Holiday shopping season used to start with the craziness of Black Friday at predictably crowded shopping malls, and often led to altercations over the season’s most wanted gifts. Today, the decline of brick-and-mortar stores means the holiday rush is increasingly played out online.
Black Friday has morphed to become Black November as retailers try to lure consumers with the best deals, and email inboxes are crammed with holiday offers well before Thanksgiving. UPS, FedEx and Amazon Prime trucks make frequent visits in every neighborhood and the battle for brands to ‘win’ the holiday season largely takes place in cyberspace.
Online holiday shoppers are predicted to spend $143.7 billion in November and December, a 14% increase from 2018, which generated $126 billion in sales. The holiday season is a huge part of the overall booming ecommerce market, which eMarketer reports will rise 20.7% this year to $3.5 trillion. By 2021, the market will approach $5 trillion. Virtually every type of business enjoys the benefits. Internet behemoths like Amazon, retail specialists, and even mom-and-pop shops have all found a way to market goods to large online audiences.
Many ecommerce businesses who are doing the right things to take advantage of brisk holiday shopping, however, are still making mistakes. A big missing piece is content: While retailers take measures to ensure inventory is well-stocked and have extra warehouse help for the holidays, they often shortchange themselves and overlook one of the best ways to reach potential customers—content.
Taking photos and item descriptions directly from a manufacturer and using them for product descriptions might seem like an easy solution. But, when other ecommerce companies use the same information, much of it dated or inaccurate, you lose a powerful way to attract fickle holiday customers and your SEO pays the price as well.
Here are three of the biggest mistakes ecommerce companies make entering the holiday season and what can be done to fix them.
Mistake 1: Overlooking The Upsides Of Automation
Some ecommerce companies are still reluctant to embrace AI or automation—even though it’s essential to stay competitive. The benefits of automation are clear, among them the ability to quickly handle customer help desk tickets and rapidly direct shoppers to items they find compelling enough to purchase. Still, the companies that have embraced automation are usually the ones with a profitable business.
Ecommerce companies must automate if they want to stay ahead, even if they are essentially starting out as a small business. One of the more useful automation tools in ecommerce is content-generation software. The market is rapidly expanding, with companies including Arria, Narrative Science, Yseop, Automated Insights, and my company, AX Semantics, as well as others competing for a piece of the pie.
The field has even sparked the attention of analysts, with Forrester providing an overview of the natural language generation market and Gartner offering a market guide for natural language platforms.
While AI is a part of it, content generation interest in the space is more solid business sense than flash: Content-generating software fills a crucial need facing almost all online vendors. It’s a good first step to consider if you are looking to automate, especially as you will need to tell customers about your holiday deals and rapidly add more products and inventory (see below).
Mistake 2: Inaccurate Online Catalogs and Item Descriptions
Returns are the bane of ecommerce companies, especially around Christmas. Overall, returns will cost $550 billion by 2020, 75.2% more than four years earlier. A big reason for these returns is inaccurate or misleading online product descriptions. The good news is that emerging technology means companies no longer need to hire countless writers to make sure the hot seasonal tech gadget is described correctly.
Content automation tools allow online retailers to input data and generate virtually infinite types of content: catalogs, product descriptions, stories, and much more. Here’s how it works: Users input data and then configure the software to meet a specific type of structure (for example, a description of Santa Claus or, if you wish, ugly Christmas sweaters). The software works from structured data like an Excel file with line-by-line data descriptions of details including product, manufacturer, price, color, and other specifications to generate text.
Accurate and unique product descriptions are also crucial for improving SEO. If you have stale or redundant copy describing products your search rankings will plummet, costing you customers and revenue. Unique content and product descriptions equal improved SEO; the fashion company MyTheresa increased its SEO rank by 20 positions within six months of using content-generation software. More visibility in search means more holiday customers.
Mistake 3: Subpar Marketing
The holiday season is one of the few times during the year when many shoppers are happy to hear from internet merchants, particularly if retailers offer special items or entice shoppers with holiday offers. Holiday marketing is another area where improved content via automation can help.
Content generation can ensure marketing materials sent to customers contain the most critical and updated product details, and segmented down to customers’ relevant interests by hyper-personalizing the content—the details human miss when looking at hundreds of product descriptions and product catalogs all day. The software can also easily update necessary information relevant to the holiday season like special rates and packages.
The end result for companies that take these simple steps will be a streamlined workforce where people and machines will work together to ensure a robust holiday season—and achieving or exceeding their annual holiday revenue goals – making Holiday 2019 the merriest time of the year for brands.
AX Semantics provides content-generation software.