Customer experience lessons for retailers from the holiday season and beyond

A gift that keeps giving throughout the new year

For retailers, the holiday season is crunch time. Resources are poured into keeping sites stable, sales moving, and earnings on track. Many e-commerce sites bring in almost one fourth of their annual revenues in those few short, hectic weeks, so it’s no time for deep analysis or intense optimization. This is especially true in 2016, as holiday spending was expected to increase by at least 3.6%.

It is the perfect time, however, to gather high-volume customer data that can deliver on a strategic level. Insights collected over the holiday period can be fundamental in helping you reduce shopping cart abandonment and increase online sales for the year to come.

Once the ornaments come down, retailers turn their focus to strategic planning and CRO. This is the time for plans to be dictated by metrics-based insights that detail how conversions are driven by customer experiences. Holiday shoppers are the ideal source for rich data about customer intent, behavior and activity on your site.

Your unique calling card is a great customer experience

When hundreds – maybe thousands – of retailers sell products just like yours online, how can you keep customers coming back to your site?

The answer is with a great customer experience. It is a surefire way to make your site stand out from the crowd. And you can use insights gleaned from the holiday period to help you create it.

The Black Friday and Christmas sales provide you with a lot of data about your customers’ shopping experiences that you can carefully analyze. Understand what piques their interest, and what makes them drop out. Look for opportunities you can leverage, and issues that must be addressed, in order to make your site better and more customer-centric than ever. Next season, you’ll be starting from a position of strength.

GET TO THE BOTTOM OF VOC FEEDBACK

VoC feedback that covers malfunctions such as broken links and site issues can be quickly addressed, even during peak shopping times. But the truly critical feedback (“Worst X ever!” or “It was impossible to do Y on your site!”) is much harder to come by – and much more important. These types of complaints indicate significant issues that customers may not be able to put their fingers on, but which seriously degrade their overall experience.

So how can you find out what leads to serious but non-specific VoC complaints, which indicate powerful dissatisfaction with your customer experience at large?

After the holiday pressure has passed, take some time to dig into the customer journeys that triggered this hyper-frustrated feedback. Replay recorded sessions that preceded the feedback. Create aggregate heatmaps for customers who left similar messages to reveal common underlying issues. You can make the most of the feedback you gather with sophisticated customer experience analyses that pinpoint exactly what customers experienced that pushed them away.

Learn more about Clicktale's Voice of Customer Analytics.

MAKING SENSE OF THE CROSS-PLATFORM JOURNEY

Improvements in the m-commerce customer experience have triggered huge shifts in the customer journey. In an estimated 40% of all online purchases, customers use multiple devices to visit the same retailer before purchasing, with final purchases divided almost evenly across smartphones, desktops and tablets. During the holiday season customers find themselves more pressed for time than usual, which may make this trend even more notable.

If you follow visits only and not customers, too, your conclusions about conversions are likely to be incorrect. In fact, 28% of the time customers make the purchase decision on a different device than they use to complete the purchase.

But how can you tell if a customer has abandoned your funnel, or has simply continued his conversion on another device? Once the busy holiday season is over, go deep into your customer experience data to better understand the role each platform plays in your customer journeys, and how the journey differs across customer segments. To help make the cross-platform journey seamless – and provide the richest data — you could make sign-in a priority, consider adding a wish list, and/or extend the time that shopping carts are retained.

This is only a part of the larger task of understanding the entire buyer journey. You should distinguish between stages where customers develop their interest, gather information, explore options, and make a purchase decision. Your holiday data should give you a snapshot of this journey, which you can analyze and use to optimize and increase conversions for the year to come.


ARE YOUR LANDING PAGES LANDING BUSINESS?

Holiday promotions data can also be leveraged to learn more about creating effective landing pages.

Do many visitors leave your landing pages within seconds of arriving? These hard bounces may indicate technical problems with the page, or simply a glaring mismatch between the promotional message and the message conveyed on the page. Misleading promotions alienate customers and lead to poor response.

If a user lingers on a landing page for more than a few seconds before clicking away, this means they are generally engaged to a significant extent. These “soft bounces” indicate that the customer intended to follow up on the promotion but did not find what he or she wanted. Learn more about hard bounces, soft bounces and how to fix them in our bounce rates article.

During the holiday season, retailers tend to see more landing page bounces overall. In order to increase the number of leads who enter your funnel, you should harness these holiday bounces to optimize future landing pages. Clicktale heatmaps and session replays can help you analyze these bounces to pinpoint both technical and content-related landing page issues, and steer away from them in the future.

Compare or Complement?

What influences conversion success once a product has piqued a customer’s interest? Do they browse similar products on your site to find one they prefer? Or do they seek complementary items to round out the purchase? Or perhaps the page goes quiet while they comparison shop on other sites?

Your data from the holiday season can inform you about the interactions with these items, allowing you to segment customers based on behavior. Identify behaviors associated with individual products or product categories. Know when and where to feature complimentary items, and which pages should show alternatives in the same category. Using this type of content personalization technique should be a fundamental part of your digital strategy.

For specific items, if more customers than expected open a new browser window and never return, this could actually mean you should check competitor offers to make sure yours are in line.


Don’t Let a Poor Customer Experience Depress Holiday Sales

While gathering customer experience data for planning is great, during the holiday season no retailer can afford to ignore usability issues that alienate visitors. Frustrating experiences might cause them to leave money on the table.

Just as critical as keeping an eye on site performance, you need to monitor customer experience during the holiday season. For instance:

  • Changes in engagement time per page might indicate that customers are finding it difficult to complete tasks.
  • A sharp increase in clicks per CTA that does not contribute to conversions is likely to be due to repeated attempts to click a link that does not work.
  • Low scroll reach shows that visitors are finding page content irrelevant or uninteresting.
  • Abandoned purchases could imply that the journey is too distracting, and that you need to focus on noise reduction. Users favor cleaner, simpler interfaces, so you should aid their shopping experience by removing any unnecessary elements.

A quick, low-risk fix can enhance the customer experience, increase conversions and boost sales.


Conclusion

Due to high customer traffic and greater purchase intent, the holiday period is an ideal laboratory for gathering rich data on the customer experience – data that can guide you for the year to come. This goes further than simply what is mentioned here; other customer experience learning methods include utilizing social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, plus email campaigns and abandoned cart follow-ups.

Contact Clicktale for a demo of how you can leverage data from this holiday season to optimize conversions throughout the year to come.

This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness

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