displayed or linked in the footer of the site, include this key info on product pages and in the checkout.
7. If you require account creation or additional checkout fields shoppers think are unnecessary, now is the time to turn them off. While no shopper should ever have to close windows asking her to sign up for your mailing list, it is imperative she doesn’t see them now. Nothing should interrupt the process of locating products, adding them to the cart, and checking out. You can always reach out to the customer after the order has been placed.
8. Don’t ignore gift cards and e-certificates. Many small business storeowners have expressed that gift cards and e-certificates never sell well. That’s typically because the cards and e-certificates are not marketed properly. The ability to order and print a gift certificate on Christmas Day is ideal. However, promotions can also help boost overall sales. L.L.Bean, for example, currently offers a free $10 gift card with a $50 purchase. Other stores give discounts of 10 percent or more on gift certificates — e.g., pay only $20 for a $25 certificate — and some opt to give shoppers a bonus card they can later spend on themselves.
Remember, this last big holiday push is about sales more than building loyalty. Loyalty will follow if customers are happy with the experience. Do it right, and you’ll gain customers who need to buy gifts for all sorts of occasions.