Part 1, The Holidays in 20/20: How to Increase Conversion Rate
BVAccel is focused on all things eCommerce, which is why we’re taking a full-service approach to helping you prepare this holiday season.
We’ve gathered insights across all of our teams, and are about to uncover what we consider to be the best and top tactics from a perspective that combines storefront strategy, marketing, creative, user experience (UX) design, Amazon, and more.
Welcome to part one in our six-part guide, The Holidays in 20/20: How to Increase Conversion Rate.
You’re getting ready for the holidays, and you’re thinking about conversion rate; a key metric when evaluating the performance of your eCommerce storefront. The good news is - you’re already on the right track! Winning during the holidays starts with planning ahead, and conversion rate is a huge factor.
“Typically, conversion rates for online retailers during the holiday season follow a similar pattern: increase once the calendar flips to November 1, spike during the five-day Thanksgiving weekend known as the Cyber 5, gradually decline but remain elevated until tapering off as the New Year approaches.” (source: Digital Commerce 360)
Optimizing your website for higher conversions around peak selling seasons in eCommerce is bound to give you an extra boost in sales and generate higher revenues (as long as you’re not slashing those prices too much and eating away at your margins). So let’s get right into your next question - how can you increase conversions?
Here are our top 7 tips and tricks when it comes to increasing conversion rates during the holiday season:
- Pull Benchmark Data & Set Realistic Goals
- A/B Test Everything, Before the Holidays
- Content, Holiday Content, & More Content
- First Check Site Speed, Then Increase Site Speed
- Urgency & Scarcity Tactics Actually Work
- Remarketing & Retargeting & Re… Wait What?
- Optimize Your Amazon Product Pages for Mobile & Desktop
1. Pull Benchmark Data & Set Realistic Goals
Increasing conversion rates during the holidays starts with understanding your data. Tip number one - do not compare your conversion rate to generic eCommerce statistics and reports. Your conversion rate is dependent on your product, your industry, and your own unique pricing strategy, and therefore, you should only pay attention to your own historical data.
“You have to use yourself as a benchmark, otherwise you’re setting yourself up to fail,” says Melissa Lopez, President of Marketing Services at BVAccel. “Looking at your own historical data and setting smart goals for incremental, data-driven improvement is the best way to improve year-over-year.”
To start, look back at your data from last year’s holidays and find out how your storefront performed; what was your conversion rate, did it increase or decrease before, during, or after the holidays? What trends can you pull from the data, and where do you see room for improvement?
We recommend pulling this data from a combination of Google Analytics and your eCommerce platform - we’re pretty partial to Shopify and Shopify Plus, as we’re most familiar with the reporting tools available within the admin. But, it doesn’t really matter where you get your data as long as you have access to it and are able to pull insights and actions.
Looking at eCommerce KPIs inside Google Analytics.
Next, try segmenting your data based on different criteria. Here, we’re talking about conversion rate, so try taking a look at your numbers from these perspectives (for example):
- What gender is converting the most?
- What are their interests? What are their demographics?
- Are they shopping for themselves, for a spouse, for a child?
- How are conversions different by region? National, international?
- Are more conversions coming from a desktop vs. mobile?
Once you start to get a better sense of your historical data, you can accomplish two critical things (among many others):
- Goals: you can set realistic and attainable goals for the upcoming holiday season, based on how your storefront performed last year, and how it has performed throughout the current calendar year
- Targeting: you can gain a better understanding of which segments of your audience are converting the most, and then create a plan to target certain demographics or consumers by solving for and speaking to specific pain points
2. A/B Test Everything, Before the Holidays
Without a doubt, the holidays are a critical time of year for eCommerce merchants. According to BigCommerce, nearly 40% of annual online sales are generated in the last three months of the year- October, November, December. (source: BigCommerce)
Knowing how important this time of the year is, does it make sense to test out changes to your storefront during the holidays? Is this the optimal time of year to launch a new site navigation, only to find out that it prevents consumers from easily finding your product description pages (PDPs) and checking out of their cart? Definitely not.
