Modern Retail

Top tips for optimising eCommerce ahead of the Christmas gifting season

optimising ecommerce

Despite the summer season not yet being over, and the hope of another bout of heat before schools go back in September, retailers already have strategies in place to make the most of the impending festive season and the January which follows.  In addition to forecasting the most popular SKUs and ensuring that buyers’ needs can be fulfilled, the path to success is perfecting the online journey to prevent consumers from shopping elsewhere.

It’s abundantly clear that the consumer shift to the online is here to stay, and that the pandemic has forced habits to change as we have seen older generations switch from in-store to online purchasing.  If there was ever any doubt about the future of eCommerce it was surely misplaced.

In a recent research report, New World One Market, commissioned by emerchantpay, more than a fifth (21%) of UK consumers said they would shop less on the high street than they did before the pandemic. Significantly, older shoppers were most likely to say they would continue to favour online stores, with more than a quarter (27%) of Baby Boomers saying they don’t plan to return to the high street at all.

Nevertheless, cart abandonment rates rose from 85.1% (a number already too high for retailers with tight margins) to 94.4% from 2019 to 2020. It’s therefore clear that the key to success for this holiday shopping season lies in your ability to optimise the online shopping experience, increasing both conversion rates and profit margins.

Here are the top things that you should be thinking about when it comes to optimising eCommerce:

1. Create a cracker of a deal with low costs and high convenience

Although the consumer conscience is increasingly attuning to the importance of issues such as sustainability and brand ethics, with so much choice online, cost and convenience are sure to remain at the top of any consumer’s shopping list this Christmas season.

Our research found that price was the most important consideration for consumers when deciding where to buy (59%), even trumping quality (45%). Speed of delivery (31%) was another important factor.

It’s clear then, that consumers do buy on price. Optimising payment solutions to reduce overheads will allow you to pass savings onto the consumer, remaining competitive whilst retaining margin.

In addition, to create a stress-free festive shopping experience, every step of the purchase should feel effortless. By enabling single-click payments for example, and by ensuring a seamless virtual checkout process, you will reduce the likelihood of shoppers abandoning their carts in favour of a competitor.

2. Ensure seamless shopping across every channel for an experience fit for (three) kings

Consumers have now been conditioned to expect convenience. It’s understandable then that people are shopping via a growing multitude of channels according to what fits their personal needs – including mobile apps, eCommerce websites, and social media platforms.

Retailers must navigate the new balance between in-store and online to maintain a seamless shopping experience. Consumers may choose to purchase an item online but opt for collection in-store or curbside. Likewise, the recipient of an unwanted Christmas gift may choose to visit the physical shop to make a return.

This multichannel mindset also holds implications for payment preferences. Our research found that a quarter (25%) of UK consumers plan to use their mobile phone more to make payments in-store following the pandemic, than they did beforehand – increasing to 38% of Gen Z.

To meet customer expectations, look at how you can offer a seamless in-store, mobile and online experience spanning everything from browsing the product catalogue to choosing how to pay.

3. Treat payment innovation as your guiding star

For younger consumers, including digitally native Gen Z-ers, payments innovation is a must rather than a nice to have. But no matter what your audience’s age category, offering choice can prove to be a differentiator and once again helps not only to create that all-important convenience factor, but can be a deciding factor!

For those used to switching between different channels through the purchasing process, being able to pay via digital wallet or direct bank transfer will make transactions faster.

But there is also a socio-economic rationale to this argument. Over the past months, there has been an increasing interest in subscription and Buy Now Pay Later models (it was reported that Klarna tripled its valuation in March of 2021). Subscription-based commerce was clearly driven by younger groups, with Gen Z and Millennials taking out an average of 2.1 and 1.75 subscriptions last year respectively, compared to just 0.55 for baby boomers, as our research showed.  Simultaneously, younger generations 45% of Gen Z and 46% of Millennials were more likely to be encouraged to buy through BNPL.

All of this boils down to flexibility as far as payments are concerned—ensuring that you offer your target audience’s preferred payment methods and an effortless payment journey for your shoppers.

4. Sleigh threats and build trust by deploying secure payments technology

Over the last 18 months, problems relating to fraud have escalated, throwing online security into even sharper focus. Our research found that 46% of shoppers recognise that there is a greater risk of fraud now than before the pandemic. In response to this perceived risk of fraud, consumers said they would only shop from trusted businesses (47%).

Proving yourself to be a business worthy of trust is the essential first step, and the only way to do this is to ensure the safety of your purchasing environment. Consumers need to know that not only is their data is being processed and stored securely (make sure this information is readily available in FAQs, and that a padlock is displayed next to the URL providing a valid security certificate), but that as a retailer you are doing everything you can to prevent fraudulent transactions taking place on your website (deploy the latest version of 3DSecure and use a PSP that can furnish you with built-in customisable intelligent fraud detection tools).

At any busy shopping event, security becomes a particular cause for concern as fraudsters take advantage of the increased activity to find a way in. Protecting your business and your customers in advance will ensure returning customers throughout 2022 and beyond.

Now is the time for optimising eCommerce

The winter shopping season is full of opportunities for retailers seeking to recoup Covid-19 losses and build long-term relationships with savvy consumers. As the Christmas Carol goes “Tis the season to be jolly”…, and undoubtedly, we are all due some cause for celebration. But first, be certain to optimise your online channels ready to welcome customers and guide them through a seamless path to present giving paradise… elves not necessary!

Credit: Angus Burrell, SVP Retail at emerchantpay

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Holly Worthington

Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail's Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today's ever-changing market.