The Keys to Ecommerce Success This Holiday Season
September 9, 2020 | By Feedonomics
The Keys to Ecommerce Success This Holiday Season
It’s no longer optional to have a solid eCommerce strategy.
Due to COVID-19 disrupting the patterns of daily life, we have seen a rapid shift toward online purchasing and businesses have done their best to adjust where possible. Companies like Facebook and Google have broadened their eCommerce programs to entice new sellers, Amazon is hiring thousands of new employees in anticipation of increased demand, and major brands like Nike have pulled their products from large brick-and-mortar chains and focused on a direct-to-consumer approach.
According to eMarketer, online retail sales are forecasted to grow by 18% compared to 2019. With the holidays fast approaching, retailers and brands must prepare for what is shaping up to be the busiest virtual shopping season ever.
To succeed in eCommerce and make the most of the 2020 holiday season, we recommend the following three tips.
- Take control of your product data.
To expand your online presence, you need a way to export your product data to the channels where you’d like to list products. Whether you want to advertise your products on marketing channels such as Google Shopping, Facebook, and Pinterest, or sell them directly through online marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, and eBay, you’ll need to transform your product data to follow each channel’s unique requirements. But that’s only half the battle. You also want to give your product listings the best chance of performing well and standing out, and that requires optimization.
There are many ways to improve your listings performance but one of the areas sellers frequently overlook is product listing optimization. Optimized product listings are more discoverable, informative, consistent, and can reach the customers who are likeliest to make a purchase. Everything in your general product listing can be formatted to improve performance, including your titles, descriptions, images, and product categories.
Products within specific categories will also have their own distinct attributes. For example, a collectible coin could specify the year it was minted, metal type, country of origin, etc., whereas a shoe could tell you the upper material, lower material, whether it’s waterproof or has a non-marking sole, and other features. It’s important to make sure that you’re sending all of that category-specific information in your product catalog and formatting it correctly. The more organized your product data is, the easier it is for search engines to show your items to relevant shoppers.
Product titles can have a big impact on performance. A good rule of thumb is to structure your product titles the way a user might search for your product. That includes brand, color, size, or part numbers if that is how your customers typically search for products. In verticals like apparel, you might include the material, such as “cotton” or “leather,” or style, like “cropped pants.” On the other hand, you don’t want to stuff your product titles with random words as it may appear spammy or be considered too long. Both can contribute to getting your listings flagged for violating policy on channels such as Amazon and Google Shopping, or make customers feel like your products are low-quality.
Most channels will include best practices and criteria for using images. However, on any channel, you want to include high-quality images with multiple angles of your product. Customers are trying to gather as much information about your product as possible so they can feel confident about making a purchase. Many channels, including Walmart and Amazon, may include a zoom function that is enabled for images above a certain size, and more detailed images have been shown to boost sales. Most eCommerce channels require the main product image to appear on a white background, but they may also allow additional lifestyle images that show the product in use.
Include multiple, high-quality product images to enhance the customer experience. Source: Walmart
Managing your product feeds on your own is possible through Google Sheets or Excel if you have a low number of SKUs. Once you have a higher volume of SKUs, or you’re trying to expand to multiple channels, managing your product listings becomes more cumbersome and even unmanageable.
Some solutions—like apps that integrate between your eCommerce platform and a given channel or marketplace—can be simple to set up, but offer a low level of customization and flexibility. For instance, you may want the capability to be able to choose which channels you want certain products to be listed and which ones you don’t. Most of these apps don’t allow you to customize your product listings in this way. You may also want to rename a shipping method from a marketplace so that your orders can be processed by your automated fulfillment system. This is also something most apps won’t let you do. Most importantly, apps can be unreliable and don’t have dedicated tech support to fix listing errors.
Good feed management solutions should provide more than just flexibility. They should also offer data governance, to help alert you in the event that something goes wrong with your product listings, such as low inventory levels. When you’re listing products on multiple channels, you need to sync your stock quantities across all your channels. If you’re only able to update your inventory once a day, or the process is manual, you may run the risk of overselling. Not only does this make for a negative customer experience, but your account can be suspended on several channels if it happens too often. Setting up stock quantity buffers to prevent overselling can ensure that customers are only able to purchase items that are in stock, and help you avoid bad reviews.
- Diversify your channels and expand.
The magic of eCommerce is that you can list your products wherever people are shopping.
Many sellers are familiar with popular eCommerce channels like Amazon and Google Shopping, but there are hundreds of shopping channels that could be just as viable for your products. Having products on multiple channels can feel daunting, but it becomes much more manageable if you’re using a good feed management solution, especially if you have feed specialists dedicated to your account who can handle the heavy lifting.
Social channels (such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat) have become increasingly popular among retailers trying to reach a certain target audience. Instagram and Facebook are expanding beyond product discovery to also offer in-app checkout. With in-app checkout, sellers don’t have to worry about spending money on an ad click that doesn’t result in a conversion. The tradeoff is that sellers have less control over the customer journey and collect less customer data than they would if the purchase occurred on their website. However, customers can still opt to receive marketing emails at checkout.
Typically, sellers pay a commission for each sale that happens through in-app checkout. Currently, due to the complications of COVID and the desire to grow their shopping channels, Facebook and Instagram are waiving commission fees for orders that ship before December 31, 2020.
An example of a shop on Facebook. Source: Facebook
It’s not a bad idea to test out different channels. You may find that your products perform really well on eBay and Walmart, but not on Amazon. Or, if you’re selling products within a certain vertical, like home decor, you might want to consider selling your products on a more niche marketplace like Houzz. You may also find that a site like Newegg, which is typically known as an electronics marketplace, will be less saturated with sellers of outdoor gear. In this case, it could be easier to win the buy box for your products here than it might be on another site.
- Get started early.
It takes some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
When you start selling on a marketplace like Amazon, you’ll need some time to get your first reviews, win the buy box, and develop customer loyalty, especially if you’re not a well-known brand. You also need time to test your fulfillment workflow and iron out any kinks to make sure it’s seamless.
Ad campaigns also need time to calibrate, especially if you use automated bidding or audience targeting, like a Google Smart Shopping campaign. The more conversion data you collect, the easier it becomes to fine-tune your campaigns.
This year, we’ve seen lots of delays in delivery. Due to shocks in the global supply chain and a sudden surge in online orders, shipments have been slow to arrive. In response, Walmart Marketplace added a “ThreeDay Delivery” service in addition to their “TwoDay Delivery,” and Amazon was limiting the types of products that could use their Fulfilled By Amazon program. Expect shipping to take longer than usual this holiday season and plan accordingly. A good way to avoid potential bottlenecks in fulfillment is to offer your holiday deals a little earlier, and extend the date range for your promotions.
Having a strong eCommerce presence is more critical than ever before. With the proper planning and the right tools, you can maximize your online sales this holiday season and future-proof your business as eCommerce continues to grow.