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Friday, Dec. 17, 2010 at 11:54 am

Delight Customers: Pre-empt Holiday Ordering Questions

By Marijayne Bushey
December 17th, 2010

You may not be conscious of this, but the holidays produce a timed-sale effect for almost all e-commerce websites, and even some lead-gen sites selling/promoting products or services.  The approach of the holiday acts like the same kind of purchasing deadline that a timed sale has.  It pushes people toward a later stage of buying more quickly, forcing them to dig for answers to their early and middle stage questions and concerns, and make a decision before the deadline arrives.

Another factor also means a greater portion of your visitors are likely late stage buyers at this time of year: people often put off buying a special something they really want in the hopes it will show up under the tree with a bow on it.  They may have started their research back in March, slowly come to a decision about the product they wanted and the vendor they wanted to purchase from, but now they’ve finally passed a link to your site along to Great Aunt Mary in the hopes of avoiding another knit sweater with snowflakes and tassels on it. And Great Aunt Mary knows no greater joy in life than finding just the right gift for someone special.

Too bad Great Aunt Mary isn’t very Internet savvy.  With all of her baking and knitting, she hasn’t stopped to think about just how close the Holiday is.  So when she finally got around to asking Susie, who stops in every day to check on her, to read her email, she was surprised to find that week-old note from Johnny about the special hunting knife he’s been shopping for all year.  It’s hard to believe that a click of a button will produce a gift at Johnny’s house on the other side of the country, especially when 2/3 of your life was under your belt before you even laid eyes on a computer.  But even Susie, who’s studying medical technology at college and deals with computers all the time, is wondering how long it takes to process and ship the order.  It’s not that either of them is really all that bad at math, but they have questions about just exactly what 3-day shipping means…

If I order today, is today included in the three days?

Is Christmas Eve included in the three days?

Are weekend days included in the three days?

Can I get away with ground shipping…. Or do I need to buck-up and overnight the knife?

Even conversion optimization analysts who spend most of their waking hours advising clients how to make a website better can face questions like these when they are under pressure to make sure there is a neatly wrapped package under the tree for someone special come the Holiday.  That’s why Melissa Burdon was pleasantly surprised when she received an email from a website with specific details and deadlines for ordering in time for Christmas.  Not only does the featured information of this email (deadlines for ordering) demonstrate an excellent customer focus by offering useful information that is often overlooked by companies and customers alike, but it also has the added benefit of making the marketing message (security is a great gift for a loved one) more subtle and genuine. The message here is all right (click image at right to enlarge)!  Best Stun Gun manages to hit all the most important highlights:

  • A direct subject line that clearly states the value contained within the email
  • A simple and cheery graphic that let’s you know this is Holiday-related information
  • Specific deadlines for ordering with different shipping options
  • Easily read map for the more complicated question of ground shipping
  • A subtle push for increasing Average Order Value ($145+ orders ship free via ground)
  • Contact info prominently displayed in the upper right-hand corner
  • Links to website, and some of their top products easily found at the top of the page
  • All in an email that provides another opportunity to subtly push their products

Can you think of other e-Commerce related issues that customers tend to struggle with or overlook entirely at the Holidays?  How can you beat potential customers to the punch and provide the details that delight them by pre-empting their questions, or addressing concerns they didn’t even know they should have?  Share your experiences and ideas with our readers.

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Comments (10)

  1. I think I’m like a lot of guys, in that I put off shopping (in-store or online) to the last minute, and as the deadline pressure increases, that concern of whether it will arrive on time becomes very important. So I think it’s great that you point that out here, and the example email is great as well. Definitely some important things to keep in mind.

  2. I’d say have an open i frame of FAQ on the product page

  3. I think it is important for e-Commerce to let the customer know the exchange policy in case the person who receives the gift needs to exchange it. This is particularly important for sites that sell clothes.

  4. Factors that make people want to buy the review of previously purchased.

  5. I am absolutely agree with Tactical SEM! It is very important to have FAQ regarding this issue!

  6. I am but delighted with your post! So thorough and thoughtful: one can see it is written from a personal experience. Nice touch including Gmail screen-shots! If I am however allowed to nitpick, I just always wish there were a little extra information for us, international buyers. We are usually left in the dark and have to rely on our peers’ past experience!

  7. Yes, I think that the client has the right to know the price Marketer
    Thank you, Madam

  8. It’s rather unfortunate that we already sent our holiday e-mail blast.

    But I will certainly suggest this to the one in-charge of our e-mail marketing.

    But what if you have no control over the delivery service like UPS?

  9. What is really key is the dates for ordering as you say. So doing shipping research beforehand is very crucial. When customers see those dates, it triggers a combination of that feeling of possible missed opportunity, and a desire to avoid of that last minute holiday frenzy. No one wants to be waiting in the line in their local drugstore to get a stuffed animal at the last second. That is, unless they intended to buy a stuffed animal all along :)

  10. For me, it’s still best to shop earlier. It would not make us just buy anything just to have something to give as a gift to someone. Some online shops go “on sale” early..

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Mj has been proselytizing the merits of customer-centric, data-driven, continuous Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) for FutureNow since 2007.

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