4 ways to use social media and content to re-engage holiday shoppers

As January rolls along, merchants are working hard to beat the winter blahs following a successful holiday season. A key part of that effort should be luring back the gift buyers they earned and converting them into long-time customers.

The data is incontrovertible: loyal customers are a valuable asset. Returning customers’ average order value is 12% higher than that for online buyers overall, and although they comprise just 40% of the customer base, they account for 61% of online revenues. Furthermore, with paid acquisition efforts such as Google Product Listing Ads and social networking advertising becoming more expensive, retention efforts can achieve a higher ROI and require less spending.

So merchants would do well to capitalize on the surge of new gift givers who purchased on their sites during the holidays, and increasingly, they’re implementing well-known best practices such as post-purchase email series that go beyond mere transactional details to include engaging new offers. Additionally, seasonal messaging is now in full force to entice shoppers back to indulge in items for themselves now that the season of giving is over, from gift-card redemption invitations to early-spring sneak peaks to advice and products to help stick to resolutions.

Additionally, merchants should bring their social media networks and lifestyle content into play, emphasizing brand expertise in subject areas that matter to their target audience and inviting engagement in ways that deepen connections. Among the options:

Start by cross-promoting ways to stay in touch. Merchants should invite engagement on social networks, via email subscriptions, and on mobile devices, with an emphasis on how the brand stands by to help followers start the year right. Kibo merchant Eastland Shoe announced the debut of its Instagram account early in the New Year,  giving subscribers who joined the email list during the holidays a new way to learn about the brand, engage in visual content — and show off their new shoes with a hashtag campaign.

Instagram promotion from Eastland Shoe

Invite product input. The outset of the year is an ideal time to solicit substantive feedback about product offerings — an invitation that merchants can follow up on later in the year by featuring products or promotions driven by followers’ suggestions. Kibo merchant Berkshire Blanket asked email subscribers and social followers to take a survey about their products, offering entry in a prize drawing as an incentive.

Product survey from Berkshire Blanket

Promote deep expert content. Merchants should give shoppers cause to revisit brand sites even when they’re not explicitly researching purchases. Content that demonstrates brand credibility and authenticity can both help consumers address their immediate needs and suggest serendipitous items to help them fulfill their goals. Outdoor outfitter REI is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the national parks with a new content app that includes user-contributed content. The promotional email not only shines the spotlight on REI’s knowledge of the outdoors, but promotes mobile tools and its charity work with the parks service all in one fell swoop.

Content example from REI

Offer social as a step-down option for email-weary subscribers. The holidays brought an onslaught of promotional messaging, with volume jumping some 25% year over year. Understandably, some consumers are now seeking to trim their inbox contents by unsubscribing, especially if they signed up to receive a discount in the first place. Merchants are required by law to accommodate this desire with a direct “unsubscribe” link in email messages — but that doesn’t mean they should punt and remove subscribers from their lists without at least one further attempt to keep them engaged. Savvy merchants offer an array of “step-down” options, from receiving emails at a lower frequency to selecting only emails pertaining to particular product categories or subjects. Social media links should also be prominent on the unsubscribe page, giving former subscribers a way to stay in touch with the brand without crowding their inbox whatsoever. Kibo merchant Griot’s Garage does so with a message in keeping with its automotive product focus, promising “there’s always a space open for you” and inviting former subscribers to stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

griots_emailstepdown

How are you keeping holiday shoppers engaged in the New Year?

 

Use holiday mobile success to justify further investment – here’s why — holiday flash report

The final numbers are in for the holiday season, and merchants have reason to be optimistic as they head into the New Year — especially when it comes to mobile sales, which showed vast improvement compared with 2015.

For the period starting December 28 and ending January 3, overall online revenues rose 9% year over year on traffic gains of 24%.  Those gains closely tracked results for the season as a whole (from the Monday before Thanksgiving through Sunday, January 3), which saw online sales improve 8% on a traffic increase of 21%.

Both in the post-holiday period and during the season overall, smartphone growth dominated the results. While traffic to eCommerce sites from smartphones rose only incrementally year over year, smartphone revenues shot up 45% in the post-season and 50% overall. The increased smartphone revenue was due in part to strong gains in smartphone average order value, which rose by 9% to over $140 — just $10 behind desktop AOV.

Holiday data from the marketLive Performance Index

The results speak to marked improvement in mobile shopping experiences compared with last year, when a significant number of brand sites still hadn’t been optimized for mobile users. Now, with solid gains to show for their 2015 last year’s mobile initiatives, merchants should feel confident going back to the table to fight for further investment.

