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Financially, things are not great for most of us. But that’s not going to stop holiday shopping. In this post, we’ll look at what designers can do to prepare their ecommerce websites and apps to handle the current economic circumstances as well as shoppers’ concerns.

While everything is much more expensive these days and order fulfillment is less than predictable or timely, that doesn’t mean that the holidays and the gift-giving that goes with them will be canceled. Until zombies or aliens are roaming the earth, I don’t think anything will stop the holiday shopping season.

If you build ecommerce websites and apps for a living, now is the perfect time to start thinking about what you’re going to do to help your clients find success amidst a recession. In the following post, I want to look at some things that you can be doing now to help ecommerce companies and shoppers get on the same page about this year’s holiday season.

Preparing Ecommerce Websites and Apps for 2022’s Holiday Season

It seems like it’s been ages since we’ve had a normal, predictable holiday shopping season. What would’ve worked in terms of holiday marketing just a few years back is no longer a safe strategy.

So, what can designers do to switch gears for 2022 holiday shoppers? Here are some ideas:

1. Ramp Things Up Earlier in the Fall

For many consumers, the shopping holidays in November are going to be way too risky this year.

For starters, any increase in product demand is going to put a ton of pressure on the supply chain. This will lead to serious fulfillment delays and potentially cause many people to not receive their gift purchases in time.

Secondly, inflation is showing no signs of stopping. Budget-savvy shoppers are going to look at their dwindling spending power over the past year and realize that buying sooner rather than later is the best move. Inflation might be 9.1% here in the U.S. right now, but it could significantly worsen later in the fall.

These two factors alone are going to drive consumers to start their holiday shopping sooner than they have before.

So, what should you do?

Talk to your clients (as well as former clients you’ve built ecommerce sites or apps for). Find out what they have planned in terms of sales this fall.

Be prepared to announce those sales ahead of time on their website or app as well as across their digital marketing channels. Then, schedule the sales events to run earlier in the fall—or even in late summer.

Inflation doesn’t just hit consumers hard. Running big sales earlier in the quarter will benefit ecommerce companies, too.

By running sales earlier in the cycle, ecommerce companies can control when their purchase rates are at their highest. In turn, they won’t have to spend as much money on overhead, marketing, fulfillment and so on to handle the influx of orders associated with the holidays. In addition, they won’t have to stress about inflated product pricing later in the season scaring away the majority of shoppers.

2. Let Value Steer Your Decisions

There was a time when consumers bought from companies for reasons other than value. Like shared values, sustainability and quality. Companies that could meet their expectations were rewarded with their loyalty.

2022 is not the best year for leveraging loyalty to improve sales.

Value is what matters to many shoppers right now. They want to find ecommerce companies that can offer them exactly what they want, at the best rate, and with the most affordable fulfillment option.

If ecommerce companies don’t start shifting toward value-based marketing, the vast majority of holiday shopping is going to get done on Amazon. SMBs have had it hard enough these past couple of years. Let’s do what we can to ensure that ecommerce companies don’t lose their remaining long-time customer base to soulless marketplaces.

So, what should you do?

Again, talk to your clients. For some clients, site-wide sales just aren’t feasible. There are ways to work around this.

Start by evaluating their offering. They might not be able to afford the deep discounts that shoppers would find on Prime Day. However, they might be able to provide value elsewhere.

Can they do one of the following:

  • Offer free shipping over a certain amount spent?
  • Create attractive product bundles?
  • Create discounts for bulk orders?
  • Provide loyalty members with a locked-in price guarantee throughout the holiday shopping season and regardless of how high inflation goes?
  • Offer exclusive sales or upgrades to loyalty members who’ve reached a certain level (like Platinum as opposed to Silver)?

It might be hard to compete with a company like Amazon based sheerly on price. So it’s important to pair those value offers with something more. Like sending personalizing shopping recommendations to customers via email or text.

While value might be the primary driver of purchases this holiday season, some customers won’t be able to easily let go of the relationships they’ve built with their favorite companies. Especially if you’re able to remind them of this beneficial relationship. So, factor in both the dollar value of what’s being sold as well as the value of the relationship when adjusting your clients’ websites or apps.

3. Turn the Website or App Into a Shopping Companion

Empathy is a critical component of UX design. Without the ability to relate to one’s target user, it’s very difficult to build a product that they want to engage with.

Now, good design is usually invisible. That means that empathy is something we use to flesh out the design of the product and its user journeys behind the scenes. However, in a time when many people are stressed about their finances and how they’re going to be able to afford to buy gifts this year, it’s time to bake that empathy right into the product.

Now, something that Amazon and other mega marketplace sites don’t do well is empathetic design.

Stepping inside ecommerce sites like those feels a lot like Times Square. You might be enthralled with some of the things you see at first, but it quickly becomes overwhelming. Where do you start? Which offer do you focus on? How do you step away without blowing all your money on stuff you don’t need?

Plus, there’s no one there to help. You’ve got everyone and their mother screaming at you to buy something from them, promising it’ll be well worth it, but it’s all just a big gamble you have to take on your own.

So, what should you do?

Empathetic design depends on what your customers’ biggest worries are. Rising inflation and a recession are at the top of that list. All you can do there is offer great products at an attractive price—and that’s something your client controls.

But what else is it that your shoppers are going to be stressed about? By making your ecommerce site or app to feel more like a friend or companion who’s come along for the shopping trip, you can help allay some of those stressors and worries.

For example, there will inevitably be people who have shopping to do later in the season. If you had someone sitting right there with them, listening to their main concerns, what would they be:

  • Low or no inventory?
  • Weeks- or months-long shipping delays?
  • High shipping costs to avoid delivery delays?
  • Rushing to buy something without doing enough research?
  • Something else?

One thing you do in terms of design and features to put their minds at ease is to offer full transparency right from the start. If the store is experiencing issues with any of the above, utilize notification banners or pop-ups to provide shoppers with advance warnings or suggestions.

Adding cost-saving features would also be useful. For example:

  • Product filtering based on price range
  • Product sorting with a default setting of Price Low to High
  • Product comparison tools or tables
  • Cost calculators so shoppers can factor in taxes and shipping before hitting “Add to Cart”
  • Buy Online, Pick up In Store (BOPIS) options in product search, product page info and the shopping cart

Speaking of BOPIS, another reason why it’s beneficial to design an ecommerce site or app to be companion-like is for the brick-and-mortar experience.

Staff always gets pulled in a million directions during this time of year. Add features to the website or app that make it the perfect in-store shopping companion. For instance, a barcode or QR code scanner would be very helpful. Shoppers could use it to find inventory on the floor, check stock levels, read customer reviews, compare products and more.

Wrapping Up

It’s safe to assume that most shoppers are going to tighten their purse strings this holiday shopping season. Not only that, they’re going to use a different strategy when it comes to choosing which companies to buy from, what to buy and when.

Understanding the changes in their shopping habits will allow you to adapt your ecommerce products accordingly. Address the elephant in the room earlier on in the season. Prioritize value-based marketing techniques and messaging. And add more empathetic features to the site. Do these things and your clients’ ecommerce sites and apps could come out of this difficult sales cycle as winners.

About the Author

Suzanne Scacca

A former project manager and web design agency manager, Suzanne Scacca now writes about the changing landscape of design, development and software.

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