What are the obstacles for consumers during Christmas, and how to overcome them?
Consumers are increasingly turning to online Christmas shopping, especially following the unexpected global pandemic. Whether they are early planners or last-minute shoppers, these potential buyers want a quick, clear, simple, and secure purchasing process to find the perfect gift for their loved ones.
However, certain obstacles can tarnish their experience, discourage them, and lead them to abandon a purchase. Long delivery times, out-of-stock items, the risk of fraud... Brands must take these barriers to online shopping into account to address them and turn them into opportunities to maximize end-of-year sales.
Optimizing the customer journey
The French have a strong desire to make more online purchases but are often hindered by an unoptimized experience. Several points need to be reconsidered.
Managing out-of-stock items
Out-of-stock situations are one of the main obstacles to online shopping for consumers. This obstacle is even more impactful during the Christmas season when consumers are typically pressed for time.
It is therefore essential for brands to implement actions to manage visitor frustration and encourage them to wait for the product to return to the site. This is particularly important because, in the case of out-of-stock items, 45% of consumers visit a competitor's website to look for the same or a similar product.
One possible technique is to offer free delivery for the purchase of a gift card of the same value as the product. Indeed, 41% of consumers prefer to check later if the product is back in stock. For example, in the case of a sold-out $30 Sephora mask, the brand can offer the purchase of a gift card for the exact amount of the product to keep the consumer engaged until it is restocked.
Moreover, 28% of consumers choose to sign up to receive an alert when the product is available again.
The brand can then send a personalized email to the customer to announce the return of the product to its site, remind them that free delivery is available, and even suggest two or three similar masks in case they prefer to choose another product.
Overcoming delivery-related obstacles
During the holiday season, brands must be able to offer accurate delivery times to assure consumers of the arrival of their packages before the big day. However, during online purchases, 24% of them are deterred by uncertain delivery times, and 36% are discouraged by high delivery costs.
Moreover, consumers hope for a return system if the gift does not match the recipient's taste or preferences, particularly to limit the resale of gifts, a phenomenon that is gaining popularity. Following last Christmas, 45% of French people tried to resell a received gift because they didn't like it or found no use for it.
The e-gift card is an effective way to address these obstacles related to costs, delivery times, and flexibility. This option allows for free and instant delivery in just a few seconds, up to the last minute. Once the order is confirmed by the buyer, a code is generated and sent directly to the recipient's email.
To enhance the delivery experience further, the brand can also offer the option of delayed delivery for the e-gift card. In this case, the buyer can choose the exact date on which the recipient will receive the e-gift card, combining convenience and flexibility for those who want to plan ahead.
Cultivating customer relations
Consumers may choose not to complete the purchase if they fear a lack of support from the brand or customer service afterward, especially when selecting a gift for loved ones. If the gift is not pleasing, will it be possible to exchange it? To get a refund? Will the process be simple? Fast?
Encouraging newsletter sign-ups can help establish a connection between the brand and its customers. Additionally, using the digital gift card as a reward is an effective way to motivate consumers and encourage them to return. By offering customers a personalized e-card for the holidays, they automatically feel closer to the brand upon receiving the support.
Similarly, if a visitor seems resistant to making a purchase and delays confirming the order, offering a digital gift card can encourage them to try and, consequently, make a purchase from a brand. With the goal of pleasing their loved ones or practicing self-use, they are more likely to increase their average basket size and succumb to impulse purchases.
Securing online purchases
52% of French consumers are concerned about the ability of e-commerce websites to secure their transactions and protect their privacy. They want to use a trustworthy site for their Christmas shopping. Therefore, brands must adhere to certain points.
Protecting personal data
Consumers are increasingly aware of the amount of data they share and its value. According to a KPMG study, over half of consumers worldwide do not complete online purchases due to concerns about the use of their personal data. They are becoming more vigilant about brand transparency and cybersecurity.
For an e-commerce site to be considered "GDPR compliant," the collection of personal data must be fair and lawful. GDPR principles require brands to obtain the user's consent for the collection of their data.
Therefore, brands have a duty to comply with the guidelines of the CNIL (French Data Protection Authority), which has control and sanction powers against those not complying with the provisions of data protection laws. This helps reassure visitors about the security of their data when making an online purchase.
As for gift cards, they are subject to specific regulations with guidelines to be followed to regulate practices, which may vary depending on the country.
High-traffic periods like Christmas attract fraudsters, making online shoppers more fearful of scams and various fraudulent activities, especially during the crucial payment step.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 51% of retailers have witnessed an increase in fraud attempts. Therefore, brands and retailers need to implement anti-fraud protocols to limit malicious actions and ensure secure payments for their customers. Additionally, using reassurance elements will help create a climate of trust.
While there is no zero-risk, a primary reassurance element can be offering gift cards as a full-fledged payment method. For those more concerned about security, gift cards are seen as safer than credit cards because if a fraudster steals them, they can only use the amount loaded on the card.
Therefore, it is in the brand's best interest to promote gift cards as a secure payment method for online purchases, aiming to introduce consumers to the website and exclusive products.
Investing in Omnichannel
While consumers are increasingly leaning towards intangible gifts (streaming subscriptions, travel, etc.), some still struggle to overcome the inability to touch, feel, or use a product they have chosen to give before purchasing it.
Beyond the measures already in place at many e-commerce retailers (detailed product descriptions, demonstrative videos, augmented reality, etc.), implementing an omnichannel strategy can help address this limitation.
The development of web-to-store strategies, involving online product research before making a purchase in a physical store, can reassure consumers. This ideal means of creating continuity between online and offline represents a strong reassurance element. In case of issues, consumers know they can always visit a physical store.
This omnichannel approach is also present in gift card programs. A consumer hesitating to order online may change their mind if they know the recipient will have the opportunity to use the gift card in-store and thus choose a gift they like.
Today, 80% of French consumers say that Christmas shopping causes them financial anxiety. Therefore, it is essential for brands to try to simplify their shopping experience and limit cart abandonment, especially by addressing the main barriers to online shopping.
In this regard, the gift card undoubtedly plays a part in the strategic pillars that help brands achieve excellent performance during this critical period.
Subsequently, it will be important to implement actions to retain these new customers and encourage them to return.