The budget battle is worth having, because further improvements to the smartphone experience will be crucial in 2016. The functional but workmanlike mobile sites we encountered in our holiday surveys are by and large ill-equipped to meet rising consumer expectations for cross-screen relevance. In particular, merchants need to invest in:

Smartphone-targeted presentation, even with responsive design. While we’re strong advocates of responsive design for the access to optimized checkout and deep product content it has the potential to bring, that benefit has a corresponding potential drawback — the tendency to remove any specialized consideration for smartphone users’ needs beyond fitting content and offers to their screens. Designing truly differentiated experiences within a responsive framework — for example, by moving functions such as the store locator and click-to-call customer service front and center — requires significant coding prowess, it’s a necessary investment if merchants are to prove their brand’s relevance to smartphone shoppers.

Video-first content. With a third of video views occurring on mobile devices and with video an increasingly popular format for social networking, which is primarily conducted on mobile devices, merchants who provide ample video content are priming themselves for relevance to smartphone users. MarketLive merchant Group Publishing, a seller of ministry materials for churches, featured video prominently on its mobile home page on Dec. 26 with a “Watch” button for the featured product.

Mobile video example from Group Publishing

In-store optimization. Smartphones play a crucial role as connectors between online research and offline browsing and buying. Merchants should do more to support connections to online content in stores and to tailor those online views according to shoppers’ preferences and past brand interactions. Empowering store associates to access online content and customer records is a fundamental first step, with cutting-edge technologies such as beacons promising to help merchants deliver ever-more-nuanced smartphone services as shoppers move through the store.

How are holiday results impacting your 2016 priority list?

Mobile surges in peak buying period – holiday flash report

As delivery cutoff dates loom, merchants continue to achieve solid holiday gains, thanks in part to improvements in mobile performance. With mobile poised to play an even larger role as a connector to last-minute gifts in the final days of the season, merchants stand to end the year on a high note.

Data from the MarketLive Performance Index shows that for the season to date, merchants are realizing revenue gains of 7.3% on traffic growth of 19.9%. Average order value continues its growth pattern, with order totals up 6.6% for the season to date.

MarketLive Performance Index holiday data

The week leading up to Green Monday saw a surge in traffic compared with the prior year, with visits increasing close to 24% as shoppers researched heavily for gifts; revenue gains for the week were more modest, at 3.2%. The week also saw an uptick in mobile purchasing, with smartphone conversion increasing 18.4% year over year to 1.4% and mobile AOV growing 7.3% — the highest growth rate among screen types.

This strong mobile showing is in keeping with the season overall, which has seen steady gains in mobile purchasing. While smartphone conversion rates continue to lag desktop and laptop conversion, the consistent double-digit improvements signal that merchants are better capitalizing on the sizable audience using mobile sites for research and convincing them to buy. Furthermore, in the two weeks starting with Cyber Monday, smartphones’ share of total online revenue has increased by more than 50% to more than 15% of all orders. Combined with tablets’ share of revenue, the share of revenue attributable directly to mobile devices now tops 30%.

Mobile holiday performance data from the MarketLive Performance Index

As shoppers move from ordering online to looking for instantly-available last-minute options, mobile is poised to play still a greater role as a connector to in-store purchasing. To capitalize on the increased activity, merchants should:

Message expedited delivery and store options for mobile users. As on the flagship eCommerce site, merchants should ensure that customer service content related to shipping options and in-store pickup are prominently highlighted on small screens. Furthermore, access to store inventory should be promoted as a key feature for last-minute shoppers, whether by flagging items that can still be delivered on-time as a distinct product category, boosting visibility of fulfillment options on product pages, or both.

As the holiday clock ticked down in 2014, MarketLive merchant Francesca’s highlighted remaining delivery options on the mobile home page, giving shoppers comprehensive information within the small-screen format.

2014 holiday example from Francesca's

Position gift card options as prominently on mobile sites as on other screens. With gift card sales set to top $124 billion, promoting these popular last-minute options is crucial as the clock ticks down. Merchants should ensure that mobile gift card content clearly delineates online and postal mail delivery options, and gives shoppers an easy way to select and purchase gift cards in the format that suits their needs.

Look for a wrapup of season results after the New Year. Happy holidays!

Relevance differentiates brands as shopping peaks – holiday flash report

As the 2015 holiday season chugs along, merchants are holding on to year over year gains, even as the season’s peak period of research and comparison has brought a slowdown compared with the highs of Black Friday weekend. As shoppers come to a decision point about gift purchases, a steady focus on serving relevant products and offers can win merchants sales and widen gains for the season overall.

