Is your website ready for the holiday season? 

Thomas Peham, VP of Marketing at enterprise CMS Storyblok, looks at how you should prepare your website and wider marketing efforts for the Christmas run-up.

For many businesses – especially in retail – the stretch from Black Friday to Christmas can often be make or break. This year, with inflation and economic uncertainty squeezing budgets it’s more important than ever before to ensure that your business does everything it can to create a compelling customer experience that drives sales. 

The key interface with your customer is more likely than not your website. However, our own research, which surveyed 6,000 consumers and 500 businesses, found that 48% of companies are embarrassed by the way their website functions. In contrast, 87% of these same businesses said their website met all their expectations. Confused? Well, what this tells us is that many businesses know their websites aren’t great but don’t feel compelled to improve them because they either believe it would be too complex or it doesn’t impact their bottom line. Unfortunately, our research also found that 60% of consumers have abandoned purchases due to poor website experience – costing retailers billions each year.

The fact is that nearly every website can be improved and even making small incremental enhancements can have an outsized impact on conversions. So, if you are part of the 87% that feel satisfied about your site, you may want to look again with a more critical eye at your online offering.

Another useful data point our survey uncovered is that 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. The top reasons for bouncing from a website are limited payment options, poor navigation or layout, and slow loading speeds. This provides a good starting point for looking at how you can make improvements. Your website data is an invaluable way to track customer behaviour and pick up clues on aspects of your website that are driving people away. So too is actually asking your existing customers. This might seem counterintuitive – surely they have purchased so they must think your site is fine? Well, chances are some may have converted in spite of your website not because of it. Information collected directly from customers is often the most valuable you can obtain. A 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 communicate with, and understand, your customers. 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. 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 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. 

Longer term, without wishing to bang the drum for composable architecture too hard, it’s worth pointing out that you also have the flexibility to swap out different platforms as your marketing develops – including more extensive and advanced data management platforms. Headless CMS aligned with good data infrastructure is a combination that enables the highly response, data-driven marketing that is ideal for the festive period and beyond. 

One of the biggest barriers to businesses upgrading their communication channels is the mistaken belief that using new tools will require acquiring a lot of expensive training or hiring in skills. This is, for the most part, no longer the case. Marketing technology is becoming increasingly accessible. You don’t need a whole team of ‘power users’ with deep technical expertise to build and execute campaigns. Nor do you have to have a huge IT or developer team to keep systems maintained. If, at the moment, your marketers (or you) need to call on your IT department to make simple changes to your website, that’s a very clear indication your marketing tech is massively outdated and inefficient.  

That is not to say that upskilling your marketing team is unnecessary – far from it. If you have budget available, training your marketing team on new techniques can have a big impact on your bottom line. After all, understanding what your customer data is telling you and how you should respond is much more important than being able to write snappy copy. A modern marketing team has to have a range of skills and they need to be fully integrated into your wider business. You can gain a lot of ROI by upskilling your entire team on expertise such as the basics of data analysis. This can be done quickly and effectively through online courses. The result will be that your marketing team can become much more proactive – campaigns will evolve quickly in line with data insights and innovative ideas will come from your entire team.

In essence, your business moves from a top down marketing strategy that is defined well in advance, to a more fluid dynamic where tactical initiatives can be built and executed quickly to respond to consumer behaviour. Not only is this the best way to engage with customers during a period of uncertainty, it enables you to outmanoeuvre your competitors and operate with maximum efficiency.