With the festive season upon us again, the focus turns to winning consumers’ hearts in yet another unconventional year in e-commerce.
This season, brands and retailers face an assortment of challenges, with pressure coming from multiple sources: continuing supply chain difficulties, increased competition, economic uncertainties, high consumer expectations. Growing sales and cultivating a satisfied, loyal customer base in the process will require well-planned, intelligent strategies.
A heavy focus on preparing for early holiday shoppers, attracting savvy bargain hunters and establishing a visible presence on marketplaces could produce immediate and long-term gains.
Appeal to Early Holiday Shoppers — Without Launching Full-Scale Holiday Content
For many consumers, the pandemic irrevocably changed perspectives on how and when to shop. Late or missing deliveries due to unusual demand, shipping delays and various logistics complications ultimately made their mark on the public’s consciousness — and as a result, many shoppers are making purchases early in an effort to avoid the issues of previous years.
For brands and retailers, that means taking action earlier than ever this holiday season. Although you might not be offering holiday-specific themes on your website or in your product content, you can still signal to these early birds that you have attractive deals.
Get started by reviewing last year’s top and low performers and optimising the priority assortment that you hope to sell during peak season. Identify your existing and ideal inventory levels through Q4. To prepare for these active, early shoppers, focus on completing these actions as early in Q4 as possible:
- Solidify your catalogue assortment
- Share brand and product stories through your content
- Audit your data for accuracy and consistency across all your active marketplaces
- Remedy errors everywhere you’re listing products, prioritising the most popular products
- Pay special attention to logistics and shipping details to ensure marketplace requirements are met
Acknowledge the Pressure on Consumer Budgets
The squeeze on consumer wallets is intensifying, with prices continuing to soar. Yet, in a survey ChannelAdvisor recently conducted with leading global research firm Dynata, 84% of Australian shoppers indicated they still plan to celebrate and will spend about the same or even more online this holiday season compared to last. However, that doesn’t mean their spending will be indiscriminate. In fact, they’re likely to be more selective about where and what they buy than ever, requiring quality goods, excellent service and prompt delivery to feel they’re money is well spent. And several buyers will be on the hunt for a bargain.
Using an automated repricing tool will help you maximise momentum if interest in a certain product is especially hot, and will also enable you to move inventory if sales are lagging. Well-timed promotions are also crucial to capturing the attention of thrifty shoppers. However, rising to the challenges of peak season in this area goes beyond simply beating competitors in cost. Most consumers view value in a more holistic manner. To attract these consumers and break through the competition:
- Provide extraordinary customer service. Clear, frequent, accurate communication, even if a problem occurs, will work in your favor.
- Ensure positive ratings and reviews are highly visible. Our recent survey revealed that Australian shoppers abandon their carts due to poor reviews (41%) and too few reviews for a product (23%), among other reasons.
- Update descriptions and content. Go beyond the basics such as sizes and dimensions. Include photos that give shoppers perspective. Consider videos that depict key assembly information or types of product uses. High-quality content boosts consumer confidence in considering an online purchase.
- Implement a variety of shipping options. Free shipping holds significant appeal to most shoppers, but delivery times are important as well. Bargain shoppers may be more willing to wait for delivery (at a lower shipping cost) than last-minute buyers who need the product sooner — and are willing to pay for it.
Meet New Buyers in Marketplaces
The holiday season involves purchases of many different kinds: gifts, decor, food, supplies for special gatherings and family traditions, donations, personal indulgences and more. Consumers are often turning to specific platforms, especially marketplaces, to find what they’re looking for in particular categories. To engage with these consumers, you need to know where they prefer to shop online, what types of online shopping environments are cultivated by certain marketplaces, what marketplaces require of sellers and how to appeal to either browsers or serious shoppers (or both) on those platforms.
Once viewed as online alternatives to brick-and-mortar stores, research shows marketplaces are now a top location for “window shoppers” — those who browse without specific plans to purchase. In fact, 88% of Australian online shoppers stated they had browsed marketplaces or retail sites in the previous 12 months without direct intention to buy anything. And 43% of those polled indicated they were on marketplaces when they discovered the products they ended up purchasing.
Opening avenues to sell your products to a wider range of interested shoppers can be a profitable enterprise — and may not be as difficult as you think. If you are building a strong marketplace presence, here are some options to consider:
- eBay: The most frequently visited marketplace in Australia, eBay is often one of the first places online shoppers look when preparing for an online purchase. Our survey found that 71% of Australian online shoppers had researched a product on eBay during the previous year.
- Kogan.com: An immensely popular platform that lists more than 10 million products from over 1,000 sellers, Kogan.com has experienced exponential growth in recent years. It currently boasts 11 million email subscribers and millions of unique visitors each month.
- Catch.com.au: An order is placed on the Catch marketplace every 2.1 seconds — and, as of July 2020, the average order contains four items, with a total value of $130. This marketplace holds strong appeal to bargain hunters and consumers looking to purchase across categories in one location.
- MyDeal: With more than 6 million visitors and 160,000 dispatched parcels per month, it’s impossible to ignore the enormous interest in this marketplace. In addition, the lack of upfront costs and low fee structure make it attractive to Aussie sellers.
- Bunnings Marketplace: This marketplace, launched by Australia and New Zealand’s leading retailer of home improvement and lifestyle products, is designed to feature products from trusted third-party sellers to extend offerings available to Bunnings’ well-established audience.
- OZSALE: With millions of shoppers across Australia, New Zealand and southeast Asia, and more than 1 million unique monthly visitors, this popular marketplace provides shoppers access to products from brands not easily accessed in Australia.
- Amazon: The opportunity to sell on Amazon in Australia is at an ideal moment. With dozens of categories in which to sell, and growth continuing to explode, sellers can take advantage of Amazon’s state-of-the-art logistics systems, such as FBA, and powerful selling tools to reach millions of consumers.
If you’re looking to go global, marketplaces such as Fruugo, Amazon, eBay, Trade Me, Otto, Zalando, Shopee, Lazada and more offer built-in audiences and services that can make cross-border transactions easier.
Expanding to new digital audiences requires planning and careful execution, even if you have help from seasoned experts. List your products and establish a logistics plan now for effective and timely fulfilment before the holiday season is in full swing.
Pro tip: If you’re currently using marketplace fulfilment services or planning to join, identify and make note of key Q4 inventory replenishment dates.
Stay in the Game
Even as you fortify your position and prepare your teams for the festive season, it’s important to remember — and prepare for — immediate post-holiday shopping trends. The days and weeks following the fourth quarter are filled with activity. Consumers are making gift card purchases and returns — and are likely still browsing. Many may be actively searching for replacement items. For those who sell internationally into European and Latin American countries, Epiphany (observed on 6th January) involves bestowment of gifts on children and loved ones.
After the bustle preceding peak season ends, give the following days a fair go in your efforts to engage consumers. Continue to provide excellent customer service, particularly when holiday returns are high. Design promotions to appeal to those still searching for bargains. Communicate with consumers who have shown interest in your brand.
And when you have a moment to breathe, evaluate your wins and struggles during the season to help make better decisions for next year.
If you need help evaluating your holiday performance, the experienced professionals at ChannelAdvisor Managed Services for Marketplaces can offer expert guidance to help you execute and iterate your plans at scale.
Darren Fifield, Managing Director, APAC, ChannelAdvisor