Couple shopping online during the holidays
Photo credit: Bruce Mars, Unsplash

10 ways, RWS tested and retailer customer approved    

A recent Google article offers good news for RWS dealers: “Given that the growing customer preference for shopping locally will likely continue into the holidays and beyond, understanding local buying intent will be paramount—especially since 66% of shoppers said they plan to shop more at local small businesses.”

In other good tidings, according to a survey by Sykes, a leading provider of multichannel demand generation and customer engagement services,nearly half of shoppers are willing to shop in-store if retailers offer contactless pay options this winter. And it’s important to note that over two-thirds (77%) of consumers want masks to be mandatory at local retailers during the holiday season.

Meanwhile, numerous sources point to e-commerce, curbside pickup and mobile usage as the big winners this holiday season. Also, “shopping early” has become “earlier than ever” to ensure on-time delivery given the new environment’s shipping delays and supply chain slowdowns. Case in point, Google cites more than a third of U.S. shoppers who normally shop in store for Black Friday say they won’t this year.

While the pandemic is indeed changing the ways consumers will shop this holiday season, one thing is certain: Independent retailers must maximize their store’s online presence to meet consumers’ changing behaviors and expectations.

With the season of giving upon us, here are our top 10 ways (RWS tested and retailer customers approved!) to give your customers peace of mind and the joy of shopping online:        

  1. Tell shoppers all the ways they can shop with you. From online and in-store, via chat or phone, etc., it’s important you’re meeting—and greeting—shoppers where they are in ways that make them feel safe and comfortable. These shopping options should be readily available for shoppers to see on your website so they can choose the path to purchase that works best for them.
  2. Highlight your fulfillment options such as in-store and curbside pickup. Google reports 47% of shoppers said they’ll use options to buy online and pickup in store or curbside. Because these options are essential to shoppers right now, be sure they are highly visible on your website, social media and other online business profiles such as Google, Yelp, etc.
  3. Emphasize mobile first with safety messaging. RWS data consistently shows consumers spend the most time visiting our retailers’ websites from smartphones on the same day every year: Thanksgiving! Make sure you have a carefully crafted mobile experience. Your phone number, hours (in-store and online chat) and directions, as well as how you’re keeping shoppers safe should be front and center at all times—not buried in the footer or on the contact page. Completing a purchase on your store’s website from a smartphone should not only be possible, it should be pleasant.
  4. Show product availability. Be sure your site displays which items are available immediately and which ones might require special ordering. The added convenience of this information will make it easier for your prospects to shop with you and give you a leg up over your competition that may not do the same. Create a better user experience by displaying special messages for products such as “available now,” “pick up today” and “out of stock,” inviting shoppers to sign up to be notified when items become available.  
  5. Adjust your online pricing strategy. Review and adjust your website pricing strategy for November. It’s not just competitors and consumers that behave differently this time of year; your vendors may have different online pricing policies that only apply during the November promotional period. If you don’t have tools that let you set and adjust complex pricing strategies to automatically allow you to remain competitive and in compliance with vendor policies, it’s time to consider switching to more intelligent software. For example, if you find yourself ill prepared to handle the complexities of online pricing during this Black Friday holiday, resolve to solve the problem before next year.
  6. Display real time pricing. Pricing is becoming more volatile all the time, especially for appliances and electronics. There’s no way to keep this up by hand. At a minimum, your site needs to automatically set pricing via formulas. And that’s no longer enough. The most successful retail sites in our industry evaluate what’s going on in the marketplace and automatically adjust prices accordingly all the time—that’s 24 hours a day. Make sure your website’s software can make these constant adjustments and display these adjustments gracefully to consumers who may be looking at a product when the price changes.
  7. Get more from your digital ads. When consumers search for a “new washer near me,” ads about your “huge laundry savings event” should appear in the Google results. But why stop there? When a consumer clicks to see all front load washers on your website, they should see that same compelling promotional content on your website, too! Get the most out of your digital advertising by extending it from the ad platforms to your very own site: on your home page, product list pages, individual product pages and more. You’ll maximize the value of every paid impression and click, and you’ll reach more people than advertising alone can do.
  8. Update your store hours beyond your website. With holidays come special store hours. Make sure your business hours are up to date across your online presence. Expect prospective customers to check your store’s website, social media and online business profiles such as Google, Yelp, etc. Google displays your hours in Google Maps, too; sign into Google My Business to update your holiday hours and any other information. RWS customers can do this easily and in advance on WebFronts® by setting “atypical hours” that revert back to normal according to the schedule they set.   
  9. Leverage national promotions. This one bears repeating every holiday season. Your vendor partners are spending huge dollars this November, advertising their national promotions. Leverage their investment by showcasing their promotions on your website. Make sure to use their official artwork for maximum recognition. But remember, not all these promotions are equally important to your business. Review all offers and identify which ones will help you win the most; then elevate those in your digital strategy. Put promotion banners first in the rotation on your homepage, promote those posts often, concentrate paid media buys on specific groups of ads, and adjust those brands’ pricing strategies first in case you run out of time.
  10. Customize ads that highlight your unique value. While you don’t want to miss out on your vendors’ promotions available to everyone, make sure you check that box and then sell what’s unique to your store as well. Make sure your digital ad strategy tells consumers why they should buy from you instead of your competitors. Seek out advertising partners that are experts in digital advertising and your specific industry to help you craft a unique strategy that includes national promotions and your individual value propositions, promotions and events.