Optimizing Customer Experiences, ROI this Holiday Season

Here are three ways retailers can better maximize ROI in advance of the holidays.
Customer Strategy

It's that time of year (again) where the holidays are just around the corner and Black Friday will be here before we know it! Successful companies are in the midst of finalizing plans to maximize their seasonal revenues and reach customers in increasingly personalized ways that make the shopping experience intimate, enjoyable, and efficient.

As customers evolve their shopping patterns, it's crucial that retailers evolve their approaches-in both offline and online worlds alike. Now more than ever before, customers' experiences must be seamless across channels and devices.

This shift in consumer behavior is ever-growing and increasingly important during holiday season. In fact, 36 percent of people make purchases on a desktop computer, while a whopping 49 percent make purchases on smartphones, according to Marketing Sherpa. Last year, phones accounted for 76 percent of growth in site visits and 48 percent of the increase in orders, according to the Demandware Shopping Index 2015 Q1. This means, as marketers, you must reach your customers through the channels that matter most to them and in ways they feel are most personalized.

As marketers, you have opportunities to accelerate your company's ROI. How? Optimization! The goal is serving your customers the products and offers meaningful to them in a method more individualized and favorable so they'll buy your products.

Here are three ways retailers can better maximize ROI in advance of the holidays, which can be applied to both offline and online words.

  • Look back to look forward. What areas and categories did your customers shop last holiday season? What were the top 50 keywords of phrases? What was your top-performing email and why? How were your top 20 items merchandised? These are all questions you should ask yourself, as well as last year's team, to identify "wins" and improvement opportunities to apply next season. Never just rinse and repeat.
  • Stay relevant and agile: It's essential customers find what they're looking for-immediately and easily. Customer journeys and site search results should deliver what you'd expect as a shopper. Get inside your customers' minds and if the experience isn't easy, change it up. This can be difficult to scale, so find help if you need it.
  • Test, and test again. Stay nimble and establish holiday-specific tests across your web and mobile experiences. But, also during the other 10 months of the year. Customers' behaviors vary throughout the year, so if you haven't already, log and measure what you test this year to better inform planning next year for the holiday season and beyond.

Companies that continue last year's trends will only marginally improve results. It's critical to balance optimization, testing, and campaign execution. Don't be scared to continuously try new things especially when there's opportunity for incremental sales at scale.

Don't forget about anticipated seasonal traffic growth, load balancing and stress testing. If your on-site site search functionality isn't strong, you'll easily lose customers who quickly get frustrated about even just that one broken link. Dig into trending keywords on your site and Google to ensure you're optimizing for the thousands of keywords and phrases your current and potential customers are searching.

Peak performance season will show any flaws in your data structure or quality. Assign someone to keep track of all data-related issues beyond quick fixes so that once the holiday whirl is over, you can put those learnings into fast action well in advance of next year's season.

Holiday season will come and go quickly, and before you know it, the next season will arrive. Don't forget to learn from lessons past, stay swift and savvy, and continuously test to ensure web, mobile, and in-store experiences offer the most return to your customer-and you.

Don Nelson is associate principal at eClerx Digital, specializing in managing and improving complex data-driven processes to drive ROI on digital investments for many Fortune 500 companies.