We strongly recommend testing everything well before the holidays, so that you can ensure any changes made during this critical time of year lead to a positive return on investment (ROI). Sure, you don’t want to test out those snowflakes you envision falling from your top nav in July, but you can certainly test significant changes to user flows, site navigation, functionality, and more during the months leading up to the holidays.
And, if by testing changes you find that something immediately leads to a huge increase in conversions, why wait until the holidays? Get it in place now so that you can start capitalizing on that increase, which is sure to increase further during months of heightened traffic.
When it comes to A/B testing tools, we recommend Google Optimize because it’s free and allows you to run tests that are natively integrated with Google Analytics. We also work closely with Dynamic Yield, which not only allows for A/B testing, but also uses machine learning and predictive algorithms to build valuable customer segments in real time. These can be used to take instant action via personalization, recommendations, automatic optimization, and one-to-one messaging.
3. Content, Holiday Content, & More Content
Content, along with copywriting, is critically important year-round. However, the holidays present a unique opportunity to create custom content that is holiday-themed and geared specifically towards your key buyer personas and target audience.
Gift guides? Holiday-themed landing pages? Need we say more?
Creating gift guides that speak directly to your key personas is a great way to guide the path to purchase and increase conversion rate. Help your customers get into the holiday spirit, check everyone off their list, and ultimately increase your bottom line by making gift categories easy to find and thematically organized.
“Gift guides allow you to funnel people in high-level categories and promote specific products that you know will sell during the holidays,” says Grace Anello, UI/UX Designer at BVAccel.
Examples of Holiday Gift Guide landing pages.
And… bonus! Holiday-themed gift guides make great social media content. But make sure your messaging and tone of voice is consistent across all channels, as this can greatly impact the user experience for your customers.
From a UX perspective, copywriting is a critically important factor when it comes to conversion rate. “Every single message on your site should show your brand personality,” says Anello. “By offering a complete and consistent experience, you’ll increase trust with your users, which will in turn increase conversion.”
It's essential that you make sure your site properly represents your offerings. “If a consumer doesn’t know within three seconds what you are selling, that is going to lead to a negative experience and people are going to bounce off the page without converting,” Anello said.
4. First Check Site Speed, Then Increase Site Speed
“As a developer, the first thing to look at when trying to increase conversion rate is site speed,” says Courtney Freeland, Front End Developer Lead at BVAccel. “If there’s anything we can do to increase the speed of a page, we should do it. But try looking first and foremost at cart pages and product pages as those are the most likely to lead to conversion.”
How important is site speed and load time? Check out these stats for confirmation:
- Studies show a 1% second increase in load time can reduce conversions by as much as 7% (source: NeilPatel)
- Pages that load within two seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%, while pages that take five seconds to load have a bounce rate of 38% (source: Royal.Pingdom)
- 47% of customers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less (source: Hubspot)
A significant component to consider when it comes to site speed is image size. It’s imperative that merchants optimize images and compress file sizes so as not to work against site speed.
Shopify has filters (called Liquid Filters) that allow you to reduce the size of an image before it even renders on the page, which is a great starting point. Freeland specifically recommends using img_url to reduce the size of images, and also says that progressive JPEGs or smaller web format images are ideal as well.
“At BVAccel, we rely a lot on Lighthouse, which allows you to inspect an element on a page and then go into audits,” Freeland said. “You can run a performance audit on a page and see metrics on site loading time, how big your images are, and how much speed you could get by reducing certain images.”
5. Urgency & Scarcity Tactics Actually Work
In addition to traditional discounts, promotions, and buy-one-get-one (BOGO) offers, we’ve found that things like countdown timers and scarcity tactics really work when trying to increase conversion rate. Sure, they sound a little gimmicky, but the results speak for themselves.
For example, a split test done by WhichTestWon showed that when a countdown timer was placed on a product page, it converted nearly 9% better than a variation of the product page without a countdown timer. (source: Shopify Blog)
Although your goal shouldn’t be to encourage visitors to make impulse purchases, you do want to try to get people that procrastinate to act faster. One way to do this is by communicating a product inventory or time shortage.
