Spring holidays such as Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are important shopping periods for many retailers. In 2013, NRF surveys conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics found that U.S. consumers spent an estimated $17.2 billion for Easter, $20.7 billion for Mother’s Day, and $13.3 billion on Father’s Day. While smaller than back-to-school or the winter holidays, all three represent strong reasons to engage with customers as well as great opportunities to test drive new website features and functions retailers are investing in this year.
To help retailers plan for these events, Shop.org has released the 2014 edition of the “Spring Holidays Planning Guide: Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.” The report examines 2013 trends for these holidays, as well as lessons learned and best practices from the eHoliday 2013 Post-Holiday Consumer and Retailer Study. Several areas stand out:
Top priorities for online shoppers: shopping cart total, clear product descriptions, in-stock availability, value, and on-time delivery. The fundamentals are paramount for online shoppers, so doubling down on these basics pays off. For example, showing the shopping cart total – that means shipping and sales tax included – is a must to avoid customer sticker shock when it’s time to start checkout. Clear product descriptions are just as important, and smart retailers will scour customer reviews to find points of confusion or additional questions that should be addressed to help increase confidence and reduce the likelihood of returns.
Free shipping is key for online shoppers at all times. Among consumers who spent more online for holiday in 2013 than in 2012, nearly 40 percent said free shipping offers were a motivator. Retailers should try a variety of tactics to manage cost and customer expectations. For example, SeeWhy’s research has found that average abandonment rates vary widely across cart values, a good area for retailers to test the right threshold for offers that stipulate a minimum order value. After analyzing the 2013 holiday season, Adlucent recommends testing customer response to a price lowered by the value of the shipping in lieu of free shipping. Retailers should also market other free shipping options such as in-store pickup and pickup at third-party locations.
Strategic investments in fulfillment options help retailers compete. Four out of five online consumers said a flexible return policy is important while two-thirds said pickup or return at the store is also important. The good news: retailers this past holiday season told us that investments in shipping and fulfillment such as ship-from-store and ship-to-store are a key focus this year. Recently, StellaService found that once Best Buy started shipping from 50 of its stores last summer, average delivery timeframes decreased significantly, making them much more competitive with Amazon.
Customers expect all touch points to work together seamlessly. Multichannel retailers are working rapidly to meet customer expectations for online and offline to tie together seamlessly. Brands should focus on clearly identifying and placing the store locator at the top of the mobile home page. Since emails now are one of the primary points of interaction between retailers and customers, retailers need to invest in honing smartphone-optimized emails with smart subject lines, strong calls to action, clever use of geo-location to point the customer to a nearby store, and links to the site that make sense. Research from Moveable Ink found consumers opened two-thirds of their email via mobile devices, primarily on their smartphone, in the fourth quarter last year.
Customer service keeps evolving. Access to customer service is important to almost two-thirds of online consumers surveyed. While many online holiday shoppers said they gravitated to self-service options such as site search and even FAQs, other customer service options are in demand. For example, The Luxury Institute found 47 percent of affluent consumers want live chat or video assistance from a sales professional to help them better understand products. Service via social media is set to grow also, following in the footsteps of pioneering use of Twitter by Gilt and Best Buy. As Conversocial has found, customer expectations are high for brands to both respond to and resolve their questions.
Visit the Shop.org site to download the Spring Holidays Guide and get a jump on planning for spring holidays.