The State of Commerce
2022 has been a wild ride for most eCommerce retailers, COVID-19 restrictions have eased, then tightened up, then eased again. Every vertical has experienced supply chain and labour shortages and high rates of inflation have made for a year of quick pivots and agile thinking.
Coming into BFCM (Black Friday Cyber Monday) and the holiday season, these changing dynamics in the market will remain and Merchants must think strategically as to their goals and prepare as much as possible for the holiday rush. This year Merchants will shop with small businesses and independent retailers just as much as they did last year, according to Shopify During BFCM 2021, more than 47 million consumers globally purchased from independent and direct-to-consumer brands powered by Shopify.”
Keeping that potential for opportunity in mind, Merchants with unique needs must assess themselves and see where strategic improvements can be made. What exactly should Merchants be focusing on improving? And what are the key considerations and metrics that will ensure a smooth and profitable holiday season?
Let our panel of eCommerce experts break it down for you.
What are the top eCommerce BFCM trends for 2022?
Want expert guidance on how you should focus on improving to prepare your business for BFCM and the holiday season? We asked top eCommerce experts, industry leaders, and partners across the commerce ecosystem to share their advice for brands getting ready for a successful BFCM in 2022
Here are the most important considerations Merchants must look to when preparing for BFCM by eCommerce industry experts:
1. Quick and Easy Tune Ups
We think brands should focus on quick wins and easy tune-ups for their eCommerce sites rather than life-saving surgery.
1. Audit & upgrade your pop-ups.
2. Refine your product discovery.
3. Get your product copy pitch perfect. 4. Communicating delivery, returns & potential delays.
5. Make your campaign offering crystal clear because many won’t!
6. Leverage the natural urgency of Black Friday.
7. Unlock Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
For detailed action points and recommendations for each of the above suggestions, you can download our complete BFCM guide here
2. Deliver A Great Customer Experience
While you’re gearing up for BFCM, it’s crucial that you’re prepared to deliver a great customer experience all the way through the customer journey – and that includes not just the initial sales process, but also the post-purchase phase. Customer returns go up dramatically following the holiday shopping window:
Our research found that in the post-holiday window, returns escalate by an average of 31% compared to an average shopping period. As a merchant, it’s important that you’re ready to serve these customers by delivering a seamless and hassle-free returns process that encourages them to give your brand another shot.
Make sure that you’re set up with best-in-class returns management technology that gives customers the ability to self-service their return requests, and easily swap out items for a different size or color – or even exchange their product for any other item in your store. They should have the option to either self-mail the package, or to drop it at a nearby drop-off center if that’s what they prefer. By making it as easy as possible for customers to navigate the returns and exchange process, you can reduce the load on your CS team, optimize for more exchanges to retain more revenue, and most importantly, deliver a great customer experience that will encourage those customers to come back again and again.
3. Integrate Your Tech Stack
To prepare for BFCM and the holiday season in 2022, eCommerce brands should focus on having an integrated stack of technology to get the right product to the right customer as quick as possible.
With rising costs and prices, consumers are less forgiving of messy supply chains, and won’t hesitate to look elsewhere if they don’t have the faith that your company can deliver on its promises. You want to make sure that your eCommerce site and other marketplaces are seamlessly integrated with your back-end inventory and accounting ERP systems.
This means that orders are accurately tracked and managed from when the customer places them online, to when your warehouse staff pick, pack and ship the product, and helps get your product to your customers as soon as possible. With minimal to no human intervention, integrated workflows between your systems allow your customers to place and receive orders around the clock.
Another benefit to integrated systems is the ability to easily process returns. With fewer consumers shopping instore, it is imperative that you’re able to provide your customers with an easy and no hassle return policy, without losing money or wasting time on your end. Proper ERP software allows you to manage returns, triaging them to the appropriate department in your warehouse for resale or to take other actions. This builds trust and loyalty with your customer base, and means you’re not leaving money on the table with your inventory.
4. Make value for money at the heart of your operations
The latest findings from ShipStation’s Holiday shopping trends report—which compiled insights from over 8,000 consumers and more than 800 merchants around the globe—show that inflation and economic uncertainty are forcing consumers to cut back on spending. Yet merchants continue to have high expectations of increased revenue and order volume during the Holidays.
