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.


  • 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., 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..


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.

Holiday Tip #8: Prioritize relevance to engage holiday shoppers via email

Email remains the favorite way for shoppers to learn about offers from the brands they follow — but with routine promotional emails, triggered messages, re-mailings, e-receipts and transactional messages in play, merchants must prioritize to ensure they don’t overload inboxes.

The facts

Old-fashioned email still tops the list of preferred methods for consumers to learn about holiday promotions, according to the 2015 MarketLive/E-Tailing Group Consumer Shopping Survey. Given consumers’ preference, merchants routinely ramp up email messaging during the holidays. In 2014, volume surged from an average of 18 messages per month throughout the third quarter to 28 in December, according to marketing services firm Listrak — and all indications are that merchants will repeat the pattern this year.

holiday email frequency data from Listrak

But shoppers’ welcoming attitude toward email carries a caveat. More than a third of consumers say they’ll likely discard the majority of emails sent by retailers as volume increases during the holidays, according to Listrak. As it turns out, the willingness to engage is directly related to relevance:

  • 20% say they’re willing to accept unlimited emails from brands they follow as long as they’re focused on holiday promotions
  • 12% say the emails must be personalized based on past buying and browsing behavior.
  • 11% say the emails must make holiday shopping easier.

The action item

Merchants must hold fast to a “less is more” mentality during the holidays and focus on maximizing relevance. That may seem easier said than done; for some merchants, different systems are responsible for different types of email — for examples, e-receipts are triggered differently than routine promotional emails — making it difficult to synch efforts across the organization. Among the goals to aim for:

  • Consistently promote holiday resources across all email types. Merchants should tweak email headers and footers to feature prominent links to gift guides, gift cards, and key customer service information such as delivery cutoff deadlines, and deploy them across email services to ensure consistent messaging.
  • Within email content, personalize to the fullest extent possible. Depending on the type of email sent, merchants should include relevant promotions, along with finely-tuned content such as usage guidance for the products purchased in transactional emails. And abandoned cart emails should display cart contents; doing so boosts performance 25%.
  • Untangle multi-touchpoint mixed messages behind the scenes — not in shoppers’ inboxes. As shoppers increasingly research and buy across multiple screens, merchants should build some critical cross-checks into their business rules. Before sending an abandoned cart email, for example, merchants should find a way to ensure that the shopper didn’t complete the purchase elsewhere.

An apparel manufacturer sent an abandoned cart email picturing the item under consideration, offering $10 off the threshold for free shipping, and highlighting the brand’s purchase guarantee — all solid tactics, except that the email was received 9 hours after an order confirmation message was sent following purchase completion on a different device.

abandoned cart emailtip8_orderconfirmation

  • Be transparent about layering promotions. With shoppers potentially receiving multiple emails from a single merchant within the space of 24 hours, message content should clarify whether offers can be used in combination, and whether certain discounts can invalidate other promotions. Such transparency can help set expectations about pricing in advance.

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 #7: Use holiday social content to differentiate your brand

In a crowded holiday marketplace, merchants must use every tool available to differentiate their brands — and that includes canny usage of social media to demonstrate uniqueness and value.

The facts

Shoppers are increasingly discovering Web sites via a variety of sources — and social is a key player. Technology researcher Forrester found that 25% of online adults have used Facebook to find information or Web sites in the past year, second only to natural search as a source of Web site leads.

And when it comes to holiday sales, consumers report that social media carries heightened importance. The MarketLive/E-Tailing Group 2015 Consumer Shopping Survey found that more than half of shoppers turn to social media to get ideas and referrals from friends and to share their own recommendations. Overall, 27% of survey participants said social media had led them to make purchases — a much larger percentage than last-click attribution statistics suggest.

MarketLive/E-Tailing Group research on social media

Given that more than half of 2014 holiday shoppers said they were open to purchasing from new retailers and 41% actually did so, the impact of social media as the matchmaker introducing shoppers to new brands is potentially significant.

