Retailers should prepare to provide an optimal digital experience at every customer touchpoint, from landing page to checkout, if they want to take full advantage of the expected growth in ecommerce this year.

Sanjay Sarathy

Sanjay Sarathy, vice president of marketing at Cloudinary

Without question, this year’s holiday season will be unlike anything we’ve seen before—with many optimistic that shoppers will be looking for it to serve as a bright end to an otherwise difficult year. What’s more, Amazon delayed its Prime Day event until the fourth quarter of 2020, potentially making it the earliest ever “official” start to a holiday shopping season.

Many major retailers like Target, Walmart and Best Buy have already announced their stores will be closed on Thanksgiving. Macy’s CEO announced that it would be pivoting its Black Friday business more toward its online channel.

 

Like the spring and early summer months, when ecommerce activity was up more than 30%, online shopping between now and Christmas will account for most purchases even as more stores open for business. A survey by Radial found that 60% of consumers plan to shop less in stores this season due to fear of COVID-19 exposure, and 88% of U.S. consumers polled by Criteo plan to continue to shop for gifts online and have them sent directly to recipients.

Retailers should prepare to provide an optimal digital experience at every customer touchpoint, from landing page to checkout, if they want to take full advantage of the expected growth in ecommerce this year. Here are a few relatively straightforward ideas that can have a massive impact on a retailer’s ability to connect with shoppers and increase sales during this year’s atypical holiday season.

Display fast-performing product views

A shift to ecommerce means retailers will need to be intentional about how they showcase their products online. Not only does the website need to make products easy to find, but it also needs to enable greater engagement with consumers so they can make an informed decision, especially when they can’t physically see and feel the product.

Technology plays a big role in making this happen, giving retailers the ability to add spinning 360-degree product views and effective zoom capabilities that replicate the physical experience. While 360-degree product views give consumers a chance to see the item from every angle virtually, high-quality zoom functionalities allow them to get up close to the most minute details, such as the texture of the fabric or the zipper function on a handbag.

And it’s not enough to deliver a rich, immersive experience. Visual assets must load quickly, or shoppers will leave the page. Retailers must find ways to automate the resizing of high-quality visual content to load rapidly on any device or browser.

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Optimize microbrowsers for the holidays

The season of gifts means it’s time to send loved ones a hint for that pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. Consumers are likely to turn to messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Slack, WhatsApp and WeChat to send links for their most-wished-for items to family and friends. This means indirect web traffic provides a huge opportunity for brands to leverage visual media at these increasingly important touchpoints to profit from the power of “dark social” peer referrals within microbrowsers—those private communications via mobile devices.

Retailers must ensure that the optimal visual experience is displayed across all chat and messaging apps when a link unfurls. Lack of an image or even a low-quality image can deter people from clicking the link. On the other hand, captivating visuals or videos will encourage loved ones to check out the product and add it to the cart—getting them one step closer to completing their holiday shopping list.  

By creating compelling, informative links with images, video and text information specifically for microbrowsers, retailers can increase the likelihood that peer-to-peer recommendations in groups convert into sales and leads. Going a step further, understanding microbrowser traffic and the actual origins of conversions can enable marketers to boost spend on “dark social” traffic, amplifying campaign engagement through these important peer referrals.

See significant gains with micro-video content

According to HubSpot, video has become the most commonly used format in content marketing, overtaking blogs and infographics. It’s for a good reason. According to Forrester’s Dr. James McQuivey, one minute of video is equivalent to 1.8 million words when it comes to swaying an audience.

One cannot overstate the impact of ecommerce video. That’s especially true for micro-video content–short. Five- to 20-second videos play a significant role in boosting engagement and conversions. A survey by Wyzowl reveals that 68% of respondents say that they learn about new products or services by watching short videos. It might seem trivial to add a video when high-quality images already showcase a product. Still, videos attract more views and give brands a medium to relay compelling messages and reveal small but critical advantages of a high-value product.

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Make video shoppable before the holiday rush

Videos perform best when they’re easy to find. It is best practice to display clips alongside a series of product images. This allows users to visit product detail pages and make a purchase with only a few clicks. By producing clickable videos that link visitors to the relevant pages, brands can bring products to life with an interactive and fun feature that converts.

And like all visual content, shoppable videos should be responsive. They should always expand to fill the width of the screen while maintaining their original aspect ratios. Marketers should ensure that videos adjust to both portrait and landscape mode and avoid static sizing that can break page layouts, distort the image, or display black bars around the video.

‘Tis the season for an interactive online experience

There are many unknowns this holiday season, but what we do know is that building an engaging ecommerce site now will bring invaluable wins during this challenging peak shopping season. By focusing on these essential engagement tools, retailers have an opportunity to expand their online consumer base this year and continue to serve interactive experiences that sell – prepared for a season that’s still merry and bright.    

Cloudinary provides a cloud-based image and video management software for the web.

 

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