Succeeding in the New Face-to-Face: A Guide to Preparing Your Digital Storefront for Peak Season
(This is part 2 of our series on “Preparing Your Site for Peak Season.” If you haven’t already read “The Five Ps of Peak Season Performance: A Guide to Preparing Your Infrastructure for High Traffic,” we recommend reading that post first.)
Shoppers have experienced tremendous change over the past two years—and even the past two months. While pandemic-related restrictions continue to ebb and flow, your digital storefront remains a welcome constant where customers can always go to buy and browse. They expect a consistent, frictionless experience that makes it easy to find what they need and to resolve common issues with just a few clicks. If you’re not prepared to meet and exceed this baseline, you will lose potential sales.
Businesses poised for a successful customer experience during peak season rely on some or all of the following common best practices, many of which customers now expect all high-quality digital storefronts to follow.
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. Customers often navigate to your site with an idea of a person, an experience, or another expectation of what they will find. You can help them meet these expectations and also to discover something new. A category landing page groups your merchandise so that customers can browse for related items and explore options they might not have considered.
Category landing pages can be focused on something narrow, such as socks, bikes, or baking products, 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 capture a more complete view of their options. And don’t forget: Page Builder in Adobe Commerce is a fast and easy way to build those pages quickly.
Product recommendations can help customers make new discoveries as well as locate the products that most closely fit their needs. Recommendations have also been proven to drive sales. An AI-powered product recommendation engine is a core part of the Adobe Commerce platform. It uses Adobe Sensei, a proven machine learning algorithm, to analyze shopper behavior and make relevant recommendations within seconds. Additionally, the engine continually learns as it collects more and more shopping data so that recommendations get more accurate over time.
You can also use Page Builder to easily add a variety of product recommendations—such as also viewed, also bought, best-selling, and so on— to virtually any page in your web store. If you don’t currently include product recommendations as part of your shopping experience, we suggest adding and testing them before peak season.
Also, you don’t have to use the native product recommendations in Adobe Commerce. You can also connect the platform to your own, homegrown model or use one of the many third-party solutions available in Adobe’s Magento Marketplace.
Make Home a Welcoming Place
Your home page continues to be an important place to make a great first impression, just as it has in the past. 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 quick links to answer key questions. A great home page positioned to bring in first-time digital buyers should also prominently display a simple, one sentence description of your shipping and return policies (with a link to more details), as well as information on curbside or in-store pickup if you’ve made these options available.
In addition to making it easy for visitors to find important information, you should eliminate friction wherever you want them to take action. Calls to action—such as see products on sale, find a store, and so on—should be prominent, engaging, and clickable.
Be Where Your Customers Want to Land
Spend time researching and analyzing the most common landing pages that your customers visit based on search engines and referrers. While your home page is high on this list, identify the top 10 pages customers arrive at when first visiting your site. Just like on your home page, optimize content on these pages as much as possible to engage customers, sharing similar information on shipping, returns, and sales. Spend a moment verifying 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.
When you conduct this analysis, look at current trends and trends from past years. Notably, we recommend that you look at how your site performed during the same period in previous years. And as mentioned above, identify your most popular pages and those that drove the highest conversion rates.
Don’t Slip When It’s Time to Ship
When it comes time to complete their purchase , customers don’t want to be surprised about the price, timing, or options for shipping. Clearly communicate shipping expectations throughout the customer journey and prominently display shipping information on product detail pages. At a minimum, customers should see information on shopping options, prices, and delivery timing. They should also see opportunities for in-store and curbside pickup, both of which are supported in Adobe Commerce version 2.4+
Also, it won’t hurt your sales to have a free option for shipping—this kind of promotion has proven successful for ecommerce businesses in virtually every industry.
Make Sure You’re Searchable
Adobe Commerce now offers Live Search, a native search capability that delivers lightning fast, hyper-relevant results. Powered by Adobe Sensei, it uses artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms to perform a deep analysis of aggregated visitor data. This data, when combined with your Adobe Commerce catalog, results in highly engaging, relevant, and personalized shopping experiences. If your site isn't using Live Search yet, we suggest adding and testing it before peak season.
Don’t Let Sign-Up Be a Letdown
One of the main reasons shoppers abandon orders or fail to convert is a requirement to sign up for an account before they buy. If you don’t already offer a guest checkout option, we strongly suggest setting one up before peak season. Guest checkout has proven to increase conversions.
Of course, once a guest option is in place, persuading (not forcing) customers to sign up for an account or to opt-in to a newsletter during the checkout process can be a great choice. Rather than just asking customers to sign up or opt-in, include some context about the benefits of signing up for an account or newsletter. In the case of an account, detail how signing up enhances future shopping via order recall, faster returns, loyalty program eligibility, and easier checkout. If you don’t already have a loyalty program in place, you can build one quickly with native features in Adobe Commerce.
For newsletters, let customers know whether the newsletter includes discounts or coupons. And, of course, be sure that your sign-ups uses the reCAPTCHA tool for security.
Another way to encourage customers to sign up for an account is to let them create one with their social media credentials. You can find a wide variety of social integration extensions on Adobe’s Magento Marketplace.
Be Chatty with Your Customers
In an era where you cannot personally connect to customers face-to-face to answer questions or provide information about store policies, providing a live chat feature offers an effective alternative for personalized, quick communication with customers. 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.
A number of extensions are available in Adobe’s Magento Marketplace. Also, Adobe Commerce 2.3.4+ offers Live Chat powered by dotdigital.
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 that customers pay online – offering multiple payment methods can speed up customer checkout and reduce cart abandonment. Be sure to explore integration options for PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and the full spectrum of products offered in Adobe’s Magento Marketplace to enhance the payment methods available to your customers. Learn more about setting up payments in Adobe Commerce.
Don’t Be Afraid of Deferral
In difficult economic times, deferred and structured payment systems can help convert customers who might need some assistance to complete transactions. You can find extensions such as Klarna and PayPal Credit that offer deferred payment options to customers during the checkout process, making it easy to add these flexible payment methods and improve your site experience.
One Step to Success
Tools that help customers accelerate the sales process are key to reducing abandoned carts. For example, you can add One Page Checkout, which is native to Adobe commerce and a powerful sales tools shown to drive conversion. Adding Instant Purchase can also improve both the customer experience and your sales. You can find many more extensions to optimize the checkout experience in Adobe’s 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.)