Three steps to a better 2010 holiday shopping season

By Meyar Sheik

(Special to the eTail Blog)

While there’s a little more optimism for the upcoming holiday shopping season than in recent years, 2010 will still not be a piece of cake. However, that doesn’t mean that retailers won’t be able to leverage the ever-growing demand by consumers to shop online in a manner that best suits their unique wants and needs, and reap profitable rewards as a result.

We as an industry still have much room to grow, and e-commerce conversion rates still hover below five percent; so companies need to do a better job of giving shoppers what they seek when they seek it. Here are three things that can still be done this fall to boost online holiday sales:

  • Automate product recommendation processes. One of the largest obstacles to personalizing the shopping experience for online visitors is the laborious manual tasks that have been typically associated with online merchandising. Companies should invest in systems that automate this trend and provide real-time, individualized profiling and targeting that deliver a unique experience to each individual. Software-as-a-Service platforms that offer this powerful combination allow for scalable automation and personalization while giving the merchandisers plenty of flexibility and control in defining the consumer and brand experience.
  • Focus on visitor’s current behavior. Instead of spending time reviewing demographic or classification information, marketers should focus on what users are currently surfing on their web site. This provides e-tailers with the most effective way to deliver targeted offers because consumers’ behaviors on sites are the most accurate representation of their interests and needs at that time, not the demographic information that they filled out months ago.

This strategy also enhances the web experience for the customer by not   requiring them to fill out annoying pop-up surveys or lengthy, intrusive online registration profiles, and thus further protecting consumer privacy.

  • Integrate multiple channels. With emphasis on current onsite and search behavior, established e-tailers should leverage this data to drive the customer experience thru transactional emails, mobile, call center, in-store and web applications.

This information can also be combined with other enterprise data to produce even broader predictive models of customer behavior. Doing so extends their benefits to off-line campaigns such as direct mail, media advertising and customer loyalty marketing campaigns.

The benefits of these practices can be immediate and can provide e-tailers double-digit increases in converted online visitors and direct revenue contributions. What’s more, the implementation time for such policies, practices and technologies can be done in a few short weeks, not months.  E-tailers still have time to optimize sales this holiday shopping season, but must act quickly to obtain more beneficial insight into their prospective client base while providing more relevant content to convert them into paying customers.

Meyar Sheik is the CEO and Co-founder of Certona, a personalization and revenue optimization provider for online and multi-channel retailers. Meyar is a seasoned software industry executive with 25 years of experience.