The action item

While showcasing product links and promotional offers is a key component of social strategy for the holidays, standing out from the crowd requires more than promo codes. Merchants should use social media to convey the credibility, service, and ethics behind the brands in order to convince new shoppers to commit to purchases. Among the content to highlight:

  • Aspirational, inspirational content. Posting content that provides holiday solutions beyond the immediate gift list demonstrates that brands understand their audience’s priorities and share relevant expertise. Recipes, holiday craft ideas, travel tips, winter fitness inspiration, and cocktail suggestions can flesh out brand personas and increase the likelihood that new visitors will become followers.
  • Craftsmanship and provenance. Highlighting artisanal expertise not only elevates the value of products, but can illuminate a brand’s commitment to sustainability and fair trade. More than two-thirds of shoppers say knowing the provenance of products is important, but just 15% believe brands communicate about it transparently, according to marketing firm Edelman.
  • Holiday charitable campaigns. Another way to demonstrate brand ethics is to spotlight holiday charitable giving, and/or to invite social followers to donate or volunteer. Doing so can not only bolster perceptions of integrity, but inspire purchases as well: for more than half of shoppers, social purpose is the most important factor when evaluating a brand if price and product quality are equal, according to Edelman.
  • Behind-the-scenes holiday fun. Merchants should use social media to pull back the curtain and reveal staff holiday hijinks and tips, both as a way of sharing useful holiday information and to demonstrate that real people stand behind the brand.
  • Customer service essentials. Proactively establishing a forward position on social media with customer service content — from live chat links to deadlines for on-time delivery to return policies — eliminates the need for shoppers to hunt the eCommerce site and signals that the brand goes above and beyond to deliver satisfaction.

Throughout the 2014 holiday season, MarketLive merchant Title Nine, a women’s recreational clothing outfitter, engaged its social audiences with content that went beyond products — from a sneak peek of the staff Thanksgiving buffet the Wednesday before the holiday to service messages about last-minute shipping.

Social media example from Title Nine

Social media example from Title Nine

Want more holiday? Watch for more tips on the blog this week and check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for best practices guides and more.

Holiday Tip #6: Checklist – viable alternatives to standard free shipping

Overwhelmingly, shoppers seek out free shipping as a way to cut costs on online orders — especially during the holidays, when a free shipping offer can make or break sales. Luckily, there are viable alternatives for merchants who can’t offer standard season-long free shipping.

The facts

During the holidays, when bargain hunters are comparing dozens of offers arriving in their inboxes and news feeds daily, the role of free shipping takes on outsized importance.

Among participants in the 2015 MarketLive/E-Tailing Group Consumer Shopping Survey:

  • 66% said free shipping offers would cause them to buy during the holidays — second only to the right product pricing as a purchase influencer.
  • Free standard shipping with no conditions was the most desirable promotion overall, with 71% of shoppers choosing it in their top 3.

Furthermore, the desire to avoid paying for shipping is so strong that shoppers alter their behaviors in significant ways, according to a comScore/UPS study:

  • 52% of shoppers have added items to the cart in order to qualify for free shipping.
  • 46% have abandoned carts when their order totals didn’t qualify for free shipping.
  • Overall, shoppers pay for shipping on just 2 out of every 5 orders.

In response to these behaviors, close to two-thirds of merchants on Internet Retailer’s Top 500 and Second 500 lists for 2015 offered some kind of free shipping. A small subset offer free shipping with no restrictions year-round, while others are rolling out unrestricted free shipping for the holidays, starting with Best Buy and Target.

The action item

Thankfully, the advanced targeting and personalization tools now available enable merchants to offer free shipping when it counts to the audiences that matter most — and to highlight viable alternatives. Among the options:

  • Consider a referral model for loyal customers. With formal referral programs becoming more commonplace, merchants should extend the concept to free shipping, awarding their loyalty club members or other top customers the best free shipping offer they can muster — say, free shipping with no threshold for a limited amount of time — along with the ability to extend the savings to friends, who can receive a lesser, but still persuasive, free shipping deal, such as free shipping with a threshold for the same timeframe.
  • Use limited-time offers to spur timely purchasing. By offering free shipping earlier in the peak gift-buying period, merchants can entice shoppers to complete their purchases well before the shipping cutoff deadlines, thereby avoiding a last-minute fulfillment crunch and improving on-time delivery across the board.

MarketLive merchant Design Toscano used a free shipping offer with no restrictions to encourage early-season purchasing in 2014, running the promotion from Dec. 4-7 immediately after Cyber Monday.


  • Make in-store options free, both ways. Close to half of shoppers have used ship-to-store services as a way around shipping costs, according to the comScore/UPS study, so retailers should highlight this option. Furthermore, merchants should smooth the path to purchase for store shoppers in search of items that are out of stock on the shelves by empowering store associates to offer free delivery for orders fulfilled online.

