By Sean McAuley
With less than six weeks until Christmas, the holiday season has again come around too fast. Crackers and mince pies are filling supermarket shelves and everyone’s panicking about the number of shopping days left to buy gifts. With festive shoppers set to spend almost 26% more online this year than in 2011, retailers need to be making the most of all available online channels.
Many businesses struggle to capitalise on comparison shopping because they have not effectively optimised this channel and don’t have the resources to manage their data feeds. Despite this, they struggle on, knowing that CSEs can be lucrative, but not completely sure how.
However, once your product data feed is integrated into the CSE, attracting customers and getting them to convert is actually quite straightforward. Depending on the shopping engine you use, it can also be quite cost-effective, as most operate a CPC payment system.
When describing your products it’s important that they’re detailed, but don’t inundate potential customers with too much information. People use CSEs to compare prices so will be scanning each listing quickly to see which option is the best value. Provide as many product attributes as you can and where possible, split your products by variant.
Don’t jam the product title with keywords – use only the most relevant search terms. For best results, put the product category and brand in front of the product title, with colour and size at the end, e.g. Ladies DKNY Dress Red Size 8. Keep it simple for easier comparison, e.g. use ‘purple’ rather than ‘violet’. Make sure that your items are in the most suitable product category, as mis-categorisation can lead to lost sales. Most importantly, do not include items that are out of stock, as this will create a negative impression for customers who try and purchase an unavailable item.
A picture sells a thousand words, so having a clear picture of the item is essential. Make sure that the main image is front-facing so that consumers can see the item properly and have additional photos on your e-site that show the product from different angles or focus on a certain detail.
You can also add additional relevant keywords to the product description, such as material or style, as well as pricing options so that consumers can easily compare items. If products are currently on offer, the promotion should be clearly displayed.
Another way to optimise your products for CSEs is to remove under-performing items from the data feed. Products with a high click through rate (CTR) but low or no sales are costing you money and not generating a return. By removing these products from your feed, the cost per click (CPC) budget can be focused on the products that actually do perform well.
Occasionally you may have products that are in stock, but only in a selection of the available variants. Customers could be disappointed if a product they want is listed as in stock, but not actually available in the majority of sizes and colours. If this happens, you will again be paying for clicks that probably won’t convert.
To avoid this, you can use intelligent business logic with your data feed to determine whether a product is truly ‘in stock’. This logic can be used to include only the items which have 50% or more of the offered variants in stock, or products that have, for example, at least one size available in each colour.
Inaccuracy equals invisibility
The smallest error in a data feed can cause countless problems, so it’s important to check that all fields are correctly filled in and products are submitted in the right categories. As a significant amount of online shopping done in the run up to Christmas is a gift for someone else, customers have a greater expectation for items to be exactly as described. Nobody will be impressed if they order a white iPad 32GB and end up with a black 16GB one, so make sure your product feeds are accurate.
One of the key areas for CSE inaccuracy occurs during the integration process. As a retailer, you’ve probably spent a great deal of time ensuring that all of your products are perfectly categorised and visible on your site. So how can you be certain that your hard work is reflected on the CSE sites? Each CSE has a different category schema and your products might not match up correctly. Ideally, you need to manually map your categories to each individual CSE to make sure that 100% of your products are displayed in the right category.
Another area where accuracy is crucial is regarding the links to your site. Customers (especially during the Christmas season) will get easily frustrated if links from the CSE don’t work. If a customer clicks on a link to your site they’re interested in your product, but if they end up on the wrong page, or if the page doesn’t load at all then you’ve lost a sale. The same applies if an item is out of stock. If an item sells out, remove it from your feed to avoid disappointment.
According to Emarketer, 90% of people surveyed by Kinetic in September said they would be shopping on the internet for gifts this year, with 52% of web users planning on buying most of their gifts online.
Despite the increase in online shopping, internet users are still sceptical about ordering gifts online over the holiday season, with less than a third of people expecting last minute orders to arrive by Christmas Eve. Despite this, almost 50% of us will leave gift shopping until the final few shopping days before Christmas and take the risk.
If your business offers home delivery, make it clear when your customers’ last shopping day is for pre-Christmas delivery, as well as when and where you can deliver. Often, sites do not make their last order dates clear until a customer is halfway through the checkout purchase. This can lead to abandoned shopping baskets and a negative feeling about your site and its reliability. If your customers have clear delivery expectations laid out in the CSE they will be more confident when making a purchase from your site.
If you do offer last minute delivery, this could give you the edge over your competition, so make sure that this is obvious in your CSE feed. List all the important details, such as delivery cost and timing and use your site to keep customers updated if there order will be delayed.
Happy New Year!
During the busy festive rush it’s essential to respond to queries promptly and keep your product feed and site information up-to-date. Remember that a customer is being linked to your site from the CSE, so the transition needs to be smooth and easy.
If a product sells out, remove it from your product feed; if snow starts affecting deliveries, put a bulletin in your feed to let customers know and post updates on your site.
Applying business logic ensures that your feed will be updated regularly and won’t list products with limited availability, whilst refreshing your data feed daily will keep your CSE integration accurate, providing shoppers with a reliable and positive customer experience.
About Sean McAuley
Hailing from Northern Ireland, Sean spent his teenage years in the Midlands, heading north for a Business Management degree at Huddersfield University. Despite his fondness for Britain, sunnier climes were calling and he spent his placement year at Ermes Group Plc. in Cyprus, winning the Excellence in Business Placement Gold Award 2009.
After graduating, Sean found his niche looking after Ted Baker’s affiliate marketing and CSE campaigns. He joined FusePump in June 2010, wh
ere he is now Commercial Director. Despite being a shot put champion in his youth, Sean now prefers the more leisurely pursuits of golf and dining out.
FusePump provide simple and profitable marketing technology solutions for e-commerce retailers. FusePump’s e-commerce marketing platform allows websites to effectively promote their products in all the major online channels (affiliate, comparison shopping, marketplaces, search, display etc.) with little or no technical effort, improving the consumer buying experience and driving increased sales.