Merchants in the MarketLive Performance Index saw revenues for the week starting with Black Friday inch upward by 2.4% on a visit increase of 22.4%, suggesting that shoppers are intensively researching and winnowing down the list of potential finds during this peak phase of the season. The week’s gains put season-to-date revenue growth at 8.3% on an increase in visits of 19.4%. Happily, total order amounts remained high, with AOV for the week up 4.1%, bringing the season-to-date growth to 7.4%.

holiday data from the MarketLive Performance Index

As merchants move into the season’s final week before delivery cutoff dates begin to take effect, they should continue to put the focus on value and variety with relevant offers that reflect shoppers’ past interactions with the brand. Among the top options:

Up the abandoned cart ante. We’ve discussed before how abandoned carts are now a normal detour on the path to purchase, not a dead end — and that’s truer than ever during the holiday season, when shoppers are avidly comparing their options, considering and re-considering their gift lists, and consolidating orders to qualify for free shipping. Merchants should revisit and fine-tune their triggered email messaging to cart abandoners to ensure holiday relevance. Free shipping offers, cutoff dates for on-time delivery, and services such as gift-wrapping should be in the mix along with a SKU-specific list of items left in the cart.

Make the most of social messaging. Social media continues to play a relatively small role as a last-click source of visits and revenue. But in the week starting on Cyber Monday, social sites began engaging shoppers at a higher rate than in 2014, with social revenue up 114.5% and revenue as a share of the online total up by more than two thirds. Similarly, social visits for the week rose by nearly 50%, bringing the share of total traffic up by 66%.

Holiday data from the MarketLive Performance Index

The data suggests that as shoppers intensify their research, they are engaging with brands via social media and exploring the content and offers merchants showcase. Merchants should take advantage of this pattern by showcasing the breadth and uniqueness of of their offering and proactively addressing customer service questions in the social environment.

MarketLive merchant Helzberg Diamonds is engaging shoppers on Facebook with frequent posts that showcase the breadth of the brand’s selection in innovative ways. A recent trio of posts included a “regram” of a user-submitted photo with a link to the featured product, notice of exclusive “friends and family” discounts for the weekend, and a timely post connected to the announcement of Pantone’s “colors of the year” with relevant products on display.  The content is varied and engaging while maintaining the focus on selling.

Holiday social example from Helzberg Diamonds

Watch for more holiday results next week, and meantime visit MarketLive’s holiday resource center for a collection of best practices and research data.

Mobile growth, sane discounts power sustainable holiday gains

With the first week of the holiday season under their belts, merchants have cause to celebrate. Amidst reports of tepid retail sales overall, online commerce was a standout, and all signs point to continued success throughout the season.

Holiday season data from the MarketLive Performance Index

For the five days culminating in Cyber Monday, merchants in the MarketLive Performance Index saw revenue jump 13% on a 16.2% increase in traffic. Two key signs suggest that such growth rates are sustainable throughout the season:

Slow and steady discounting and growing AOV. Average order value increased 11.1%, suggesting that the gains were based on a solid foundation of growth as opposed to steep temporary price cuts. Rather, with shoppers on the hunt for bargains throughout the season, “Black Friday preview” and “Cyber Week” promotions extended the opening weekend into a fortnight-long marathon where steady but sustainable discounting was the rule. Many Performance Index merchants played their hands early, posting Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving or even the day before and then largely holding the line on further price cuts. Shoppers responded with a surge of purchasing that tapered off through the weekend: After the double-digit gains on Thanksgiving and Black Friday reported previously, Performance Index merchants saw growth drop to an average of 6.13% for the remainder of the weekend and Cyber Monday.

MarketLive merchant Design Within Reach maintained a 15% discount on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, while changing its home page lineup to focus on gifting. As merchants move through the rest of the season, adopting a similarly level-headed approach to discounting while promoting the brand’s overall value can help win sales from shoppers with the potential to become long-term customers.

Black Friday example from DWR

Cyber Monday example from DWRSolid mobile gains. Shoppers began turning to their phones as a shopping tool in earnest last year — but even as they browsed and researched extensively, mobile sales lagged due to poor experiences on smartphones and tablets. Happily, the 2015 results so far suggest that the tide is turning, particularly on smartphones, which saw average revenue gains of 46% for Black Friday and Cyber Monday on an increase in visits of 8.5%.

