The 2021 holiday shopping season is unpredictable for both shoppers and merchants. Supply chain interruptions and likely shipping delays have prompted many consumers to wrap up gift-buying earlier than usual.
According to Quantum Metric, a provider of optimization tools, 64% of this year’s shoppers are more emotionally invested in the gift-buying process, hunting for presents that represent personal ties with the recipient. This alone can produce stress, making accurate guidance more critical than ever.
As always, value remains the key factor for most shoppers. But availability and delivery are top concerns, too. Online retailers must be transparent about what’s in stock, how quickly orders are processed, and how they’re shipped. The goal is to curb unnecessary surprises wherever possible.
Here are seven simple ways online stores can address shopper worries.
Addressing Shopper Concerns
Display accurate inventory counts and expected restocks. Avoid purchase hesitation by telling shoppers what’s available and what isn’t. For back-ordered items, be realistic about restock dates, especially if you accept pre-orders. Don’t rely on expected arrival times provided by manufacturers. Consider potential delays and don’t make promises.
Offer worthy alternatives to out-of-stock and low-stock products. The lower an item’s inventory, the more likely it could be oversold. One way to convert shoppers when popular items are selling out is to recommend similar alternatives, including ones in different sizes and colors.
Showcase staff picks with personal stories. Whether on the website or social media, recommendations from employees remind shoppers their purchases support real families. And a staff member’s suggestions can create a connection between the shopper and the brand, easing concerns about choosing a gift for a loved one.
Disclose shipping carriers and expected delivery timelines. “Standard shipping” is typically the least expensive method, but transit times can vary greatly in certain areas. Moreover, some shoppers prefer one carrier over another. Be upfront about the carrier and method you’ll use for generic shipping options. And if you use more than one carrier, consider giving the buyer the option to choose.
Be transparent about production times. Be candid about delivery dates for made-to-order items. Display estimated timeframes — from order placement to out-the-door. A few days make a big difference.
Keep buyers informed along the way. Frustration stems from simply not knowing what’s going on. Use email (or SMS, if enabled) to advise customers of changes in order statuses. When providing tracking numbers, remind customers that statuses may not be reflected by the carrier immediately, and explain how they can follow packages in transit. For example, UPS sometimes requires clicking a tab to see the last location where the package was scanned.
Play Santa: help shoppers find what they need. When shoppers inquire about an item that’s out-of-stock through the holidays, listen. If it’s clear the consumer wants only that product, recommend a reputable competitor. It won’t close the immediate sale, but it earns the shopper’s trust. Most people remember who was helpful, especially during stressful times.
Not all stores have the time or resources to implement all these steps. Nonetheless, focus on addressing shoppers’ often unspoken concerns. A message at checkout about estimated order fulfillment and shipping times can also go a long way in building loyalty.
Brands stand to gain or lose a great deal this holiday season. But losses are reduced by being transparent about potential pitfalls and helping customers through the process. Never underestimate the impact of honest messaging.