Tim Rentowl, Vice President of Product Management, looks at how online retailers can best prepare for their peak season rush.

Black Friday 2019 saw a staggering 93.2 million US shoppers making purchases online, with 83.3 million customers internet shopping on Cyber Monday. The UK saw similar results, with a huge £8.57 billion spent online on Black Friday with 194 million visits made to UK retail online sites. In light of the global pandemic, predictions are all pointing to an even bigger shopping bonanza this year, with restrictions on the high street turning even more people to online retail for their seasonal shopping. 

For retailers, the key to success during any peak period is precision planning. For toy shops, the Black Friday weekend is their biggest time of the year, while florists see their biggest booms over Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, and Garden Centers typically in the Spring. Regardless of when the peak occurs, failure to plan is a guaranteed way to miss out on the sales opportunities that such periods provide. With this in mind, we’ve outlined the five key considerations for online retailers to bear in mind when it comes to planning for that potentially lucrative peak-season rush.

1. Are your products named correctly?

It’s imperative to match your product names to the terminology used by customers. It’s all very well giving your product its official label, but if this isn’t the same name your customer base uses, it will never show up in a search. By tailoring product titles to suit the specific naming conventions used by different customer groups, this makes for a better search experience, enhanced navigation, and a resulting uplift in sales. It’s a similar situation for images. Interesting, multi-view images provide a customer with more insight into how the product will work for them, increasing their likelihood of buying.

2. Refine your product descriptions

The same rules apply to product descriptions. Rather than focusing on the physical characteristics of the product, descriptions should center on how the product meets the particular needs and wants of the customer. Ultimately, it must explain why a customer should buy this product. Again, this will vary from group-to-group, so it’s vital to garner a full understanding of what different customers will be looking for and then tailor the product descriptions accordingly. This will speed up the decision-making process, something that’s vital in the ultra-competitive environment that surrounds peak buying seasons across all industries.

3. Eliminate dead-ends

The words ‘no results found’ are a shopper’s worst nightmare, not to mention a sure-fire way of sending a customer running to your competitors in search of what they’re looking for. That’s why it’s crucial to eliminate any ‘no results’ pages wherever possible. Add keywords and synonyms into your search functionality to support cross-selling, as well as known customer language terms, all of which help to reduce the risk of returning a ‘no results found’ search. Even with these measures in place, if a search still yields no results, it’s preferable to redirect customers to other best-selling or relevant products to optimize the window of opportunity.

4. Simplify the search

In peak shopping times in particular, customers want a smooth, fast shopping experience. Businesses need to make this happen. By reviewing your search functionality in plenty of time, you can see where the bottlenecks and barriers are. Autocomplete functionality is a valuable addition to a search capability, making suggestions in-line with your site’s most popular search terms. Searches should result in actual products being displayed too, not just product categories. The aim is to shorten the buying cycle, speeding up the decision-making process to allow your customers to benefit from a swift, efficient shopping experience. By making searches not only easier but more productive, you’re doing just that, and facilitating an increase in both sales and profits in the process.

5. Make the right recommendations

Another key aspect to check is product recommendations. Not only should you check you’re recommending the right products to the right customers, but you need to know if you’re making these recommendations at the right stage of the shopping process. For example, perhaps your conversion rates would improve if recommended products appear on product pages, or in the cart, or at checkout, or even appearing at all these steps of the buying journey? And, what are you basing these recommendations on? Suggesting products based on similar shoppers’ behaviors is shown to improve conversion rates, helping shoppers to see which other products they might want or need to complement the choices they’ve already made.

As with all things retail, forming a carefully considered, and thoroughly researched plan to maximize the opportunity in any peak shopping window, is key. By reviewing and reassessing processes now, online retailers can make the necessary changes to hit the ground running when their peak season hits, providing an enhanced shopping experience and a welcome boost to your sales figures.

SLI Systems is now part of Avolin.

Interested in finding out about how SLI can help you great ready for peak season? Get in touch at info@avolin.com or request a demo.