OP/ED: Top 10 Tips for maximising online sales this Christmas season

Rob Holliday

To say Australia has been a little slow on the uptake when it comes to ecommerce is an understatement, especially when it comes to taking advantage of retail’s biggest annual opportunity, Christmas. By now, most appliance retailers have an online portal to complement their bricks and mortar stores. By making sure this site is optimised to its full potential, online sales at Christmas, Boxing Day and into the New Year can be just as sizable as in-store transactions.

While December 2013 saw record online sales in the United Kingdom, making up just under 19 per cent of all non-food sales,  and online sales in the United States jumped by a whopping 37 per cent the weekend before Christmas, Australia’s retailers generated less than 2 per cent of their Christmas sales online.

In fact, while most international retailers would have balked at an outage during this critical time, Myer bosses shrugged off last year’s Boxing Day downtime, claiming that online sales are “still a small part of the overall business”.

But, with more than 50 per cent of Australians reportedly shopping online today, Australian retailers that continue to ignore the importance of ecommerce are missing a very real revenue opportunity. So, with only weeks to go until the Boxing Day bonanza, here are my Top 10 Tips for improving your customers’ online shopping experience:

  1. Provide a guest checkout: 23 per cent of shoppers will abandon their purchase when asked to register before checking out.
  2. Don’t make a purchase jump through too many hoops. Aim for no more than four steps at checkout.
  3. Do everything you can to emphasize the security of the transaction.
  4. Know how your customers are paying. Are they using a credit card? A debit card? PayPal? By adding more flexibility to how a customer pays, you might be able to land more transactions.
  5. Engage in a consistent dialogue across channels. Even as you optimise for different platforms and devices, make sure that your voice and look remain consistent.
  6. Guide the shopper with contextual offers at exactly the right time. A well-timed, personalised offer can translate into an instant cross-sell or upsell.
  7. Prompt their route with suggested next steps. A gentle nudge here or there can help reduce cart abandonment.
  8. Identify and overcome customer interaction challenges. This applies particularly to user generated content. If a loyal customer writes a negative review of your product, how will you engage, if at all? Know your engagement strategy and stick to it.
  9. Understand customer experience at an individual and segment level. Who is the individual customer, and how has he or she engaged with you in the past? What does he or she have in common with other customers? The more quickly and accurately you can answer those questions, the better you’ll be at effective personalisation.
  10. Regularly test and refine offers and promotions. With more targeted offers, you can attract and engage more shoppers across more channels.

Rob Holliday is the ANZ managing director of Sitecore, a company experience management company.

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