Watch for more holiday tips daily this week and check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for the latest holiday research.

Holiday Tip #5: What’s your Black Friday Plan B?

The red-letter holiday shopping days, starting with Black Friday, continue to drive significant sales and top the list of top earning days for the year. But with the holiday season starting earlier and deals spread throughout the season, merchants who don’t make single-day goals should take heart — and have solid backup plans in place to extend promotional windows.

The facts

There’s no contesting the revenue impact of the red-letter days of the holiday season. In 2014, Cyber Monday was the top spending day of the year, bringing in more than $2 billion in sales, according to measurement firm comScore. Year-on-year sales growth for the top five sales events of the season was 19%, outpacing the 15% growth rate for the season as a whole.


Taken together, those five sales events comprised 13.3% of all holiday season sales. But that share of total sales grew at a slower pace than top-line growth, increasing just half a percentage point, or 4%. And for the second year in a row, only Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday made comScore’s list of the top 10 sales days of the season — suggesting that shoppers are finding plenty of incentives outside of the peak promotional days to order gifts according to their own calendar needs.

With deals and spending spread throughout the season, and with the backlash against Thanksgiving Day shopping an ongoing undercurrent, a handful of merchants are promoting their decision to stay closed on Thanksgiving — and outdoor retailer REI has taken the gambit a step further with a major campaign promoting closure on Black Friday itself.

While most merchants won’t be making such a drastic move, the message is clear: making goal is no longer dependent on a handful of promotional events.

The action item

Merchants should capitalize on consumers’ tendency to shop outside of major promotional event days by expanding their sale offers responsively, in tune with the timing and preferences of their customers. Among the best practices:

  • Extend Cyber Monday deals to Tuesday (at least). Cyber Monday, the end of the Black Friday weekend, is actually the start of the season’s heaviest spending. For the past two years, the Tuesday afterwards has ranked as the second-highest revenue generator of the year, and the Wednesday afterwards has made the list of the top 10 biggest sales days, according to comScore. Merchants should consider designating “Cyber Week” or otherwise capitalizing on this momentum.

In 2014, MarketLive merchant Current Catalog extended Cyber Monday for 24 hours. The “choose your discount” options offered shoppers maximum flexibility and upped the chances that the promotion would resonate and spur sales.


  • Have a fallback plan for big promotional days. If revenues from high-profile events miss the mark, merchants should stand ready to extend deadlines or offer new options. Planning these secondary offers now means merchants can execute smoothly when the time comes, rather than rejiggering their calendars in the heat of the moment.
  • Use preview events to reward valued customer segments. Merchants should consider giving loyalty club members, social followers, and other key constituents  “sneak peak” access to deals for key promotional events, enabling word-of-mouth buzz while also rewarding shoppers with exclusive opportunities to nab top gift picks.
  • Remind shoppers of everyday savings. In between promotional blitzes, merchants should highlight top picks from the “sale” category and deals at outlet store locations a way to remind shoppers that they needn’t wait for a special event to save. In 2014, MarketLive merchant Berkshire Blanket sent an email the Wednesday after Cyber Monday with the Subject: line “Did you miss it?” that highlighted the deals to be found in the Sale section of the Web site.


Watch for more holiday tips daily this week and check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for the latest holiday research.

Holiday Tip #3: Showcase online/offline prowess to win sales

Shoppers’ expectations are growing ever higher for brands to present a unified and consistent experience across touchpoints — and nowhere is this capability more crucial than when it comes to flexibility in fulfillment options.

The facts

The Web is set to influence 54% of all retail sales this year, according to technology researcher Forrester, with 43% of sales predicted to occur offline after online research. During the peak holiday season, it’s more important than ever to serve this sizable contingent of researchers, who will be on an increasingly harried hunt for deals and in-stock gift finds.

Specifically, shoppers have identified access to the brand’s total inventory as a must-have. According to research from The E-Tailing Group and B2C Partners:

  • Close to half — 46% — of shoppers said it was essential to be able to view online whether products were in-stock at local stores, and 47% said it was desirable (93% total)
  • The ability to reserve in-stock items for in-store pickup is essential for 28% of shoppers and desirable for 58% of shoppers (86% total)
  • Delivery of online orders to a nearby store, aka “ship to store”, is essential for 29% of shoppers and desirable for 55% of shoppers (84% total). This service, usually offered for free, is a popular alternative to paying for home delivery.