On the other side of the coin, more than a third of merchants are responding to tough economic times by increasing delivery costs and more than a quarter of merchants is planning to extend delivery timeframes. However, customers rate speed and cost as the two most important delivery factors for online shoppers. What all of that means is that businesses will have to put value for money at the heart of their proposition to attract customers. For merchants, saving on shipping costs with discounted carrier rates while delivering an excellent fulfillment and brand experience with efficiency is one of the most impactful strategies they can enact.
5. How to set up your shop for holiday success
Why the post-purchase journey is just as important as your splashy sale
Managing an online store during high season is no easy feat, especially with heightened customer expectations, competitors offering deep discounts and holiday shopping starting earlier and earlier every year.
When prepared, high season doesn’t only present merchants with an opportunity to provide a seamless returns experience but also to leverage returns as an engine for growth. That’s why we’ve put together the following checklist to help merchants provide the best possible customer experience, reduce support tickets for their team, and turn refunds into new sales to retain as much revenue as possible during the holidays and beyond.
- Automate your returns and exchange process: Reduce cost and labor with a partner like Returnly, turning returns into a positive customer touchpoint that keeps them coming back time and time again.
- Adjust your policy for the holidays: Consider ways you can offer increased flexibility throughout the holiday season. For example, Returnly merchants often extend their standard return window directly in their return portal to give shoppers and gift recipients more time to return or find something new.
- Proactively market easy returns and exchanges: Your returns policy is as much a marketing tool as a retail necessity. Be sure to surface key policy benefits like free return shipping throughout your site such as in the announcement bar, footer, and on product pages. Need a hand getting started? We’ve created a best practice guide to help you create a return policy that increases advantage over competitors, influences purchase decisions, along with a formula for offering free returns.
- Consider your omni-channel strategy: Today’s modern shopper expects to have choices when it comes to returns – both online and offline. Consider the different ways your customers may need to return as well as opportunities your team can leverage to guide returners to finding an alternative item, such as in-store.
- Active revenue retention tools: When a purchase doesn’t work out, a return doesn’t have to result in a refund. For example, merchants offering Returnly Credit provides customers with an instant store credit for the value of their return allowing them to shop again while their return is processed, converting refunds into new sales and generating 38% uplift on repurchases, on average.
- Leverage data to improve: More returns and exchanges during the holidays unlock invaluable insights directly from your customers. Ensure your team is set up to track customer feedback to better understand why certain items are being returned and drive improvements, resulting in higher lifetime value and less returns in the long run.
As big investments are made to drive Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, it’s important to remember the opportunity that comes along with returns. Finding ways to turn customers into loyalists with streamlined returns and exchanges is key in the race to success in a time when customer acquisition is especially costly. To maintain growth this holiday season, online retailers who focus on all aspects of the customer experience – including post-purchase – outpace their peers. Returnly is here to help.
Request a demo to learn more about how we’re helping merchants retain revenue, drive upsells and build customer loyalty.
6. Integrate with Scalability In Mind
Now is the time to think about seamless integration to operate at peak efficiency
To avoid major failures in your operations during high-volume sales periods, you must ensure you are sharing your data broadly throughout your organization. This will allow everyone on your team to have visibility on that data, allowing them to see holes or flaws in systems and processes before they happen.
Ensure you can share your data consistently in every application your business uses through scalable and elastic integrations. Your ERP, CRM, WMS, POS system, etc. need to be sharing the same up-to-date data on customers, inventory, products, etc through well-strategized integration processes customized with your business rules.
Ask your business these questions:
- Are you being held back by inadequate technology budgets?
- Has your lack of eCommerce strategy to grow at scale?
- Are you missing synchronization across key business touchpoints, offline and online?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it’s important to look at agile and scalable integration across your technology stack. Strategic consultation can help your business take a company-wide view of your operational integration strategy.
With VL OMNI, Merchants tell us their integration growth goals and we, in turn, spec out and technically go in-depth into their applications, data flow processes, and unique business rules to create a strategic, realistic integration action plan.