CHAPTER 2: Optimise and personalise your ecommerce site to win during peak season.

Get your commerce channels ready for the 2021 holiday season.

Consumers spent a record £79 trillion on ecommerce channels in 2020. Although more people will be shopping in-store in 2021, retailers need to go the extra mile to elevate the commerce experience with fast load times, festive-themed landing pages and personalisation.
“With our B2C commerce capabilities, we’re confident in handling the major increase in online sales, making it even easier to browse and purchase. Since our site relaunch, the quality of the website experience now mirrors the quality of our products.”
– Ben Groom, Chief Digital Officer, Herman Miller

Prepare your site for the surge in traffic.

Retailers are likely to continue to see a sustained increase in traffic to their ecommerce websites throughout the year. To ensure a smooth festive season, focus on site reliability.

Make sure you’re testing on an ongoing basis — including every delivery and QA process — to determine peak traffic thresholds. Collect common performance metrics such as site speed and load time (check out the chart below for digital storefront ranges) as well as experience metrics like your sales conversion rate and bounce rate.

Home page: 100–250 milliseconds
Product search/listing: 250–500ms
Product detail: 250ms–500ms
Cart: 500–1000ms
Checkout: 1,000–1,500ms
Place order: 1,500–2,000ms
All other experiences: 500ms
Strive to cache 90% of your editorial content (for example, your home page) and 50%–70% of product-specific content. Take the following steps:
Identify the most-visited storefront experiences.
Determine the percentage of cached requests.
Raise the percentage without invalidating the experience (e.g., improve caching without degrading personalisation)
Find the percentage of cached content that’s not reused and prevent future caching of it.
Confirm support levels with third-party vendors, too. Mitigate stress on your system with a governance policy. Tie monitoring events to third-party failures and set automatic notifications to go to your team if problems occur.

Re-create festive magic quickly with headless commerce.

Help marketers and merchandisers create and manage campaign and category landing pages with headless commerce. This approach, which leverages application programming interfaces (APIs), enables you to update and optimise your front- and back-end ecommerce applications instantly across all device types and formats. You can also quickly build rich content experiences that incorporate new functionalities. For example, you can quickly add buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) capability without waiting weeks for it in the developer queue.
“We sell merchandise that brings out the emotion in people. If we don’t get personalisation correct, we risk ruining our relationship with a customer.”
– Jonathan Wilbur, Senior Director of Technology and Operations, Fanatics

Promote sustainability and corporate values.

Customers are paying attention to companies’ values – in fact, 62% of customers claim to have stopped buying from companies whose values don't align with theirs. Now is a great time to build trust and loyalty through transparency. For example, sharing information about animal testing, production processes, working conditions and materials sourcing helps customers to make informed purchasing decisions.
62% of customers claim to have stopped buying from companies whose values don’t align with theirs. “State of the Connected Customer”, Salesforce, October 2020.

Give every experience a personal touch.

With fewer shoppers returning to stores, artificial intelligence (AI) will play a key role in facilitating the shopping journey, from product discovery to checkout. Use AI in these ways:

  • Site search: Embed AI into search dictionaries to surface the most relevant term based on behavioural and customer data.

  • Product sort: Customise the order in which products appear in search and category pages based on shopper behaviour.

  • Product recommendations: Display products based on shopper preferences and buying behaviours. When shoppers engage with product recommendations, conversation rates increase.

  • Commerce insights: Gain deep insight into products typically purchased together to create popular product bundles. This creates opportunities for merchants to increase units per transaction.

  • Complete the set: Use AI-driven insights to create surface recommendations that offer customers a personalised ‘set’ or ‘look’. As a bonus, this takes an otherwise time-consuming merchandising effort down to just a few clicks.

  • Post-purchase emails: Deploy post-purchase emails with relevant new products. Use product recommendations sparingly, however, on receipts and account confirmations as a helpful, secondary element.

Optimise the performance of digital channels.

Measure the performance of your digital channels to ensure your digital strategy is working as intended. Watch for emerging trends in key metrics, such as email open rates and the percentage of abandoned shopping carts, to identify pain points along the customer journey. Quickly identify trends with a visualisation tool and share critical insights across teams. Scale the most successful efforts and tweak or eliminate underperforming channels.

Keep self-service channels up to date.

Adoption of self-service tools has grown considerably – 78% of customers increased their use of self-service options during the pandemic. This trend is sure to continue. Make sure that you have a landing page for frequently asked questions. Include knowledge articles for common requests and make sure customers can find this content through a site search. Embed a chatbot, which is powered by AI, to handle simple requests. Use a customer portal with automated workflows that make processes like initiating a return intuitive and fast for customers.
78% of customers increased their use of self-service options during the pandemic. “The State of Service” Salesforce, December 2020.

Get your service team ready.

The festive season is notorious for increases in customer service cases. Connect your commerce and service channels. Use your data to forecast demand so that you can prepare your service team, including seasonal hires, for an uptick in activity. Use tools like myTrailhead to get them up to speed to manage service across digital channels – whether that’s text, email or chat. Consider cross-training service agents in sales and sales agents in service for additional support.

Next: Chapter 3: Meet shoppers where they are.

Learn how to reach consumers no matter where, how, or when they shop.
See how to:
  • Bring your brand to shoppers on any platform.
  • Turn service agents into stylists with conversational commerce.
  • Capitalise on emerging trends in social and on mobile.

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