The action item

Merchants with brick-and-mortar locations should be promote what services they offer for order fulfillment, and support those options with customer service content both on the eCommerce site and elsewhere. Among the last-minute to-dos:

  • Succinctly differentiate the options. In particular, merchants offering both ship-to-store and in-store pickup should explain the difference between the two services, highlighting that the latter option is immediate. Icons, headings, and symbols make information quickly scannable, especially on mobile devices.
  • Promote services proactively. Merchants should develop customer service content to highlight the available options and feature it prominently on the eCommerce site, as well as incorporating it into email campaigns and social media.
  • “Mystery shop” the process, both online and offline. Merchants should test extensively to ensure promotions and functionality are in line and fulfillment-related messages are accurate and appropriately timed. In stores, merchants should be on the lookout for gaps in signage and store associate savvy.
  • Promote services in synch with the season. As home delivery deadlines come and go, merchants should increasingly focus on in-store fulfillment options and highlight products that are in-stock locally.
  • Whether or not their in-store inventory is visible online, merchants should create opportunities to connect beyond order placement. Enabling shoppers to make personal shopping appointments or register for events relevant to products they’re browsing can forge closer brand connections.

MarketLive merchant Helzberg Diamonds offers shoppers the ability to pick up products in-store or to set an appointment to view products in person.

In-store options from Helzberg Diamonds

Watch for more holiday tips daily this week and check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for the latest holiday research.

Holiday Tip #2: Spotlight easy-pay options (and their alternatives) for mobile shoppers

With mobile shopping set to dominate the holiday season, but mobile buying still lagging behind mobile browsing, merchants should do their utmost to remove hurdles to purchase on smaller screens. Chief among them: mobile checkout.

The facts

Mobile buying is poised for a major breakthrough this holiday season. Last year, mobile buying accounted for 25% of online revenue — a 44% increase from 2013, according to the MarketLive Performance Index, and all indications are that 2015 will see further growth. Indeed, more than two-thirds of participants in the MarketLive/E-Tailing Group 2015 Consumer Shopping Survey had placed at least one order via a mobile device in the past year — and close to 20% had made more than 10 mobile purchases.

Data on mobile purchasing dfrom MarketLive

To improve on those numbers, though, merchants must remove significant impediments to purchase — checkout being chief among them. When asked what would spur survey participants to spend more via mobile devices, smoother checkouts and the availability of alternative payment options that circumvent checkout, such as Paypal, topped the wish list, and one-click checkout rounded out the top five.

Data on mobile purchasing from MarketLive

The action item

Merchants should tweak site presentation to highlight the availability of streamlined payment options — and promote workarounds if their checkouts aren’t fully optimized.

Merchants who offer alternative payments or one-click checkout should:

  • Consider a promotional email spotlighting alternative payments — with a discount. Since the majority of emails are now opened on mobile devices, promoting alternative payment usage to subscribers can spur mobile engagement and sales.
  • Boost visibility before the cart and checkout. Promoting quick checkout on the mobile home page and on product pages, which may also serve as landing pages for mobile searchers, is a smart move, as it enables shoppers to focus on finding the ideal gift picks without worrying about order completion.

Those making do without quick checkout options should especially prioritize these best practices — which are, in fact, applicable to all merchants, as they demonstrate the brand’s flexibility in supporting cross-touchpoint purchasing :

  • Highlight the ease and availability of wish lists and saved carts. Enabling shoppers to save items of interest so they can access them later for purchase via a computer — or offline — helps connect touchpoints seamlessly.
  • Amp up abandoned cart triggered messaging. With shopping cart abandonment now becoming de rigeur, and with mobile abandonment rates still outpacing computer rates by a wide margin, follow-up emails are essential. Personalizing abandonment emails to feature the specific product under consideration gives shoppers a shortcut to resume purchasing later on another screen.
  • Enable ubiquitous click-to-call and live chat. Ensure that mobile shoppers can complete transactions live in person with handy access to customer service on small screens.
  • Use browser detection tools to deliver a proactive targeted message. Shoppers on mobile devices can receive custom messaging encouraging them to return, as on MarketLive merchant Brickhouse Security’s site. Shoppers who enter their email addresses receive an incentive to visit again.

Mobile example from Brickhouse SecurityWatch for more holiday tips daily this week and check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for the latest holiday research.