By Jennifer Shaheen.

OnlineSelling_Body.jpgAs the holiday shopping season draws ever nearer, it’s important for business owners to understand what today’s shoppers are looking for, both online and when they visit brick and mortar stores. While product and pricing remain important, these factors are only part of the equation: it’s a superior shopping experience that generates online sales. Here are some of the features that are attractive to today’s shoppers:

Make shopping fun
Pyramid Management Group, which operates one of the largest shopping mall groups in the country, has been aggressively adding entertainment-oriented businesses like indoor golf driving ranges and skydiving simulators to its offerings. They’ve found that people are spending more time and money in the mall as a result. This parallels what’s happening online, where brands that deliver the most entertaining experience via their website and social media are enjoying the best sales.

Don’t just sell, entertain
Lush is one of the fastest growing cosmetic retailers, with 956 stores worldwide. Much of the credit for the brand’s exponential rate of growth goes to the role storytelling plays in their digital marketing strategy. On the website, seasonal content, including both articles and videos, appears on the same page with related merchandise. Blog content appears throughout the customer’s shopping journey, ensuring that buyers have an opportunity to read or watch additional material in unexpected locations, such as a product detail page.

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Go the extra step Customers want to enjoy their shopping experience. This means they want to be excited about the items they buy. Food 52, an extremely popular cooking and entertainment website, generates retail excitement by presenting products with appealing recipes, care notes, and details about the cookware’s unique appeal. The cross-merchandising works the other way around as well: among the related links shown on a recipe page will be links to similar dishes and the cookware needed to start cooking right away.

Stay connected to the customer
In the customer’s mind, a purchase isn’t completed until they actually receive the products they’ve ordered online. Brandable mailers—which include shipping cartons, packaging materials and mailing supplies unique to a specific company—are becoming increasingly popular among smaller retailers who are looking for a way to distinguish themselves from Amazon and Walmart.com. Unboxing videos, created and shared by customers opening their packages, are so popular that they’re considered a YouTube institution; the trend has begun to spread to other social media platforms, including Instagram and Snapchat. With this in mind, it’s vital that the online retailer ensures their fulfillment processes are as high-touch and satisfying as the experience provided in store.

Keep it fresh
Perhaps the most important aspect of an entertaining online shopping experience is that it’s continually fresh, with visitors finding new content on a regular basis. This ongoing need for new material has led retailers to experiment with various video angles, lighting effects, and other ways of presenting their products and content. It’s important to bear in mind that today’s customer is not looking for Madison Avenue-type merchandising every time they pick up their smartphone. Jill Byron, senior vice president of marketing for Mode Media recommends encouraging customers, professional creators and experts to communicate their love or need for your brand in their own words and style. Having authentic, appealing content appearing regularly is the most important thing retailers can do to create the essential online experience customers are looking for.

 

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