Does your business have a spike in revenue during the holiday season? If so, this article is a must read. Let's start by stating an obvious holiday buying behavior: Shoppers for the most part, are not buying for themselves. While we all may throw something in the basket for ourselves, the bulk of the buying dollars are spent on gifts for others. That's why we call it "the season of giving." This simple fact shines a real spotlight on the efficacy of your personalization efforts. Now is the time to review your personalization strategy to ensure that it is built to maximize your holiday season revenue potential.
To ensure that your holiday personalization strategy is headed for a joyous season, I have compiled the following six tips from the consumer and back-end systems perspectives to help you present shoppers with the most relevant product recommendations and provide you with better conversion and AOV performance.
For consumers, product recommendations must be enticing and engaging in addition to being relevant.
Personalized recommendations that rely on profile, social data, and past purchase history will be irrelevant for consumers shopping for holiday gifts. You can avoid turning off customers with immaterial recommendations by watching the real-time signals shoppers present while on your site. These are a much better indication of in-the-moment buyer intent. The best approach is to start with the search box. It is the only tool that allows the consumer to explicitly state what he or she is looking for. From there, it is important to continue to pick up real-time behavioral cues of interest. These consist of time spent on a particular item or dwell time, the click path which shows affinities between products, and the words people use in the onsite search box. Leveraging all of this data will give you a current view of the shoppers' intent and enable you to deliver the most targeted recommendations possible.
Now that relevance is taken care of, let's talk about the placement of recommendations on the page. It is important to display them where they are most likely to catch the human eye and influence purchasing decisions. When reading a web page, their eyes typically start with the navigational features on the left rail, scan across the product details in the middle, and end with whatever is contained in the right rail. As a result, product recommendations perform best in the right rail of a product detail page since that is the last place the consumer will look. Recommendations that are placed behind tabs or down low on a page and require scrolling to see them typically produce significantly lower usage and associated revenue.
When it comes to quantity, less is more. Retailers tend to see the most success when they provide four recommendations. This is especially true when product recommendations are similar to the product the customer is currently viewing. When cross selling items in this way, including five or six recommendations with minimal visual styling is also an effective strategy. If using carousel recommendations, or recommendations that allow the consumer to scroll through like a filmstrip, only display four or five recommendations at the same time, knowing that the final recommendation will be clicked on the most.
Mastering relevance, placement, and quantity is a great start, but back-end strategies are also necessary for holiday campaign performance. Keep these administrative strategies in mind and you can't lose.
The last thing you need is poor site performance to impact your customer experience over the holidays. To prevent this, be sure to communicate holiday plans and expected peak-traffic days and times with your SaaS vendors. This gives your service providers time to add capacity, load balance servers, and in general, make sure that your IT infrastructure is ready to handle whatever load a Black Friday or Cyber Monday may produce.
Gift card pinning
Many retailers turn to gift cards during the holidays. To increase gift-card sales, use pinning to ensure that they appear as a recommendation for all shoppers. While pinning is appropriate for gift cards, do not get overly tag-happy with other products as this may lead to irrelevant recommendations that disengage customers. A fun addition is to have visual images for gift cards that match the category of the shopper's current intent. For example, if they are shopping for electronics...show them a gift card with an electronics theme.
Don't go overboard. A seasonally specific tagging strategy is just that: You only get insights for the season. Retagging items may reduce your ability to track overall effectiveness going into the season and coming out of it. For example, if you tag a pair of sneakers as a gift, you will negate the affinities that those sneakers built with other complimentary products during the year. Therefore, if you alter metadata attributes for an item, think about how it will impact your overall tracking data.
Sometimes the simplest gifts are the ones most warmly received. The same is true of optimizing your recommendations for the holidays. Following these simple steps is a surefire strategy to ensure that you get exactly what you want as a retailer out of this holiday season.
Bill Hustad is CEO of Baynote.
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