How did your business do in the holiday shopping rush this year? And even more importantly, how much better could you do?
Improving holiday revenues is at the heart of a great comparison piece by Rebekah Schelfout over at Search Engine Land. She gives us a glimpse at the day-by-day PPC conversion rates of several different retail businesses in the weeks leading up to Christmas—looking in particular at their shipping options right before the big day.
Any online business has to have a cutoff date for when they can ship items in time to deliver them by Christmas, but Rebekah shows that the exact cutoff date makes a big difference, both for the end of free shipping and for the end of Christmas shipping period. She also explores the impact of a third option, in-store pickup, where users place an order online and then swing by the nearest retail location to pick it up.
We strongly recommend you go and look at Rebekah’s full results, especially if you’re an online or online/offline retailer. But she offers three main takeaways that are worth summarizing:
- Extend your free or standard shipping period as close to Christmas as you can. Conversions tend to drop rapidly once this date passes.
- Advertise your deliver options, because they have a huge impact on customer behavior.
- If at all possible, offer a store pickup option. This dramatically increased last minute sales for all businesses that offered it.
An interesting note on store pickup: Rebekah couldn’t say how many of the online store pickup orders actually resulted in the customer showing up, paying, and getting their order. This stood out because we would expect that a customer would have to pay online in order to place a pickup order. Otherwise every no-show customer is a hit, both because of the lost sale and because store inventory is set aside for them instead of out on shelves to be sold.
It would be easy to implement a prepaid store pick-up. It would essentially be a shipping option at checkout, where the items are only set aside for you once you complete the order. Urgency could be created with a reminder that there’s no guarantee the items will be in stock if they aren’t pre-ordered online. It’s possible it would be just as popular, with a higher order completion rate.
Is Store Pickup Possible for Small Retailers?
Rebekah focused her store pickup language on chains with many stores nationwide. Obviously, that makes it easy for online customers to get to a nearby store and pick up their items. But what about small retailers who have only one or a few brick and mortar stores, while also selling online? Can they offer store pickup?
Not on the same scale, no. But it occurs to us that retailers with any brick and mortar stores obviously have a local presence—and store pickup might be a nice convenience for local customers who browse online. In other words, offer shipping to everyone everywhere, and store pickup to people in your local community. The trick to this would be clearly advertising the “shipping” options so that non-local customers don’t get misled. We’d love to see someone try it.
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