Here are a few ideas:
- Offer timed shipping offers: “Order within X minutes and get free next day shipping”
- Add a countdown timer: “Time left to buy at 30% off: displays countdown timer”
- Try a flash sale: “Limited time only: take an additional 20% off your purchase.”
- Advertise a limited quantity available: “Only 2 left in stock!”
Example of countdown timer, items left in stock, and social proof (people who have viewed and added products to cart) (source: Beeketing)
When used correctly, scarcity and urgency can be effective tactics. But be careful, because false scarcity can do just the opposite.
Imagine shopping for a new watch for your father during the holidays and the countdown timer starts at 10 minutes for 25% off and free shipping. Your heart starts to race, your palms start to sweat, and you’re definitely feeling the pressure of making a quick purchase decision for a gift you’ve been thinking about for many months just because it has been too expensive.
Then you get distracted because your dog is barking at something in the next room.
By the time you get back to your computer, your heart has sunk because you know you’ve missed out on a great deal and now will have to pay full price or go without.
But then… you see the countdown timer has actually just restarted and is back at 10 minutes. What?!
Maybe this is a win for the consumer (they still get the gift and the discount), but do they have trust in your brand? Probably not.
So although scarcity and urgency are effective, tricking potential customers should not be the objective. It is critical that you explain why a product is available for a limited time only and that you make sure the demand is there for your product before putting thought behind this strategy. Make sure you aren’t pressuring consumers to make a purchase they don’t want, because although that may lead to a quick conversion, you’ll later be facing refunds, returns, exchanges, or dissatisfaction with your brand.
6. Remarketing & Retargeting & Re… Wait What?
We’ve already talked about using data to understand what’s worked and what hasn’t worked when it comes to holiday planning. But what better source of data is there than your customers from last year’s holiday season?
“It’s important for brands to get in front of last’s year holiday customers,” says JJ Bannasch, Senior VP of Marketing Services at BVAccel. “Some people only purchase from certain brands during the holidays, but these people are probably still shopping and are more likely to convert again, especially if they had a positive experience the first time around.”
You can start by pulling a list of all of your previous holiday shoppers. The good news is, you already have email addresses, so getting back in touch with them will be easy and seamless.
Once you’ve collected your shoppers, segment them by persona group. This way you can make educated and informed decisions on what channels and messaging will be the best fit for each group. Successful remarketing strategies rely heavily on accurate audience targeting, which is easy and completely feasible if you take the necessary time to leverage demographic tools and dissect your data.
Once you have your persona groups, one strategy you can try is breaking each persona into two buckets: those that consistently pay full price vs. those that don’t. There’s no point giving someone a discount if they are willing to pay full price. Then, you can upload these lists to your email service provider (ESP) or even to Facebook, and serve up different ads and messaging based on their need for a discount code. This will improve your conversion rate as well as revenue, because you’ll avoid discounting your product when you don’t have to.
“Retargeting using Facebook Ads can get very complex, but is also extremely effective,” says Hani Haidao, Senior Paid Social Media Manager at BVAccel. “You can segment based on touch points, interactions, products purchased, and gender, among other things. We usually break it out by top, middle, and bottom of the funnel, and also look at the data over one, seven, fourteen, thirty days, and so on.”
In addition to retargeting, don’t forget about remarketing, especially via email! According to this article featuring our partners at Klaviyo, email marketing leads to 27% of holiday spending during Black Friday / Cyber Monday (BFCM) and roughly 500,000 online merchants reported that emails brought them higher sales.
You can use a remarketing strategy to get in touch with your past holiday shoppers, as well as current shoppers that abandoned their carts prior to purchase.
The average shopping cart abandonment rate sits just under 70%, so a thoughtful abandoned cart remarketing strategy is a vital holiday planning component for increasing conversion rate for any successful eCommerce brand. Try using a series of three emails to maximize impact:
- The Accident: The first email should reach a user immediately after their cart is abandoned. Lead the email with a helpful reminder to the user that (oops) they still have items in the cart.
