by Amba Wilkes
The time has come to get plans in place for your best trading season so far. In this blog, we look at how to make the most of peak including preparing your store for traffic surges, the importance of communicating with your audience before promotions begin and how Shopify’s functionalities can drive more conversions.
Last year, we knew that peak was going to be different with the pandemic accelerating eCommerce trends two-fold. But despite rolling lockdowns and global hardships, 2020 proved to be the most successful Shopify peak season to date:
- 76 percent increase in global sales from 2019
- 50 percent more customers bought from Shopify merchants compared to 2019
- Sales peaked at over $102 million at midday on Black Friday
- Average time to checkout decreased by one minute
But that was last year, and our attention is now laser-focused on 2021’s peak shopping season. Reflecting on how businesses adapted, how customers responded and what this means for this year and beyond, we’re sharing insight into how you can get your Shopify store ready for peak trading.
in this blog.
We look at:
- how to effectively plan for peak
- how to prepare your store for the heightened demand
- why communicating with your audience before peak is so important
- how to integrate your peak plan with other channels
- how Shopify can help you make the most of peak
time to plan.
If you haven’t done so already, it’s high time you began your peak preparations. The busiest trading time of the year, BFCM and Christmas shopping can put a strain on your customer experience if you’re not well prepared.
Dan Conboy, MD at Statement, gave his thoughts on what Q4 could have in store for us this year and why it’s essential to prepare:
“Q4 provides a key opportunity for retailers and can often be the key to a successful year - or not. 2021 will likely prove to be one to watch - there’ll be the assessment of how trends this Q4 change compared to last year with the impact of the pandemic, but also the potential consumer boom (or otherwise…) as the economy (hopefully) looks to stabilise as we move back towards some normality.
Retail is rarely predictable and the last 18 months has shown that now, more than ever, it’s difficult to fully envisage what is set to happen. What businesses can do is prepare now and consider the different strategies they can adopt to maximise potential and minimise risk through continued uncertainty.”
Now is the time to clearly define your goals and the steps you’ll take to reach them. Here are some of the top considerations you need to consider in your peak plan:
- analyse the data: A good place to start is by looking at last year’s performance. While it’s likely changes will occur this year, by analysing your previous data, you will be able to form a better picture of what to expect and where to focus your efforts for the best return. Consider possible trends for best selling products and when they experienced high sales demand.
- consider other channels: It’s worth looking at which channels are driving traffic to your best sellers. Is it paid, social media, email, organic? Doing so will allow you to use this channel to drive maximum traffic to the areas you want.
- sourcing stock: Without enough stock, peak trading is set to be a bust. Using data and an understanding of what your audience is interested in, you can source the right products in the right quantities.
- promotions: Promotions are the backbone of BFCM. Everyone expects a deal. Promotions, events and discounts should be considered during the planning phase. What discount is both affordable to you and attractive to your customers? Have you created marketing collateral to promote your offers? Which channels are you going to advertise them on?
- team prep: Providing excellent customer service plays a big role in peak success and can help you stand out from the competition, especially during busy periods. Even better, it can also drive conversions and long-lasting customer loyalty. But don’t forget that your people are just that - people. Peak season doesn’t just put pressure on your eCommerce store, it can put pressure on your team too. It’s important to spend time preparing them on what to expect, ensuring enough staff are available to cater for your customers and that everyone’s aware of peak promotions, stock availability and delivery timescales.
The sooner you plan, the more time you’ll have to firm up your strategies and prepare for success. Fortunately, the Shopify platform is built to handle large loads such as the peak shopping season and they take extra precautions to ensure their servers don’t fall short.
prepare to meet heightened demand.
Slow site speed, high bounce rates and frustrated users – poor site performance can be detrimental to your peak success. Optimising your site’s performance ahead of the shopping rush will keep your customers converting and helps to prevent site crashes.
Now’s the time to tune your website, improve your site’s performance and prepare to meet heightened demand:
- monitor site uptime: Without a reliable platform, the seasonal traffic surge can slow down or even cause your site to crash. Tests should be run in advance to ensure your store can handle peak shopping loads.
- speed up your site: One of the top issues during busy periods are slow pages. Research shows that 93 percent of shoppers have left a website because it didn’t load fast enough. With figures like these, speeding up your site could make a huge impact on your conversions. Even better, you can use Google’s Test My Site tool to calculate how your conversion rates could be improved by faster site speeds.
