Written by Uri Strauss

How to hit record sales this holiday season: An interview with three acclaimed e-commerce leaders

This year has been full of twists and turns for the e-commerce industry, from massive layoffs to soaring inflation, rising ad costs, and supply chain woes. There’s also been a noticeable shift in shopper habits.

The ripple effects from these events have created direct implications for DTC retailers this holiday season.

We recently sat down with three global e-commerce experts – Alexis Bruning (Director of Content Strategy, Gorilla Group), Claudia Goncalves (E-commerce Director, DVF), and Frank Morales (Marketing Director, Perry Ellis) to get their insights on how retailers can hit record sales this holiday season, regardless of the unstable economy. 

Here are a few of the main takeaways retailers should keep in mind as they strategize to win this holiday season.

To listen to the entire conversation, scroll to the bottom of this post for the full recording.

What’s your biggest challenge for the holiday season?

For Alexis, a content exec for an e-commerce consulting firm, the biggest challenges she sees are related to – you guessed it – content. More specifically, how to take a proactive approach to creating content and how to keep messaging fresh.

AB: Content needs to be fresh and nimble to be able to break through the noise for holiday. Make sure messaging is really on point and think about what you want to focus on for your holiday campaigns – is it price, gift with purchase, promotion, seasonality, or something else? 

Another thing people often overlook during this season is to do a quick audit of how your content sits for the holiday season. Take the time now to do a sentiment analysis, analyze ratings and reviews, and clean up your messaging so it’s clear and straightforward.

For Claudia, an e-commerce leader at a legacy women’s fashion brand, the biggest challenge is around customer acquisition costs.

CG: CAC always increases in Q4, and the marketing has changed how our customers find us and how we talk to them. This has shifted conversion into being one of our most important KPIs. It’s important to look at site speed, optimize the experience, and especially make sure we’re creating a great experience for new and existing customers.

Additionally, make sure you really understand your customer behavior and path-to-purchase. No matter where or how your customers are finding you, understand and become an expert on the process. How can you make the experience as easy and as best possible for them?

For Frank, an e-commerce leader at a popular high-end menswear brand, the biggest challenge is how to tackle increasing expenses. 

FM: Take an extra close look at freight costs and increasing expenses to keep your bottom line in check. Leverage BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) or BOPA (buy online, pick up anywhere) strategies to offload some of that financial burden.

What is your strategic advice when approaching the 2022 holiday season this year?

This topic has Alexis doubling down on her advice to be nimble, proactive, and keep the bigger picture in mind.

AB: My recommendation is to get your house in order as in advance as possible. You’ll have more eyes on your site now than in other times of the year, and content that’s ready and optimized is going to help customers convert and build loyalty. Retailers like Target, Walmart, and Amazon are starting promotions much earlier and spreading them out later, so consider how you’ll stay the course long term – make sure you’re in a good stock position and have a plan B in case of out-of-stocks. Be able to pivot and think about where you can make substitutes as things ebb and flow. 

Being flexible will help you gain in the long run – holiday is going to end and all of a sudden you’ll need to ramp up for January with fresh content that isn’t driven by holiday storytelling or seasonal promotions.

Frank is encouraging retailers to execute on the current season and proactively plan for future ones. 

FM: At this point you’ve already planned and prepped – it’s time to execute. Audit your flows, follow the user journey across devices and channels, and look at behavioral triggers and see if you need to make any adjustments. 

I’d also consider starting a specific holiday customer cohort. As you go into Black Friday and Cyber Monday, separate those customers into their own segment to target during holiday for years to come. For a time-based cohort, you can take a look at what the merchandising strategy was and what drove those conversions. As you look out for the rest of the year, you can implement strategies to get that customer segment to come back and buy again.

What is your best advice to help retailers when they hear “recession”?

Claudia’s advice is all about understanding your customer and communicating to them in a way that will resonate.

CG: Coming out of COVID, consumers are very conscious of what they’re spending and how they’re spending it – during the pandemic, people felt a lot of fatigue and sensed retailers were out of touch. You need to message consumers in a way that shows you understand where they are and what they’re thinking. Often, retailers look at their stock and worry they bought too much so offer promotions, but this can also change customer behavior and lead to them expecting a markdown or promotion. It’s critical to understand how doing something today will impact you in the next couple of weeks.

Frank’s advice centers around not only understanding your customer, but also preparing for shifts in their shopping behavior.

FM: We’re seeing a trade-down effect from customers. For example, in alcohol and spirits, buyers who liked to have imported beers are trading down to domestic beers, and from there are trading down to a more price-conscious domestic beer. Be aware of the shifts in consumer behavior, prepare for budget cuts, and think about how to be scrappy with what you have so you can still improve your bottom line.

How do you make sure your user journey is optimal & frictionless?

Alexis takes a very practical approach here. Her advice to retailers:

AB: E-commerce is fluid, so optimize what you can in real time. Remember e-commerce is a funnel. Your shoppers are coming in at different phases of the journey, so be ready to meet them where they’re finding you. Provide them with content that will convert them wherever they are. For holiday, make it as easy as possible for your customers to find and learn about you by preparing assets and search terms for holiday messaging to be as optimized as possible.

Claudia is all about doubling down on surfacing and fixing errors to eliminate as much friction as she can. 

CG: Study your 404 pages, search terms, collection pages with high exit and bounce rate, and any other pages on your site to truly understand those KPIs so that before and during the holiday period you can fix any issues. We’re experts on our product but we shouldn’t expect our customers to be. For example, in fashion, we call sweater dresses ‘knits’ but after doing some research, we realized our customers were searching for ‘sweater dresses.’ So, we utilized the data available and updated and optimized the copy to reach the customer more effectively.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, implementing successful strategies comes down to understanding and effectively tracking your customer’s journey. By uncovering and fixing any site issues, you’ll be able to immediately fix your leaky funnel and have a direct impact on growing revenue to hit record sales this holiday season.

At Webeyez, we shed light on every step of the customer journey and surface points of hidden friction. This illumination gives retail leaders the ability to instantly identify and fix the issues leading to abandoned carts, lack of conversions, and revenue loss. Learn more about how Webeyez has helped retailers like DVF, EQ3, Taos Footwear, and EZcontacts recover millions in lost revenue and see a 10x increase in their ROI.