- The Value Proposition: After 24 hours, lead your email with customer service oriented content that reminds the user why it is safe and preferable to buy from your brand as opposed to a competitor.
- The Incentive: If the first two didn’t work, send the final email at 72 hours with an incentive or offer to persuade the user to complete their purchase.
We love this example of an abandoned cart email from AWAY Travel (source: Bronto Blog)
7. Amazon Product Page Optimization for Mobile & Desktop
In addition to your strategy for driving conversions through your direct-to-consumer (DTC) storefront, there’s a little old marketplace called Amazon. We suspect you’ve heard of it ;)
Including Amazon as a part of your overall holiday strategy is a great way to acquire new customers this holiday season, increase the volume of conversions, improve brand awareness, and increase overall revenue.
After all, according to Feedvisor’s 2019 Amazon Consumer Behavior Report, 60% of consumers shop for last minute holiday gifts on Amazon, and 82% of consumers read the full Amazon product description before making a purchase.
When looking at your conversion rate on Amazon, we suggest that you start by optimizing your product pages for both mobile and desktop. Here are a few tips from Riane Sanchez, Amazon Business Lead at BVAccel.
Content: Your copy needs to be optimized for customer education and must ease decision to purchase. Make sure that it is clear to the reader what the product is, the benefits it provides, and how it works. This is also important for your AMS SEO efforts.
Images: Product imagery should include information rich product differentiators. Quality is key, as your product’s image is often your brand’s first impression and the first opportunity you have to generate a sale.
Mobile: According to Feedvisor, as of July 2018, the Amazon mobile app was the most popular shopping app in the United States when ranked by monthly mobile users, and 26% of all Amazon purchases come from a mobile device. You should optimize your product listings for mobile with digestible content, catchy and descriptive product titles, and high-quality imagery. Work off of the assumption that people are viewing your product pages from a smaller screen, so your images should be close-up and high-quality.
Enhanced Brand Content (EBC)/A+ Content: Amazon EBC/A+ is a premium content feature that allows sellers to modify a product description field of their branded Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs) with enhanced images and text. All of your listings should have EBC/A+ content below the fold, which also enhances the mobile experience and has been known to increase conversions by an average of 11%.
Comparison Charts: Try featuring comparison charts on EBC in order to cross-sell other products that you’re selling on Amazon.
Be In-Stock: Ensure that your product is always in stock… after all, you can’t convert without inventory :)
“Optimizing your product listings is essential to your overall success on Amazon,” says Sanchez. "By optimizing everything from imagery to copy, you can drive higher click-through rates (CTR) through AMS as well as higher conversions, which will lead to more sales and improve your overall rank on Amazon.”
Conclusion: Start Planning Early (Did We Mention You’re Already Behind?)
So now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about optimizing your conversion rate this holiday season, what should you do next? START PLANNING!!! Our team strongly recommends that you plan for the holidays at least two months in advance, especially if you’re going to test any optimizations or changes to your storefront.
We’re hopeful that some of the ideas we’ve shared in this article, Part One of The Holidays in 20/20, will help you maximize the performance of your storefront this holiday season in ways that benefit you and your brand for years to come.
Stay tuned for parts two through five of The Holidays in 20/20. Up next, “How to Increase Revenue.” The most wonderful time of the year is coming FAST, and it’s time to get ready. Happy holidays, and happy planning!
Part One, The Holidays in 20/20 Was Brought to You By:
- Melissa Lopez - President of Marketing
- JJ Bannasch - Senior VP of Marketing
- Riane Sanchez - Amazon Business Lead
- Grace Anello - UI/UX Designer
- Sally Kay - eCommerce Strategy Lead
- Courtney Freeland - Front-End Development Lead
- Hani Haidao - Senior Paid Social Media Manager
- Justin Kevalaitis - eCommerce Optimization Analyst