Holidays are a good time to understand what your customers really value, and bring the same practices into the new year. Despite being trained for many years to go in-store on Black Friday, this year customers showed a clear preference for shopping online. Despite the success of eCommerce this holiday, there’s still a lot of room to grow. To make sure the successes of the holiday shopping season continue into 2016, here are three things eCommerce businesses can improve in the new year:
1. Faster free shipping
This holiday, a lot of businesses boasted free shipping with low or no minimums. However, free shipping doesn’t always mean happy customers. Shipping networks stretched beyond capacity have experienced longer than usual delays. On average, it took seven days for Cyber Monday purchases to arrive, which is 20% longer than last year.
Customers are starting to show preference for businesses that can offer free, faster shipping. Research by Connexity shows that 30% of millennials want same-day delivery options, and that number is sure to grow as services like Amazon’s Prime Now becomes more popular.
In order to balance concern over shipping costs with the need for more immediate gratification, consider offering your customers a subscription shipping service like Amazon Prime and Sephora’s new FLASH service, which offers free 2-day shipping for only $10 a year.
2. Better physical browsing
Customers might not want to face crowds on major holidays, but still want an opportunity to examine products in person. With an increasing number of people shopping online, returns are sure to reach record breaking numbers as well. That’s a cost that most businesses can’t afford. While free shipping and free returns can help acquire customers, businesses also need to make sure to reduce returns by helping customers make the right purchases. Brick-and-mortar stores have a low return rate of 8.89%, whereas online businesses have to do a lot more to combat returns.
Right before the holidays, Everlane set up Room Service, a series of pop-ups in swanky hotel suites across major US cities to give customers a chance to purchase from a new line of shoes in person. Pop-up shops are a great way to help customers better understand your brand and products, and can contribute to minimizing returns as well as increase the perception of value. A great in-person experience can be a great way to keep customers loyal through the competitive holiday season.
3. Easier mobile purchasing
The holidays show that customers are eager to purchase via mobile, but retailers might not have been prepared for the trend. On Thanksgiving, mobile phones took up 52% of shopping site traffic. While purchases made on smartphones was 37% of all online Thanksgiving orders, there was a big gap between visits and orders.
2015 was supposed to be the year of mobile, but clearly there is still a lot of room for improvement. Online retailers need to take a good hard look at their mobile sites and apps. It’s not enough to have emails sized to screen or good product photos. The whole customer shopping experience from start to finish needs to be examined carefully. Whoever can figure out how to get customers to do more than browse on mobile will have the advantage in 2016.
Despite growth, this holiday demonstrated which businesses were unprepared for the sudden rise in eCommerce. Customers didn’t get exactly what they expected, especially in their mobile experience. As more customers turn to shopping online, eCommerce businesses will face heavier competition. Refining mobile, shipping, and in-person experiences will make 2016 a lot easier to manage, and will help keep your customers coming back.