By Mark Gray

People love online shopping – it’s convenient, fast and often the easiest way to score deals on sought-after products. This is great news for online retailers. However with increasing popularity also comes rising consumer expectations. It is important to meet these standards throughout the whole year, but the stakes are even higher during the lead up to Christmas.

During the busy Christmas season, prioritisation is often the most effective way to satisfy consumers and attract as many sales as possible. There are four simple yet fundamental consumer expectations I believe online retailers need to meet and exceed during this upcoming period:

1. Low price points
During the holiday season, a staggering 85 per cent of consumers base their final purchase decision on price (including promotions)*, so it’s definitely worth putting your best price forward on every channel that you sell through.

If you sell on marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, you should also pay special attention to your prices there. These marketplaces contain an abundance of merchants selling similar items and consumers can easily price compare to find the best deal. On top of that, it’s becoming more common on these platforms to reprice items multiple times each day to stay up to speed with the competition. This can be done manually or through an automated repricer that adjusts prices according to the competitive landscape and the business rules you set.

2. Free shipping
Free shipping is one of the most important incentives an online retailer can offer during the holidays. *Studies have shown that as much as 61 per cent of consumers would cancel Christmas shopping orders if they found out they needed to pay delivery fees, and it’s the second most important factor in consumer purchase decisions, just behind price**.

Even for small and medium businesses, it’s possible to offer free shipping and still maintain a good margin. There are several creative ways that retailers can do this: establish minimum order amounts, offer flat-rate shipping that encourages customers to buy more at once or offer tiered shipping options.

3. Transparency
Information is the gateway to establishing clear expectations and trust with consumers for online retailers.  So providing transparency during Christmas means providing clear information to shoppers. Make sure your return policies, delivery dates, shipping timelines, promotion and sales offers and deadlines, and other information important to consumer decisions are blatantly visible on your website, in emails and across all possible consumer touchpoints.

4. Reputation
Seventy per cent of shoppers say that a retailer’s reputation and product reviews affect their Christmas buying decisions*, so it’s prudent for online retailers to do everything possible to earn the trust of shoppers on every channel!

For example, Google Shopping merchants can have a Trusted Stores Badge, which increases conversion and average order size 3.1 per cent and 5.5 per cent, respectively, according to Google. While this is not yet available to Australian online retailers, there are many other ways that you can monitor and promote your store’s reputation.

If you sell on Amazon or eBay, you can easily get a view of factors that affect your reputation, such as buyer ratings and any negative feedback comments. Deploying feedback forms and surveys, and engaging on social media, can also help you build, manage and promote your reputation.

There are many strategies and tactics that retailers can employ to make their online presence as appealing as possible to consumers during the busy holiday period. Retailers should be proactive and factor these considerations into their Christmas sales strategy today to ensure they don’t fall short of the four most important consumer expectations this Christmas.

Mark Gray is the managing director of ChannelAdvisor APAC, a cloud-based solutions provider.

*Baynote study, “Back to the Future, a Holiday Retail Story,” 2012
**comScore study, “State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy,” 2011