Keep Your Holiday Shoppers Shopping

Since the holiday shopping season now starts in October (thanks a lot Target!) I guess it’s past-time to offer some advice to online retailers. And with eMarketer predicting online sale to increase more than 20% from last year, we better get a move on.

As eMarketer points out, experienced online shoppers choosing to spend more money at their favorite internet retailer are driving the increase in online sales. Makes sense to me. After all, if a first-time customer is WOWed by your level of service, chances are good they will come back for more.

With that tidbit of info in mind, let’s point out a few items that will make your ecommerce site more customer friendly.

Since I’m a ski bum at heart, who learns best from practical examples, let’s pretend we’re shopping for a new ski helmet. Gotta keep the gray matter intact, right?

Search that Works – Chances are, your ecommerce site is going to have a variety of product categories listed in nice big text links right there on the homepage. That’s beautiful. However, I don’t have time to read all those words. I’m on my lunch break – don’t make me work. Give me a big, bright search field to type “ski helmets” just like I did 2 seconds ago on Google. Make sure it works too – so I actually get a page of ski helmets, not just more product categories. Also, I’m fickle; I may decide it’s a good year to refresh my long underwear ensemble, which translates to: your search function should appear on every site page.

Most Popular/Best Sellers – Show me what helmets other people are buying, or the helmets you want to promote, right there at the top of my landing page. Even if I don’t buy one of those, it gives me an idea of the helmet styles I prefer.

Photos – Now, why would I buy something I’ve never seen? This may seem obvious, but I still come across ecommerce sites with the default Photo Not Available image text sitting next to the product description. C’mon. I’m not buying anything I can’t see. What if my new ski helmet comes with flame decals and “Rad Racer” etched on the back? (Ok, the flames might be cool.) I’m just not willing to risk it. And give me lots of photos. Like any serious online shopper, I’m paying for broadband so I don’t have to watch images download anymore – I can take it! Give me so many photos it’s as if I’m holding the helmet in my hands.

Sort Items By – Brand, Product Name, Price, User Ratings – These are just a few of the sorting options that will make it easier for me to find the ski helmet of my powder dreams.

Comparison Charts – When it comes down to nitty-gritty product comparison, it’s tough to beat a chart with features on the left, products on the top, and check-marks down the columns. Let your shoppers pick the exact items they want to compare.

Easy Checkout – Putting my ski helmet in your site shopping cart and checking out should be as easy as putting my ski helmet in a physical shopping cart and running to the self-checkout aisle (without the line). Keep the check-out process simple and secure. And don’t forget to give me options to keep shopping.

Freebies – Who doesn’t love free stuff? Free shipping, you say? Sold. Even though it will cost me more in gas to drive to the mall than to pay for product shipping, I may still choose the former. But with an incentive like free shipping or free hand warmers, you’re more likely to tip the scales in your favor.

Shipping Updates – Send me a “Thank You” email soon after I place my order. This gives me assurance that my order was actually placed and that you appreciate my business. Send me another email when my order ships, with an ETA for when I should see a package on my front porch.

Membership Incentives – Entice me into being a member so I can write product reviews (provide a list of my product “posts”), subscribe to your members-only RSS feed that gives me a heads-up to sale items, keep a list of favorite product manufacturers, order history, gear recommendations, etc.

Bookmarking/Add to Favorites – Sure, using my browser drop-down menu, it’s easy to add your site to my favorites. Make it easier. Give me a big colorful graphic to click-on. There’s a better chance that I will actually remember to bookmark you.

Don’t be Pushy – Unless I request emails from your company (aside from 2 shipping related emails) don’t send anything to me. I have enough stuff clogging up my inbox while I’m making turns at the ski hill. Instead, focus your energy on turning your site into an online destination that I will choose to revisit. After all, ski equipment wears out – chances are good I’ll need to restock.

Think of your website as a working ski resort. As the owner/manager you need to take a few runs down through your own site, as if you are a first time visitor. Make sure everything is in working order and that your service staff is lending a hand when needed. Give your customers creative options for cruising down the hills, straight to your check-out. They’ll be inspired to get back on the lift for another run at it.