By: Megan Higgins
As we’ve experienced each year and accelerated with COVID-19 pandemic, many customers will be doing the bulk of their holiday shopping online this year. In fact, according to eMarketer, nearly half of US adults say they are more interested in shopping online for the holidays compared with last year. Likewise, many retailers are anticipating a holiday shopping season that will begin in early October this year. The combination of an online-first and a longer than usual holiday season will likely place added strain on retailers, especially small businesses.
While nearly 1 in 5 consumers plan to purchase more from small local businesses (according to Sykes) this holiday season, small sellers will still have to compete with large retailers for business online. And, while many sellers have already made the shift to ecommerce to stay afloat, simply setting up an online storefront to sell products will not keep customers coming to your virtual storefront this holiday season. Because consumer expectations driven by convenience, experience and personalization are changing the way people shop online, small sellers will also need to work to meet rising expectations this holiday season.
With more retailers selling online this year than ever before, small businesses will need to leverage technology to compete for customers this holiday season. As the 2020 holiday season approaches, here are four ways that small businesses can begin preparing their online stores for the holidays.
1. Bring the in-store experience online
Consumers sacrificing in-store shopping this year will expect to have many of the same perks of physical shopping online. Businesses should invest in tools to provide assistance and opportunities they would receive in-store like guided customer support or enhanced product imaging while browsing to help them make decisions and answer any questions they may have.
2. Invest in data-centric marketing
Consumers expect their everyday online environments—from social feeds and mobile applications to wearables and home technologies—to serve as a conduit for shopping. To meet these demands, small businesses can adjust their marketing strategies to utilize more data to understand and target customers in a personalized fashion effectively. Some examples of cost-effective ways to learn more about your consumers include organic social media interactions, targeted social media advertisements, and more.
3. Streamline the payment process
Modern checkout technology should provide customers with ample payment options, automatically populate their payment information, accurately calculate any tax and shipping costs, and do all of this securely. With more than 87% of online shoppers abandoning their cart, the checkout experience is critical, and the stakes are high for retailers. There are a number of out of the box solutions that easily integrate payment collections, tax compliance, and other invoice items in real-time for a number of online channels.
4. Optimize your shipping and return functions
If you’re fulfilling orders yourself, consider using a third-party shipping application that are generally embedded capabilities provided by your ecommerce platform. These applications help automate shipping for merchants of all sizes and offer small businesses discounted shipping rates with USPS, UPS, and FedEx. By leveraging technology to handle shipping logistics, small businesses can also more easily offer seamless merchandise returns, which is a key element to the buy decision consumers look for.
Technology is available to help even the smallest retailers streamline nearly every aspects of the customer journey at price points that are within reach. From customer acquisition to fulfillment, every stage of the online shopping process is critical in minimizing cart abandonment and increasing sales this holiday season. At the end of the day, an investment in technology doesn’t have to break the bank and will save small businesses time, money, and burden while helping to grow sales particularly during this unprecedented busy online holiday season ahead.
Megan Higgins, VP/GM of eCommerce and Marketplaces, Avalara
[email protected], www.avalara.com