For retailers, both online and off, the holiday season truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Gift purchases, eager buyers, and the promise of deals offer a commercial cocktail no one should sneeze at. But while dressing the window display for your holiday of choice can help curry the favor of pedestrians, few know how powerful a website makeover can be.
Your website is your digital storefront, your design the product display, and your graphics the smiling faces of helpful salespeople. If you find that your sales are lagging behind expectations, it may be time to consider a change. With a little know-how, you can drastically improve your brand perception, usability, and bottom line this holiday season; certainly cause for some holiday cheer.
Web Design and Brand Perception
The impact of an aesthetically pleasing, functional website on customer perception is no snake oil. The marketing community, backed by copious research, has shown that your online establishment can work wonders in improving customer sentiment toward your organization. Even if you do not have an image problem, increasing favorability among consumers is never a bad idea.
According to research, two factors greatly affect customer sentiment in the web environment. The first is “communicability”, or the capability of the website’s content to affect perception. This means that text and video content on your website can greatly influence buyer perception. Try including promotional materials that tap into the sentiment of the season and see your perception grow. The second was “classic aesthetics”, meaning elements of order, balance, and clarity. By considering the design of your website and improving its layout and general appearance, you can expect a large jump in brand favorability.
But buyers aren’t just interested in pretty pictures and smiling faces. By adapting your design to be more usable, studies have shown that the return is an increase in positive feelings toward your brand. By creating an efficient experience in all aspects of customer interaction, from product browsing to checkout, you can guide stressed out shoppers and build a reputation for your organization. It is crucial to keep in mind that holiday shoppers are likely to be more high-strung than at any other time of year due to the tight schedules and traveling commitments. In this context, a clear, pleasing, and usable website is like a hot cup of cocoa.
The Power of Mobile
Increasingly powerful mobile devices are ushering in a new age of Internet commerce. The aforementioned, stressed-out consumer is actively looking for ways to facilitate their shopping in easier and more convenient ways. Studies have shown that 28% of online mobile product research results in some kind of customer interaction, be it phone call, visit, or purchase. Translation: if you do not currently have a mobile-friendly website, then you are missing out on a real opportunity to convert page views into sales.
Mobile activities that prompted customer action give us an idea of what should be included in a mobile site. In particular, directions, contact info, product catalogs, product information, and mobile offers show positive correlation with customer action. Consider creating a mobile site that features this kind of information at the very least. It is important to remember, however, that customers do not interact with mobile devices the same way that they do with desktop websites, and with mobile users spending as much as 32% of their time on their devices, these differences must be taken into account.
In general, it is best to implement a mobile specific solution that works with the user. Focus on formatting your page so that text, images, and navigation are larger and clearer, so that they can be quickly and efficiently used on touchscreen devices. At this point, however, do not concern yourself with mobile purchasing technology if you do not already possess such capabilities. The above study has demonstrated that the time investment and clumsiness of entering card information and making actual purchases on mobile devices are currently of sufficient frustration as to prevent a great deal of mobile commerce.
Decking the Halls
If a website redesign is not in the cards, don’t worry, you still have plenty of options. The pervasive spirit of joy that the holidays bring can be captured in “expressive” website aesthetics. Introduce thematic elements to your web page that highlight the spirit of the season and expect positive returns, both with shopping and brand perception. In this, it is important to be wary of customer alienation. The holidays present an opportunity to share cheer, but focusing too specifically on one denomination or another can create waves in an increasingly sensitive society.
However, understanding that the holiday is a succession of non-denominational celebrations can guide your efforts. Fall is a time of leaves and family. Winter is a time of snow and eggnog. Gift giving time is a season of fireplaces, wool scarves, and community. In each of these instances, your aesthetic choices can capture these sentiments and improve customer moods. Above all things, tap into the ideas of joy and sharing by incorporating warm settings in marketing materials and social networking buttons in consumer activities. These activities remain fundamental to the customer holiday shopping experience so don’t get left out in the cold.
Families and teacup poodles aren’t the only ones dawning holiday regalia for the winter season. Websites can benefit greatly from a little decorating as well. Address any usability issues on your site and streamline the shopping experience for stressed out shoppers. Improve brand perception and encourage customer activity by going mobile. Finally, tap into the sentiments of the season with marketing materials and site aesthetics. The spirit of generosity fuels the season of gift giving, so be generous to your customers and enjoy the reciprocation.