Regional Success Architect, Senior Director, Salesforce
In 2020, brands learned the importance of preparedness. According to the Salesforce Shopping Index, global digital revenue grew by an astonishing 71% compared to the previous year. Now in 2021, digital is still trending. And regardless of how the pandemic continues to unfold, it’s important to be prepared for high-scale volume.
A surge in demand can happen at any time. It can be as carefully planned as the holiday shopping season or as unexpected as a global pandemic, testing the limits of governments, institutions, and companies.
Is your brand prepared for anytime demand? In this article, you’ll learn how to evolve your merchandising strategy with the right content, products, tone, and experiences to meet any moment.
Whether it’s a holiday or a hurricane, be sensitive to current conditions. Strike the right tone by altering language throughout your website, social media accounts, and marketing channels.
Across your site: Visitors may arrive on a page that is not your home page, whether that’s through paid or organic traffic sources. It’s important to display key messaging in a persistent content slot at the top of your page. Include links to more information on your help center or a standalone page. Be transparent and upfront about any challenges, possible delays, or inventory issues.
On product pages: Update product descriptions to make sure the wording is appropriate. Include all useful information so customers don’t have to dig for details and won’t be surprised when they finalize their order. Add badges that call out relevant features like “stocking stuffer” or “quick ship.” Note whether items are sold out or if quantities are limited and include other helpful tips such as “available online only.”
During service encounters: Anticipate customer concerns. When will they receive their orders? How are you protecting your teams? Embed bots to scale support across digital channels to deflect more cases while freeing up agents to resolve escalated cases. Connect bots to FAQs and knowledge articles for further support.
On social media:
Deploy engaging campaigns, post how-to videos, or share how your brand is helping communities and charities. Monitor engagement. You can open service cases based on responses or converse directly with customers on-platform with conversational commerce
During peak periods, customers may want similar types of products. So, you may be selling out quickly. Use sorting rules to ensure customers find what they are looking for.
For sales or popular products: Move the products most relevant to customers to the upper-left corner of your page. Create sorting rules that prioritize stock attributes based on sales you’d like to boost. Adjust time frames as necessary — one-day time frames are best for sale items or products selling fast. Create dynamic attributes that blend conversion rate, revenue, and availability. You can leverage this data to move items up and down the page depending on their popularity.
For real-time sorting: Use hybrid sorting rules — a combination of manual and dynamic rules — to increase basket adds and conversions. They are especially useful during large-scale events. You can make real-time adjustments based on site activity and sales.
For the customer:
Add predictive sort, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide personalized results for the search drop down, search pages, and category grid pages based on shopping behavior. You can also use AI to cross-sell, up-sell, and make recommendations to complete the set based on products typically purchased together. Learn how
one footwear company uses AI to give site users a better experience.
Search is even more important during fast-moving events. Customers tell you exactly what they need as they type. That’s why it’s essential to review search reports during times of high demand.
For new content pages: Review search data to find opportunities for new content pages. For example, during COVID-19, brands noticed that new categories like “loungewear” became popular. The key is to avoid as many “no results” as possible.
For logistical questions: Customers are using search for more than just products. They are looking for information on everything from shipping details to customer support to the availability of buy online pick up in store services. Redirect customers to your help center, FAQs, a customer portal, and other helpful support information.
For personalized results: One high-performing strategy is to add product recommendations with AI. Personalize results to each customer based on the words they begin to type — refined by past searches, trending topics, and autocorrect. Re-engage customers with promotions, online exclusives, or special messaging based on search behavior.
Don’t disappoint customers with out-of-stock items. Your sorting rules should push unavailable products to the bottom of the page so available products appear first. If nothing else, provide alternatives to help customers find the products they want.
To manage expectations: Capture emails for customers interested in specific products. Send a personalized message inviting them to buy the product once back in stock. Consider adding a promotion as an additional enticement.
To facilitate backorders:
Salvage the sale by allowing customers to backorder products. Be clear about the expected shipping date, as last-mile delivery can exceed capacity
Providing customers with options at checkout and clear information about fulfillment drives conversion. To help brands get set up quickly with flexible choices, Salesforce released Quick Start Commerce Solutions
Checkout and payment:
Many customers prefer to check out as a guest. In fact, 28%
have abandoned a purchase because they were required to create an account. Consider customer device preferences and mobile wallet usage as well. Sites with mobile wallets see twice the conversion, and customers spend less time
checking out. PayPal and Apple Pay are good places to start.
Shipping and delivery: Show shipping threshold information in the cart — for example, “Spend $6.50 more to get free two-day shipping.” Reveal the expected date (or date range) for the delivery of each item. You can use an application programming interface (API) from your shipping processor to calculate it. Allow customers to choose faster options or slower, less expensive ones.
Pickup options: For customers who need their items ASAP or have concerns about home delivery, offer store pickup options. In 2020, retailers offering curbside, drive-through, and in-store pickup options had 54% digital revenue growth
YOY in the five days leading up to Christmas, compared to 34% growth for those that didn’t. Bonus: Once at your store, customers may grab additional items, increasing average order value.
Many customers use carts to hold items they intend to buy later
. Others use them as a wish list. If a customer leaves your site, keep their items in a persistent cart. Encourage them to return with an abandoned cart journey. Send an email reminder within 12–24 hours. Consider including a promotional offer for further incentive.
Customers use 10 channels on average to engage brands. By implementing conversational commerce
, you can connect and help customers transact on preferred channels like Facebook Messenger. Agents offer concierge-level support with access to recent orders and preferences.
By evolving your merchandising strategy in response to high demand, customers have the best chance of finding what they need. That’s a crucial part of a great customer experience. Is your site capable of managing planned or unplanned surges in traffic and orders? Go to this article on technical and operational preparedness to ensure your site is ready for anything.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud can help you on your journey. See how.