Mobile commerce holiday data from the MarketLive Performance Index

Similarly, while the combined share of traffic for smartphones and tablets for the opening holiday weekend was just under 50% — an 11% increase over the fourth quarter total for 2014 — the share of revenue approached 30%, a jump of 17% compared with the fourth quarter last year. The data suggests that merchants are well-positioned to take care of increased mobile activity as the season progresses and shoppers research products and compare offers more avidly.

Mobile commerce holiday data from the marketLive Performance Index

Merchants are also capitalizing on the  potential for smartphones to serve as bridges between online and offline experiences, offering tailored discounts for store shoppers and incentivizing “long tail” purchasing. In addition to promoting Black Friday discounts, MarketLive merchant Party City offered smartphone shoppers the opportunity to get free shipping on any order placed while in stores.

Party City mobile site

Stay tuned to the blog for updates throughout the season. Meantime, check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for best practices and data.

Thanksgiving, Black Friday results show strong gains – holiday flash report

Initial results from MarketLive Performance Index merchants for the first part of the holiday season’s big opening weekend show across-the-board double-digit increases in traffic, conversion and revenues.

Millions of consumer purchases were tracked via MarketLive’s e-commerce transaction platform during Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and the following Saturday and Sunday. Among the data highlights:

OVERALL RESULTS:

  • Total revenue YOY increase (4 days from Thanksgiving through Sunday): + 20%

THANKSGIVING & BLACK FRIDAY RESULTS:

  • Thanksgiving Day revenue increase: +36%
  • Average Order Value (AOV) for Thanksgiving Day rose +27.8% to $202.47
  • Black Friday revenue increase: +24%

MarketLive Performance Index data from 2015 holidays

 

SOCIAL COMMERCE:

  • Social referral traffic: +58%
  • Social conversion rate: +62%
  • Social revenue increase: +240%

MOBILE COMMERCE:

  • Smartphone traffic: +11%
  • Smartphone Conversion Rate: +21%
  • Smartphone revenue: +56%

Watch the blog for Cyber Monday results and further analysis coming later this week, and stay tuned for updates throughout the season. Meantime, check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for best practices and data.

Holiday Tip #12 – Checklist: Prepare now for post-season sales success

With Black Friday just days away, merchants should look ahead to capitalizing on the season’s highs with after-Christmas sales that provide new reasons for shoppers to engage.

The facts

As discussed in our previous post, revenues in January tend to slip dramatically from holiday-season highs, heralding in a first-quarter lull. But while the early months of the year may not break records, they still hold the potential for growth; online revenues in the first quarter of 2015, for example, grew at a rate of 9.1% year over year, according to the MarketLive Performance Index.

Furthermore, post-season shopping starts promptly on December 26, or for some, even on the holiday itself; last year, Christmas Day online sales jumped 8% year over year, according to IBM Digital Analytics. This year, close to 1 in 4 shoppers — 24% — say they plan to take advantage of post-Christmas sales, according to the MarketLive/E-Tailing Group 2015 Consumer Shopping Survey.

The action item

In addition to seeding opportunities for post-season re-engagement into the shopping experience during the peak buying period, as discussed in our prior post, merchants should also design purpose-built campaigns that address the needs of shoppers in the immediate post-Christmas period. Among the tactics:

  • Think mobile. IBM found that mobile devices accounted for a whopping 57.1% of eCommerce traffic and 34.8% of sales on Christmas Day — signaling that consumers were content to check out sales via smartphones and tablets during breaks in their festivities, but less apt to mosey over to the computer and log on. Merchants should cater to this behavior by ensuring that they translate post-season campaigns and promotions for their mobile audiences. Social media should play a significant role in spreading the word, given that fully 61% of social visits originate on mobile devices, according to Merkle/RKG.
  • Position New Year’s as a shoppable event in its own right. From party supplies and outfits to organization tools and fitness equipment to help shoppers keep their resolutins, there are plenty of New Year’s needs merchants can address in the week immediately following Christmas.

MarketLive merchant Honey Baked Ham rolled out New Year’s recipe ideas and product suggestions promptly on December 26 last year to serve shoppers gearing up for the next celebration.

new year's promotion example from Honey Baked

  • Switch the focus from gifts to self-rewards. More than half of consumers plan to buy non-gift items for themselves during the holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation — and the post-Christmas period, when gift cards have been newly received, is a prime opportunity to promote gifts and services that reward shoppers. Merchants should highlight best-sellers and group picks by gift card amount. Gift card redemption policies should be front and center.

