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Winter is here and the Christmas decorations are out in full force.
According to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, online sales over Christmas 2012 were up by almost 20% compared to the year before as almost 60% of people did most of their Christmas shopping online.
Now that consumers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets to shop, we will no doubt see an even greater surge in online Christmas shopping in 2013.
With the increase in online traffic around the festive period, the comparison shopping engine (CSE) comes into its own, but some businesses still aren’t making the most of it.
This is often because they haven’t successfully optimised it or they simply don’t have the resources to manage their data feeds. In spite of these challenges, they still persevere, well aware of the benefits of operating on an omnichannel level.
By successfully integrating your product data feed into the CSE, it’s actually pretty straightforward to attract customers and increase your sales. Most price comparison engines work on a CPC (cost per click) basis, which means that they are also quite cost-effective.
So how can retailers optimise this channel for Christmas?
1. Keep it simple
When people are Christmas shopping they want to know as much as possible about the product without being overwhelmed, so ensure that descriptions are concise. Rushing to get all their Christmas shopping done, shoppers want to initially scan listings to find the best prices as quickly as possible.
Once they have found the best prices, they will then examine and compare the products in more detail. Ensure that you provide as many product attributes as possible, splitting products by variant if you can.
The product title should clearly describe the item, using only the most relevant search terms. Ideally, place the product category and brand in front of the main title, with colour and size (if applicable) last, e.g. Apple iPad Retina + 4G Black 64GB. Keep it as simple as possible for better keyword match and easier comparison (e.g. use ‘red’ instead of ‘scarlet’).
For best results, make sure that items are correctly categorised and all items that are out of stock do not appear in the results. It is not only annoying for customers when they are unable to purchase the product they want, but it can send them straight to a competitor.
2. Keep an eye on the detail
They say that a picture says a thousand words, so it’s vital that each item has a high-quality photo. The main image should be front-facing so consumers can see the product clearly, but use additional photos to show particular design details, or if a side view is necessary.
Alternatively, make sure that your ecommerce site has plenty of pictures for shoppers to browse when they click through to it from the CSE.
While the product title needs to be short, the description should contain more information. Add other descriptive keywords, such as the product’s material, style and price. Pricing options should also be clearly displayed, as should any current promotions or savings.
3. Keep it logical
As most CSEs charge on a CPC basis, you don’t want people to click on your listing and then be unable to purchase the product due to a faulty or broken link, or because the product is out of stock. Paying for clicks that don’t convert into sales is a waste of the consumer’s time and your money.
To avoid this, you can apply sales logic to your data feeds so that only products that are actually in stock are displayed. This also prevents products that only have very few sizes/colours left being shown as in stock.
So for example, sales logic could be used to include just the products that have more than 50% of the offered variants in stock, or products that have at least one size available in every colour.
If you have some products that aren’t selling well, but have a high click-through rate, it is worth removing them to save you money. If you remove these products from the product feed, then your CPC budget can be used on the products that do convert well.
4. Keep it smooth
Online retailers should ensure that the customer’s journey is smooth and consistent, with as few clicks as possible to the checkout and with no errors. Problems can arise with the smallest inaccuracy, so it’s essential to ensure that all fields are filled out correctly and each product is correctly categorised.
Most errors occur in the integration process. Retailers can spend hours categorising their products on their ecommerce website, but problems can arise when integrating into price comparison engines.
Each price comparison engine has a different category scheme (e.g. lingerie instead of underwear), so products may not match up correctly. To avoid these problems, it’s best to manually map your categories for each different CSE to ensure that all of your products appear in the correct category.
Nobody wants to order a Chelsea football shirt and end up with a Manchester United one by accident, especially if they’ve opted for gift wrap.
5. Keep it mobile
The IMRG states that mobile commerce grew by 254% between 2010 and 2011 and then a further 300% between 2011 and 2012.
With 24% of people using their mobile device to shop during the Christmas period in 2012, it’s predicted that this year the amount of Christmas shopping done on smartphones and tablets will significantly increase.
This means that it’s absolutely essential to ensure that your ecommerce site is optimised for mobile, so that when customers are directed there from the CSE they won’t struggle to navigate it.
6. Keep it timely
When it comes to Christmas shopping one of the main worries for consumers is delivery. Orders that arrive after Christmas can potentially ruin the holiday season for people and last year less than a third of people expected their last minute orders to arrive by Christmas Eve.
But in spite of our scepticism, most of us will still take the risk and order gifts in the days leading up to Christmas.
If your business does offer home delivery for Christmas then you need to make sure your cut-off date for delivery is clearly visible within the CSE listing, as well as where and when you can deliver orders.
If a customer finds out halfway through the checkout process that they’ve missed their chance for pre-Christmas delivery then they’re likely to abandon their basket and may not return to your site. If the CSE listing has clear delivery details laid out, they will be more confident about ordering from your site.
You need to ensure that you clarify delivery options in the run up to Christmas. No one wants their gifts to arrive after the big day, they all want enough time to wrap them up or exchange them if necessary.
By clearly specifying your last order date for delivery before Christmas, you save yourself from a lot of potential problems. According to the Econsultancy Christmas 2012 Online Shopping Survey Report, almost 60% of consumers that experienced a late Christmas delivery would not shop with that retailer again.
It is important to maintain a high level of customer service throughout the Christmas period.
Everyone’s busy but you need to ensure your website and data feed are both kept up-to-date so that shoppers know exactly what to expect from your company, especially as they will be directed to your website from the CSE.
So, make sure you remove any sold out items from your data feed so that they are not displayed within the CSE, or apply business logic so that they will not show automatically.
Keeping your data feed updated regularly will ensure that the integrated product inventory remains accurate and gives customers a reliable and positive shopping experience.
Lastly, if your deliveries are being affected by adverse weather conditions, make sure there’s a bulletin on your site and in the feed so customers are aware before they order anything.