Is your website ready for Christmas?

Thomas Peham, below, VP of marketing at enterprise CMS Storyblok, explains how marketers can ensure their website is ready for action ahead of the festive build-up

Black Friday has now begun, signalling the start of the busiest time of year for the retail calendar. However, this year it’s expected to look a little more ‘blue’ as UK consumers grapple with high interest rates and a deepening cost-of-living crisis. In fact, experts predict spending will be minimised this year with festive shoppers buying fewer and cheaper items, and increasingly pivoting online to get the best deals.

While the continued migration to online shopping may come as good news for the ecommerce market it does place extra pressure on website performance. With the pennies pinched, consumers will not just want a great deal but a standout online experience too. More than ever it’s about hyper-personalisation and customer centricity, anticipating and addressing their individual needs, inspiring demand and providing products which are simple to purchase. Failure to do so and in today’s highly competitive market there’s a real risk of losing out to their last best online experience.

Yet, the reality is that some websites may not be up to the job. Indicative of this, our own research reveals that almost half (48%) of business leaders in the US and Europe admit that their website had recently embarrassed them in front of a key stakeholder or customer. The study of 6,000 consumers and 500 companies, also found that business leaders estimate poor website user experience costs $72,000 in lost sales per year. An equally sobering statistic is that 60% of consumers have abandoned purchases due to poor website experience – costing retailers billions each year.

Of course, with Black Friday, the traditional launchpad for the festive shopping spree, just around the corner, that’s not to ignite unnecessary panic for busy marketers. Rather, my advice is simply to take the time to cast a sharpened, more critical gaze at your online offering. The fact is that nearly every website can be improved and even making small incremental enhancements can have an outsized impact on conversions. Better still, thanks to the ease of integration and flexibility of modern martech solutions, there is still time to make changes.

To begin with, let’s consider some of the key reasons why your website might not be quite up to par. According to our study, 42% of consumers say they decide whether to stay on or leave a website within 10 seconds with 20% saying they made that decision within 5 seconds. Top reasons for this were cited as limited payment options, poor navigation or layout, and slow loading speeds. Armed with this insight, it might be worth investigating how your website fares up on these particular points. Along with this, using your website data to identify key patterns, customer behaviours and inherent weak spots could pay dividends too. Finally, taking the time to ask your customers exactly what they think, what works, what doesn’t and what they’d like to change is a must. Yes, they may have already purchased something, but that’s not to say that’s because of the online experience. In some cases, they may have converted in spite of your website not because of it. For speed, a short and simple incentivised survey can help get the ball rolling on collecting this feedback. 

When you’ve identified where your potential problem points are you can prioritise, in line with your budget and time you have available, where to make changes. How simple these issues are to rectify will depend on the marketing infrastructure you have in place. If you have a big monolithic tech stack you may find that integrating the tools and functionality you need is an expensive and labour intensive undertaking. If this is the case, you should really consider taking steps to move towards composable architecture. This opens the door to a range of new possibilities and is appropriate for businesses big and small. One of the key advantages, in the context of making quick and impactful upgrades to a website, is that it’s very easy to integrate tools specifically tailored to your requirements via APIs. Need more payment options? No problem, you can have them all integrated with minimal development costs and time. 

Outside of making incremental improvements to your website, consider how your current setup enables you to maximise the impact of your marketing. Gone are the days when a catchy email subject line or funny tweet would be enough to draw significant attention to your brand. Consumers expect the entire customer journey to be personalised and offer the best user experience. Ideally, your business should have a system that allows you to quickly respond to customers on every relevant marketing channel with the right content at the right time. It should integrate into your sales and website analytics so you can easily track the effectiveness of each campaign, and decide which products need a harder push. Each conversion should also be followed up.  If you find that your business is incapable of achieving this, then look at what you might be able to achieve in the short term. 

The most important fix to make in all this is getting to grips with your data – without a good understanding of which channels your customers use the most and their prior purchasing behaviour your marketing and sales initiatives will be nothing more than guess work. Cleaning up your data and running rudimentary analysis is not as daunting as it seems. For those on a very tight budget there are plenty of guides online or the option of employing freelance data analysts. Although, I should point out that this is a very short term fix. From your analysis you can then decide which channel to focus your Christmas marketing efforts on.

Finally, when it comes to the bigger, long term picture, it may be worth considering whether there is a genuine business case for investing in a new tech stack. Ultimately, marketing effectiveness is only ever as good as the technology that underpins it. The reality is that if your current setup is overly complex and restrictive it could have real commercial impact if not addressed, as our research shows all too well. That’s not to sound like a broken record but again the recommendation is composable architecture which is basically shorthand for a future-proofed system. Put simply, instead of being tied to a single platform, it means giving marketers and developers the freedom to create tech stacks, applications and services that are specifically designed to their needs quickly and with ease. The result? Better oversight, flexibility and adaptability, translating to faster deployments and overall cheaper operations. Perhaps then, for those who aren’t already doing so, one to add to 2024’s wish list?