MarketLive merchant Peruvian Connection put the focus on escaping the stresses of the holiday season on Dec. 26 with its Facebook post inviting shoppers to consider sleepwear for relaxing now that “everyone has gone from your house”.

Peruvian Facebook

Stay tuned to the blog throughout the holiday season for up-to-the-minute results and check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for further best practices.

Holiday Tip #11 – Spur January sales with holiday-season tactics

While merchants are rightfully focused on winning immediate sales during the peak holiday season, they would do well to look beyond Christmas and offer shoppers reasons to return to the brand once the frenzy dies down. Doing so can transform fly-by gift shoppers into long-term customers for 2016 and beyond.

The facts

Merchants are all too familiar with the post-season slump. Following the highs of the holiday season, sales typically plummet in January and February as shopping-weary consumers take a break from spending. In the 2014-2015 season, for example,  overall retail revenues slipped from December’s $270 billion to $266 billion in January, and then dipped further to $264 billion in February, according to the National Retail Federation.

Cyclical sales data from NRF

At the same time, customers are willing to hear from brands post-purchase — thereby opening the door to further engagement and sales.

For the 41% of holiday shoppers who are new customers, these re-engagement opportunities can establish the brand as integral to their shopping needs year-round, not just for gift purchases.

The action item

In addition to launching post-season campaigns on Dec. 25 or 26 — which we’ll address in our next and final holiday tip — merchants should also sow the seeds of January sales throughout the holiday season.  Among the tactics to employ:

  • Use “gift card with purchase” promotions to spur another round of buying. Free gifts or gift cards with purchase ranked as the third-most sought-after promotion by holiday shoppers, the MarketLive / E-Tailing Group 2015 Consumer Shopping Survey found. With over a third of consumers favoring this discount, merchants would do well to add it to their calendar of promotions for the season. Whether shoppers keep the free gift card for themselves or use it to cross another name off their gift recipient list, the promotion results in January buying opportunities.

In 2014, outdoor outfitter REI gave away $50 gift cards redeemable the week after Christmas when shoppers purchased selected items.

Screenshot_2014-12-18-11-31-09

  • Similarly, empower customer service staff to issue January discounts in response to peak-season queries and complaints. Mistakes large and small are inevitable; how merchants respond is crucial for maintaining brands’ reputations. Merchants should give customer service staff and store associates broad leeway to issue promo codes good for purchases made in January, as a means to both rekindle goodwill and drive post-holiday sales.
  • Use transactional emails to spur further engagement. Post-purchase order confirmation and shipment alert emails should be used to promote further opportunities to engage with the brand. While displaying cross-sell products to complement items just purchased is tricky, given that those items are likely destined for gift recipients, merchants can display other holiday bestsellers and top-rated products — along with promoting further engagement via email updates, social media, and upcoming in-store events.
  • Launch a haul or unboxing video contest. Videos featuring shoppers sharing their holiday loot are increasingly popular, and brands can capitalize on this trend by encouraging consumers to submit their own reels in exchange for the chance to unlock January discounts or win gift cards. The promotion can not only generate valuable video content for social media, but has the potential to earn word of mouth brand promotion as well as drive post-season sales.

Check back early next week for our final holiday tip, and meantime consult the MarketLive holiday research center for more best practices and research.

Holiday tip #10: Entice existing customers into the holiday shopping fray

The holiday hustle is often associated with luring new shoppers to brands as they research and compare merchant offerings. But returning customers are potentially more valuable than newbies and are poised to make a significant impact on the holiday bottom line — if merchants would only market to them.

The facts

Shoppers’ own reputations are on the line when they give gifts, so it’s perhaps not surprising that they prefer to entrust gift purchases to merchants who’ve proven their mettle previously. Product quality, on-time delivery, and customer service are all especially critical, and time-pressed shoppers would prefer not to waste time wondering whether a brand will come through for them.

Prior holiday results support this preference, with shoppers actually being more loyal to known brands than they claim to be. Google reports that while more than half of shoppers claimed to be open to buying from new brands in 2014, just 41% actually did so — a sizable population, to be sure, and one worth courting, but still the overall minority.

That’s good news for brands, because loyal customers spend more than new buyers: although they comprise just 40% of the eCommerce customer base, returning buyers generate 61% of total online revenues — a 20% increase from 2013, when they accounted for 51% of eCommerce sales.

