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4 Ways Retailers Can Measure Holiday Ecommerce Success

Here are some tips to accurately determine how well your holiday retail efforts truly perform.

Illustration showing elves and gifts
It’s critical to get all of your operational ducks in a row before the holiday season so your digital storefront is ready for the big push. [abelskaya / Adobe Stock]

If you’re a retailer, you don’t wait until November to think about the holidays like the rest of the world — you rev up during the summer for holiday ecommerce success. By October, you’ve already been through months of planning, analysis, and preparation for the few months that could make or break your brand’s revenue numbers. 

So why wait until after the holidays to find ways to measure success? As a professional who’s spent over 20 years in retail, here are my top tips to accurately measure how well your holiday efforts really perform.

Traditional ecommerce success benchmarks may not be practical

You’ve heard this one before, but it bears repeating: 2020 was an unprecedented year. Digital spend increased by 50% during the holidays, making it one of the biggest digital shopping seasons to date. Consumers spent $1.1 trillion online worldwide compared to $723 billion the previous year. 

With that said, using year-over-year growth and revenue targets might not be the best barometer of holiday ecommerce success for 2021. Looking back at these numbers will be part of the process, but keep in mind that they may not be the determining factor in measuring success as in years past. 

1. Attach goals and metrics to contingency plans 

Measuring ecommerce success is not just about looking back — it’s also about planning ahead and planning for the unknown. Enter: the contingency plan. When you created your goals, did you factor in pressure on the global supply chain and its ripple effects on shipping times, logistics, and price hikes? 

Contingency planning doesn’t just help in the preparation phase of holiday campaigns. Each plan should have clear goals and metrics for success — even in light of the circumstances. Consider measuring how well and fast your teams are able to pivot. Come up with a baseline goal as well as a goal for if brick-and-mortar stores are impacted in any way — whether that means temporary closures or operating at minimized capacity. 

No matter what happens this season, two top key performance indicators (KPIs) are likely to rule your post-holiday measurements: traffic and conversion. However, commerce professionals know that for every KPI, there are hundreds of levers happening behind the scenes to drive ecommerce success. Here are some things to keep in mind when measuring traffic and conversion:  

2. View traffic from every angle

When you measure traffic, begin with a holistic view of your overall strategy to determine whether you have the right cadence of messages and promotions, launches, and email campaigns. Keep this in mind when you view website visits (both total and unique) and traffic from social, affiliate channels and other sources, like email campaigns.

As you look at traffic numbers, take a look at the source of that traffic. Pay attention to whether it’s organic, direct, paid, or from a specific campaign. In addition, since email campaigns are the holy grail of holiday website traffic, their performance should be measured early and often. If you aren’t on track to meet traffic targets, consider using back-pocket promos (read: deeper discounts). One study found that 64% of consumers are more likely to open emails from brands during the holidays, with the majority (84%) indicating their preference towards discount-related content. 

3. Conversion is multi-faceted — consider every factor

It’s critical to get all of your operational ducks in a row before the holiday season so your digital storefront is ready for the big push. Effective website design, user experience, and streamlined checkout flows are all critical to drive holiday success. According to marketing expert Neil Patel, the average order value grows by 30% during the holiday season, and conversion rates go up 60%.

With that in mind, here are a few things to consider when it comes optimizing conversion during peak season: 

  • Are there friction points in your checkout flow? Look at your analytics to determine where you may be losing shoppers — consider simplifying forms and order fields wherever possible, offering guest checkout, and adding payment options.
  • Can you optimize product presentation and recommendations to increase order size? Make sure customers’ items are saved to their carts in case they leave your site. Many shoppers use the cart to save items for later, so this is an easy way to improve site experience.
  • Are you creating a sense of urgency with your messaging? Proactive communication is key. Consider adding popularity badges (“4 other shoppers are looking at this item”), communicating inventory levels (“only 3 left!”), and implementing threshold messages (“spend only $5 more to get free shipping!”) to boost conversion rates. 

To truly maximize the effectiveness of these areas and get them holiday-ready, use tools that enable conversion rate optimization testing such as A/B testing, heat mapping, click tracking, and visitor recording.

4. Develop retention strategies for post-holiday success

All those visitors who abandoned their carts during the holidays? Retargeting and retaining them is key to future success. Every abandoned cart is an opportunity — especially when you consider that the average conversion rate for cart abandonment emails last year was 18.64%. Without creating a strategy for this valuable segment of your visitors, you’re missing out on a huge piece of the post-holiday pie. 

The end of peak shopping season is also the best time to check in with new customers. Open a customer feedback loop to improve satisfaction and turn shoppers into superfans of your brand. Today, 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations. Collecting and acting on real customer feedback will make your shoppers feel heard — and listening goes a long way when it comes to ecommerce success.

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