- offer advanced site search: Getting your site navigation and search functionality in the best shape possible will help customers find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. With predictive site search, you can guide shoppers to the goods they want. Using a Shopify App such as Algolia, Boost Commerce or Klevu can considerably improve the onsite customer experience.
- boost security: The holiday season is prime time for hackers to target vulnerable sites. Prevent fraud from taking hold with an automation tool like Shopify Flow. Using a Flow template can save you money and time spent looking for fraudulent orders. Once added to your Shopify store, emails will be sent prompting a review of high-risk orders before capturing payment to ensure you’re always aware of suspicious activity.
- lighthouse: Google’s page speed analysis tool allows you to drill down into performance issues to see what’s causing the problem. Lighthouse can be run against any webpage and provides audits for performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, SEO and more.All you have to do is provide the tool with a URL to audit and a report is generated on the quality of that page containing references on how to fix the issue(s).
make the checkout fast and frictionless.
During the peak shopping season, customers are often in a rush to get their shopping done. The more painless you can make your checkout process gives shoppers yet another reason to love your brand and ensures they reach conversion faster.
One way to do this is by letting shoppers skip to the cart and checkout without leaving the page they’re browsing. Using Shopify’s dynamic checkout buttons places a customer’s preferred and trusted payment method through a super-fast checkout process on the product page.
Dynamic checkout buttons are great for busy shopping periods when customers want to convert fast. Checkout buttons can be third-party branded such as ‘Buy with Apple Pay’ or unbranded such as ‘Buy it now’.
collect and promote social proof.
In the competitive eCommerce world, how do you stand out and gain the trust of your customers? Social proof. Social proof can come in the form of reviews, images, video, testimonials and social media posts.
Now is the time to start collating this social proof and sharing it across your own digital platforms. Your website is a brilliant place to display social proof with some brands such as ASOS even using real-life customers on their product pages.
Social proof continues to be one of the most persuasive and effective methods of influencing a shopper into buying a product. To encourage your audience to provide their own social proof, why not offer them an incentive such as a 5 percent discount if they write a review. Or encourage them to tag your social account or use a community hashtag to get more people to see your brand.
If you want more tricks and insights into how to use social proof to generate more sales, take a read of our blog: social proof in ecommerce: what is it and why do you need it?
automate sale events to save time.
Preparing for large sales events can be stressful and challenging. These stresses only increase two-fold when you consider how many different sales events, promotions and discounts run through the course of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas Shopping and Boxing Day Sales.
This year, you can save your team a whole lot of trouble and those late nights by using an automated promotional tool. eCommerce automation can schedule, execute and monitor events such as sales, product releases, restocks and changes to site content.
Fortunately, Shopify has a range of tools designed to take the strain out of busy sales events. Between Launchpad, Flow and Scripts, tasks can be automated and time saved to increase efficiency and productivity. Freeing up your valuable time, you can place more focus on strategy adjustments based on real-time insights to drive more revenue.
Using Shopify to automate front and back end workflows will not only save your team precious time but also make your customer’s experience easy and fast.
communicate with your audience.
Don’t leave it until the day your promotions kick-off to start communicating with your audience. This should begin well in advance of peak shopping events to build anticipation with your customers.
Shopify’s Wishlist is ideal to help you do just this. Make it known onsite that Wishlist is available to encourage customers to ‘love’ the products they’re interested in. Doing this will allow you to email customers if one of their desired products is discounted.
Another idea is to encourage site visitors to sign up for upcoming deals without giving away what those deals will be. This approach can be used to engage with users before they’ve even shopped with your brand. An exclusive pre-sale could be run for those who sign up, providing visitors with access to stock first before it runs out.
don’t forget about other channels.
Not only is it important to ensure your website is prepared for peak, but you should also define your wider marketing plan to capitalise on the increase of people searching for products.
