The holiday season focuses on buying and gift giving for family and friends rather than the off-season norm of buying practical items for oneself. So, if you're in retail, the holidays mean you're headed towards the black, and that's something to be joyous about.

According to last year's MarketingProfs data, 92% of holiday shoppers will go online to either research gifts or make a purchase.

How Can Marketers Appeal to the 92%?

The average percent of users who abandoned during Q3 in retail was 75%. Since the holiday season is when companies head back to the black, it would be safe to assume that abandonment rates will stay the same or grow higher if nothing is done to lower them. Companies that engage customers get them to buy 40% more often. You've seen the typical customer journey of a holiday shopper—the solutions are there if you choose to implement them.

What Makes the Holiday Online Shopper Different

Typically, holiday shoppers are looking for gifts for other people—Grandma, Grandpa, Great-Aunt Louise, and her eight children, etc. The point is that holiday shoppers visit sites that aren't necessarily for them. For example, my boyfriend does not go to to buy me makeup, and I don't go to to buy him Doctor Who bookends—only on special occasions and during the holidays.

We know when customers are shopping, but how they are shopping is the difference.

What to Remember About Holiday Shoppers

  • Customers have a higher sense of urgency.
  • They are searching for the best deal.
  • They want fast and free shipping.
  • They need to know you can deliver.
  • It's your job to know what their journey looks like and how to engage.

So, what does the customer journey look like?

It starts with an ad or a search

If your customers have something in mind to purchase, their hunt typically starts with a Google search or seeing consistently branded ads. Say Susie wants red high-heeled shoes for Christmas, and your consumer, Mary, is going to get them for her. Mary Googles "red high-heeled shoes."

They bounce... or don't

Mary lands on your site. Either she bounces on your home or product page when she doesn't see what she likes or you give her other alternatives. Real-time engagement chats can answer questions immediately or show product recommendations that Google may not have indexed. Mary doesn't have time to wander aimlessly through your site... Christmas is around the corner!

They find the product but may get cold feet

Due to your product recommendations, Mary found a product she likes but gets cold feet and exits. She may want to think about the product first, so offer to save her cart and email it to her.

Doing that keeps your brand and products front of her mind, so when she does go back to buy those red high-heeled shoes for Susie, she knows your site is the place to go.

She's back... so give her an incentive to buy

Mary came back to your site to purchase those shoes but starts to chicken out. "What if Susie doesn't like the shoes after all? What if they don't get here on time?" Give Mary an incentive (such as 10% off or even better, free on-time-for-the-holidays shipping) to stay in real time and complete her order.

The shopper is almost to the finish line

She starts completing the checkout page but gets distracted by her burning Christmas cookies. Luckily, she entered her email address before exiting. This is the most crushing abandonment, but don't worry... You can reconnect with Mary through a branded email.

Once more, personalize the email with incentives, and play on her sense of urgency. Christmas is now only a few days away! Make coming back easy for her. Remember that the abandonment rate for fashion is 78%, the highest among all retail; it's imperative to get those would-be buyers back. Remarketing emails average an open rate of 39% and a 26% average click to conversion.

When all else fails....

Show targeted display ads—when Mary heads to other sites browsing the Web, make sure the product she loved (and your brand) stay top of mind. Show the item she was looking at as well as suggested items to pull her back in.

When she's finally ready to make that purchase, after all the effort you took to personalize to her—it will be your company she comes back to.

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How the Customer Journey Differs for Holiday E-Commerce Shoppers

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image of Ariel Carron

Ariel Carron is content manager for Ve Interactive, a Boston-based e-commerce conversion company.

LinkedIn: Ariel Carron

Twitter: @ArielCarron