Succeeding in the New Face-to-Face: A Guide to Preparing Your Digital Storefront for Peak Season

September 21, 2020

By: Corey Gelato,
Author Title: 
Commerce Strategy Consultant
digital-storefront

(This is part 1 of our series on “Preparing Your Site for Peak Season.” If you haven’t already read “The Four P’s of Peak Performance: A Guide to Preparing Your Infrastructure,” we recommend reading that post first.)

Amid the global pandemic, the importance of your customers’ experience with your digital storefront has grown exponentially. The opportunity to make a connection, to resolve a question, or to respond to an inquiry from a potential customer is now easier than ever in the digital space. Businesses that are not prepared to meet and exceed these new expectations will lose potential sales.

Businesses poised for a successful customer experience during peak season utilize some or all of the following common best practices, many of which customers now expect to find within all high-quality digital storefronts.

Merchandising

Facilitate Browsing with Category Landing Pages

Building pathways for discovery that customers can use to “browse” digitally is a way that online merchants can improve the shopping experience with little technical or development investment. Very often customers will navigate to your site with an idea of a person, an experience, or another expectation of what they will find. A category landing page groups your merchandise in a way that is conducive to browsing related items and can help customers to explore options they might not have considered to meet their shopping needs. Category landing pages can be focused on something narrow, such as socks, bikes, baking products, etc., but don’t be afraid to create conceptual landing pages, as well. For example, a category focused on “camping” that brings in outerwear, sleeping bags, small-batch ground coffee, and other loosely related items can help a shopper define a more complete view of their options. And don’t forget: Page Builder in Magento Commerce is a fast and easy way to build those pages quickly.

Be Relatable

Use product recommendation tools, which can automate the process of recommending items similar to the ones your customers are currently viewing. This is a powerful option that has been shown to drive sales. There are several extensions you can use in your Magento store to help relate products based on customer purchases, and you can also use Magento’s in-product product relation tools, as well.

Site Content

Make Home a Welcoming Place

Your home page will continue to be an important point with which to make a first impression for customers, just as it has in the past. But in addition to the work of ensuring that your most popular categories and products are featured along with your latest sale or promotion, in the current environment it’s also critical to post fast links to key questions. A great home page positioned to bring in first-time digital buyers will prominently share a simple, one sentence description of your shipping and return policies (with a link to more details), as well as information on in-store pickup, if you’ve made that option available.

Be Where Your Customers Want to Land

Spend time researching and analyzing the most common landing pages your customers visit based on search engines and referrers. While your home page will be high on this list, identify the top 10 pages customers arrive at when first visiting to your site. Just like your home page, content on these pages should be optimized as much as possible to share similar information on shipping, returns, and sales to engage customers. Spend a moment ensuring that content on these pages, such as descriptions, color options, customization, and images, are all consistent and up-to-date. And it doesn’t hurt to look under the hood to be sure these pages are optimized for traffic, as well.

Don’t Slip When It’s Time to Ship

Customers don’t want to be surprised when it comes time to complete their purchase about the price, timing, or options for shipping. This doesn’t mean you need to offer free shipping in order to compete (though it always helps, where possible, for your business to offer this perk). Instead, make sure that while considering a purchase, your customers have access to simple information on the price of shipping, options available, and clear expectations for delivery timing.

Engagement

Make Sure You’re Searchable

There are several sitewide search tools available to merchants, though we recommend Elasticsearch as the default option for Magento sites. Whatever tool you use for sitewide search should be tested to ensure it’s functioning as expected, returning solid results, and delivering customers to the correct product pages when used. Be sure to plan time to make sure this important feature is working as expected before peak season arrives.

Don’t Let Sign Up Be a Letdown

Encouraging customers to sign up for an account or to opt-in for a newsletter is a great choice during the checkout process. Rather than just asking customers to sign up or opt-in, include some context on the benefits of signing up for an account or newsletter. In the case of an account, detail how future shopping will be enhanced via order recall, faster returns, loyalty program eligibility, and/or easier checkout; for newsletters, offer information on whether discounts or coupons will be offered in the newsletter. And, of course, be sure that your sign-ups utilize the reCAPTCHA tool for security.

Be Chatty with Your Customers

In an era where you cannot be personally face-to-face with customers in order to answer questions or provide information on store policies, having a live chat feature in place is a helpful pathway to fast communications with your customers. A number of extensions are available in the Magento Marketplace, and Magento 2.3.4 & above provides live chat as an option (powered by dotdigital). When selecting the right tool for your digital storefront, consider whether you need preformatted answers, how you prefer the administrative interface to work, and how it might integrate with other extensions on your site.

Payment Options

Think Outside the Credit Card

As important as credit cards are to the online shopping process, it has never been easier to accommodate the many ways in which customers shop online – many of which can speed up customer checkout and may reduce cart abandonment. Be sure to explore options to integrate PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and the full spectrum of products offered in the Magento Marketplace today to enhance the options available to your customers.

Don’t Be Afraid of Deferral

In difficult economic times, deferred and structured payment systems can help convert customers who might need some assistance in completing their transactions. You can find extensions (such as Klarna) that deploy these options to customers during the checkout process, making these an easy option you can add to your site experience.

One Step to Success

Tools that help your customers accelerate the sales process are a key means of avoiding abandoned carts. One Page Checkout is one of the most powerful tools you can add to your site, native to Magento and shown to drive conversions. Instant Purchase is another functionality that can improve both the customer experience and your sales. There are many more extensions that can simplify, streamline, and slim the checkout experience available at the Magento Marketplace.

(Looking for more content on preparing your site for your Peak Season? Check out part 3 of our Peak Performance Planning series coming in the coming weeks.)