Paid media, email and social platforms are all effective channels to engage with your audience. Take a read of our top considerations to build momentum and drive traffic to your site ahead of peak:
With more people than ever before shopping online, opportunities are rife to engage with an even bigger online audience during this peak season. However, increased demand also means other businesses will be more aggressive with their promotional techniques which is why it’s so important to prepare your PPC campaigns now.
look at last year’s performance: It’s worth analysing last year’s performance to give you a steer on this year’s decisions. Consider which products sold well, which pages were most visited, which messaging and promotions resonated best with your audience. Jump into your Google Analytics account to understand which landing pages were most popular so they can be optimised.
plan your promotions: One thing customers are guaranteed to look for during peak trading is a good deal. Once you’ve decided what promotions you want to run, it’s time to start promoting those promotions! Your promos form the backbone of your digital marketing and will influence your onsite messaging, ad copy, imagery and even social media calendar. You’re looking to attract people with a deal so it’s important to start telling them about them prior to peak beginning.
get a remarketing strategy in place: Remarketing ads can target previous website visitors to encourage them to return and convert with you. Past visitors can be targeted through remarketing lists while bids can be increased for the most valuable customers. Remarketing is often cost-effective as you already have a list of leads available to use. This means purchase intent is higher, cost per click is lower and messaging can be directed towards the right person at the right time.
If you want further guidance on how to make the most of paid media during peak, our connected specialist paid media agency, equation, wrote a blog on the topic: preparing for peak: what do you need to consider?
Emails are still top when it comes to engaging your audience. The customer data you gather can be used to target individuals with relevant emails based on products they’ve shown interest in on the run-up to peak. As your audience will no doubt be inundated with emails, it’s important to ensure yours stands out:
gather customer data: Peak shopping season is a good time to capture additional customer data for future use too. Use incentives such as a 10 percent discount to encourage people to subscribe. Not only can you enjoy a boost in conversions ahead of peak, but you can even use the data to build up your email marketing list.
subject lines: Your subject lines are the first thing your audience will see when it comes to your emails. Make sure your subject lines are concise, engaging and clearly state the offer that’s up for grabs. Consider A/B testing your subject lines as this can help you understand what performs best.
last minute reminders: In the peak shopping frenzy, customers will likely browse numerous websites and place multiple items in their shopping carts. In many cases, these carts will be abandoned as the shopper is distracted by another product or promotion. Email can draw them back to you and encourage conversion. An additional promotional incentive could also be used.
optimise your email: Designing emails that your subscribers want to open and click on can be challenging. A well-designed optimised email is essential for driving engagement with your audience to generate a higher ROI. A whole topic in itself, take a read of this blog from email marketing experts and connected agency, Wired Plus to learn more about designing emails that engage.
Social media is one of the most powerful marketing tools today. Able to engage, communicate and promote your business far and wide, there are many platforms that can be used to support your peak trading season.
promote social proof: Social proof such as reviews, testimonials and user-generated content (UGC) can drive awareness, build trust and convert users into loyal customers.
UGC in particular is great for both your eCommerce store and social media. Content that your audience has already created and posted featuring your products can be reshared (with permission) to your brand’s accounts. This is a tactic we deployed for Slendertone which helped them promote how effective their products really are with the use of real-life customers.
advertise promotions: Once you’ve settled on those all-important promotions and sales events, it’s important to advertise them. Social media channels are effective for building excitement around an event. Through the use of stories, polls, regular posts and communications with your audience, you can get more people interested in your promotions before they even launch.
use shopping functionalities: Many social platforms today offer their own, native shopping functionality built into the app. Providing your customs with more than one place to shop makes the purchasing and conversion process even easier. In fact, 130 million Instagram users click on shopping posts every month highlighting just how popular they’ve become. Selling products directly within the app allows customers to browse, research, engage and convert all in one place. Fortunately, Shopify has a whole range of ready-made sales channel integrations including ones for social media channels such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
shopify can help you succeed during peak.
A common issue merchants struggle with during busy shopping periods is coping with the big influx in traffic. As a hosted platform, Shopify means your store is built to handle peak performance all year round.
Thanks to Shopify’s infrastructure, the platform is a secure and reliable option for eCommerce stores – this is one of the main reasons brands choose to switch to them. Fast and dependable with unlimited bandwidth and 99.9 percent average uptime means you can rest easy knowing your site is performing at its best during the busiest time of the year.
As a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, Shopify takes care of the technology so you can focus on your business. Always striving to maximise stores powered by Shopify, they continuously improve server-side performance such as hosting, security and stability.
make even more peak 2021.
Make the most of the peak shopping period with a post-peak plan. With so many incentives, promotions and sales events flying around, this isn’t just a chance to drive revenue. Peak can be beneficial for your business into the new year and beyond.
By avoiding site slowdowns, connecting your customers to the products they want and letting them checkout fast, your sales are set to soar this peak season. To find out how we can support you in driving your best peak performance so far, get in touch with our team of eCommerce experts.