The action item

To stand out from the holiday crowd with existing customers, merchants should surprise and delight them with personalized promotions that put the emphasis on brand reputation, stellar service, and high-quality, unique products. Among the tactics to consider:

  • Ensure existing customers get the best deals. When asked what makes them willing to try new stores during the holidays, the top reason was better prices, which resonated with 70% of shoppers, according to marketing services firm Deloitte. So merchants hoping to attract return business should offer those customers special pricing incentives, whether it’s the best free shipping offer they’ve got, a price break on popular holiday products, or double rewards points for purchases during the peak season.
  • Treat completion of the first purchase as the start of the second. Consumers are open to receiving ongoing communications from brands they’ve patronized, with 72% of shoppers willing to receive additional communications post-purchase if they contain personalized products and offers, according to MyBuys and the E-Tailing Group. New buyers completing purchases early in the holiday season should receive transactional and other post-purchase messaging focused on encouraging return visits and purchases, whether for accessories to complement gift purchases, last-minute gift cards, or items for themselves.
  • Don’t forget the holiday-only opportunists. Merchants should reach out to those customers who haven’t made purchases since the last holiday season and update them with news of new products,  holiday exclusives, seasonal shipping discounts, and other incentives. While they may not become year-round frequent buyers, these gift-focused shoppers have a track record with the brand, and marking the anniversary of their gift transaction last year may spark another purchase.

Fab.com, which specializes in eclectic finds and design, recently sent an email campaign to inactive shoppers offering 10% off purchases. Headlined “We’ve been busy while you’ve been gone,” the message content features an array of new arrivals from a range of product categories..

tip10_retentionemail

Watch for further holiday tips through Black Friday, and check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for the latest research and best practices.

 

Holiday tip #9 – Spotlight return/exchange policies before shoppers click “buy”

While it may seem counter-productive to anticipate returns before shoppers even commit to purchases, information about brand policies surrounding returns, exchanges, and refunds is critical to highlight during the holidays — not bury deep within the customer service section.

The facts

Far from being dull fine-print policy, returns information can make or break online purchasing. Fully 62% of shoppers seek out information about returns prior to buying items online, according to measurement firm comScore. And when it comes to the holidays specifically, “easy returns” are second only to free shipping as an offering of interest, according to marketing services firm Deloitte.

Merchants may assume that shoppers unilaterally seek out free online returns, just as they crave online shipping. But flexibility rather than cost is actually paramount when it comes to returns, according to Deloitte. When asked to rank the importance of return policy offerings, the ability to return items anywhere took two of the top three spots, with only the ability to receive cash vs. store credit scoring higher. Components related to cost — the lack of “re-stocking” fees and free online returns — ranked fourth and fifth.

Data on returns policies from Deloitte

The action item

Given the importance of returns information during the purchase consideration phase, and given that consumers are seeking flexibility rather than discounts, merchants should feel confident showcasing their return policies across touchpoints. Among the tactics to consider:

  • Promote policies like a top product throughout the eCommerce site. Guarantees and return policies can be a powerful brand differentiator, so merchants should craft customer service information that’s as enticing as product descriptions and feature them on a dedicated page for returns information. The information should be succinct and jargon-free, so that it can be promoted in a variety of locations along the path to purchase — including on product pages and in the cart.

MarketLive merchant Educational Insights has given the title of “Playful Promise” to their guarantee and return policy, promoting the 365-day return window in the global header as well as on product pages.

Returns example from Educational Insights

  • Include returns information in post-purchase communications. Transactional emails, packaging inserts, and gift receipts should reinforce messaging about return policies and highlight how shoppers can get in touch with customer service to initiate a return.
  • Put the emphasis on store options. Retailers with brick-and-mortar locations should spell out whether shoppers can return items to local outlets, and follow through with store signage that explicitly mentions online returns processing.
  • Build a campaign around returns for post-season sales. As gift recipients sift through their loot after Christmas Day, merchants should highlight the ability to exchange duds for more desirable items — and promote potentially relevant products alongside the content about the returns process.

In 2014, outdoor outfitter Moosejaw offered a tongue-in-cheek take on post-holiday returns that was completely in keeping with the brand’s humor-inflected tone. Participants in the “Custy Gift Swap” returned rejected gifts of any kind by mail and randomly received another customer’s reject in exchange. A promotional email was dedicated to the event, which was also highlighted on social media. The campaign promoted both the brand’s points program, whose members could earn credits to cover the shipping cost of their swapped item, and also encouraged participants to snap photos of their new treasures and share them socially via a hashtag campaign.

returns example from MoosejawWatch for further holiday tips through Black Friday, and check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for the latest research and best practices.