Analysts predict a strong holiday shopping season for retailers, with anticipated revenue increases of 7% to 9% over last year. According to Deloitte, holiday sales could top $1.3 trillion between November and January.
Over two-thirds of shoppers (66%) of shoppers looking to shop in-store will be searching online to find the best locations, gifts, and deals. The stakes are even higher for ecommerce retailers, as competition is stiffer than ever before.
For both real-world and online retailers, a robust online presence in search is integral to sales success this holiday season.
In this column, you’ll find five tips you can put to work today to prepare your retail presents for the oncoming rush of holiday shoppers.
1. Put Your SEO Insights To Work This Holiday Shopping Season
Businesses are being challenged to meet consumers with optimizations and personalization that meet their needs today, not what they were in years or months gone by.
Over a year and a half of disruption due to the pandemic has proven the need for real-time customer insights.
Only using data from previous holiday seasons to inform this year’s campaigns will leave retailers trying to cater to an audience that’s largely moved on.
SEO insights are as close to the real-time voice of customer as you can get.
Marketers should be looking at macro trends and industry-wide conditions as well as their own consumer search insights, on-site behavior, reviews, and other real-time data to inform holiday content creation and campaign planning.
Gathering, analyzing, and activating these insights at any sort of scale requires a technological solution to automate collection and analysis. Some solutions can put that data to work right away with automated personalization, as well.
2. Get Ahead Of Emerging Trends
Speaking of macro trends, it’s important to be aware of the items consumers are most interested in buying this year.
These trends may be influenced by where people are in their emergence from the pandemic and its restrictions.
For example, last spring as lockdowns were ending in many places across the country, clothing and luxury items such as cologne became hot ticket items.
It’s important to be aware of what may be emerging as trends in the geographic locations you serve and target with your paid advertising.
Analyzing the keywords people use to find your locations, digging into your Google business insights, exploring trends, and social listening can all provide clues as to which product or service categories could be next to take off.
For example, our internal data at BrightEdge (my company) is showing growth spikes and drops across different categories. This data suggests that apparel and footwear will be big items this year, as nearly half the keywords tracked are looking to be up 20% from the year prior.
3. Tailor Content To Meet Holiday Shopping Intent & Demand
This year, it’s all about ensuring that your content and campaigns match the search content of consumers looking for products and services like yours.
This means not only understanding the “what” but also why specific consumers may be searching for your products.
Optimizing your videos and image descriptions and alt text can help them get discovered in YouTube, Google Images, and rich search results.
Ensure that each page has headers, titles, and other on-page elements that use appropriate keywords. Remember to go beyond keywords, too, with descriptive content that mirrors your understanding of the issue your shopper needs to solve.
Make sure that you are tailoring the entire content experience from start to finish, and that the post-click destination matches the intent of the searcher who chose to click on that ad or search result.
Use AI-powered technology wherever possible to personalize content in real-time, better meeting the expressed needs of searchers and site visitors. Research shows that personalized product recommendations drive a 26% higher average order value (AOV).
4. Prioritize The Searcher’s Shopping Experience
Ensure that your website infrastructure will hold up to the demands of holiday season traffic.
Page speed has been essential for customer experience and conversion for several years now. But with the introduction of Core Web Vitals and the page experience update, Google is set to reward retailers that are providing more optimal experiences with greater visibility across search, local and mobile.
Put simply, if your competitors are optimizing for CX and you are not, you may not even get a chance with that customer.
Having a technically sound website is key. Ensure that images are sufficiently compressed, use a CDN and where possible and do whatever else is necessary to ensure that time to interact is less than 0.1 seconds.
Add a minimum, deploy breadcrumb and structure your data with item schema. Help Google understand exactly how your content is the best answer for each relevant searcher.
5. Think The Interaction All The Way Through For Maximum Search Impact
Holiday shopping is no longer a linear process. Walk into store > browse shelves > select item > pay at cashier is now a rarity when it comes to the holiday shopper’s journey.
Customers may be in store and engaging with your customer service agents, but also searching online for comparison pricing, nearby locations that may sell the same products, and ecommerce options.
Even when you have won the click and the visitor is interacting with your landing page, they may also be searching and browsing around for deals.
It is essential that at each touchpoint and interaction, you are delivering the content that makes it easy for shoppers to take that next step.
It starts with optimized content that performs in search; that gets discovered by motivated consumers open and receptive to new brands, products, and ideas.
But then the next phase in that interaction has to deliver.
Your lead magnets need to deliver in terms of the relevance of the content, how the content loads and is displayed, whether the information provided answers all of the shoppers’ questions, etc.
Don’t make them go searching for offers, coupons, or reviews. Chances are, they will just bounce to another retailer who makes shopping a more seamless transaction.
Keep in mind, too, that the same customer may be choosing to interact with you in different channels for various reasons. They may be browsing in search, turning to Facebook messenger to ask questions, and then going in-store to complete the purchase.
In fact, 76% of customers prefer different channels depending on the context of their need.
Look at each journey as a whole and ensure that there are no stop points along the way. For example, you do not want to run Google Ads driving traffic to stores outside of their operating hours.
Similarly, there is no point in spending budget promoting items that are out of stock.
Quality Experiences Will Win Over Touchpoint Quantity This Holiday Shopping Season
Quality will win over quantity this holiday season – quality interactions, messaging, and experiences will drive sales among a consumer base that is weary from the information overload inherent to a lengthy pandemic.
Focus on understanding which content types are resonating, where you align with high-demand categories, and how you will deliver a seamless, exceptional experience from discovery all the way through to sale.
Then, use AI and automation wherever possible to scale your efforts.
This is the time to synergize technology, content, and workflows to engage, delight, and convert customers throughout the holiday season.
Featured Image: Lightspring/Shutterstock