Barclaycard advises online retailers on how to get the most out of discount days

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As discount-day season kicks off, Colin McSkeane, head of Gateway Products at Barclaycard, shares insights into how retailers can make the most of the pre-Christmas shopping season

With the imminent approach of high-profile discount days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day and New Year sales close behind, shoppers are primed and ready to go on the hunt for bargains over the coming weeks. To maximise the opportunity these events present, online retailers need to make sure they are fully prepared to welcome an influx of customers.

Below we’ve set out three tips to help retailers get the most from discount days.

Balancing the need-for-speed with security

On high-profile shopping days, it’s more important than ever to ensure your website and payment systems are stable and optimised. We have long been familiar with the sight of physical stores being overwhelmed at busy times by eager shoppers, who want to do the very thing retailers want them to: make purchases. This issue has persisted in the world of ecommerce – yet online there is the added concern of data security, and it’s important that businesses balance the seemingly conflicting demands of giving consumers both a safe journey and a fast one.

Firstly, it is crucial to keep data secure, both in ensuring customer privacy and preventing security breaches. Undertaking risk assessments, being compliant with the PCI Data Security Standard, and regularly reviewing security and fraud measures will help you safeguard customer card data effectively – protecting you and helping to reassure your customers that their details are safe.

Secondly, enable an efficient and user-friendly online process. Through making it easy for customers to navigate your site, minimising any delays in response times, or adopting a straightforward checkout process, retailers can help prevent basket abandonment as customers search for the best deals.

Meeting the needs of mobile expectations

The appeal of discount days for consumers is not only product availability, but being able to buy goods when they want and how they want. The difference between purchasing from one business rather than another can come down to whether a consumer’s preferred shopping platform is offered.

A recent report from IMRG found that more than half of online sales are now made through mobile devices. Yet research from Barclays has found that seven in ten retailers don’t currently offer either a mobile optimised website, or a mobile app. If businesses want to realise the benefits of discount days, they need to provide the quick, slick and painless shopping experience to which their customer base is accustomed.

With mobile platforms growing in popularity, retailers should consider investing more in mobile solutions, or at least consider how they can adopt some of the key benefits of a mobile optimised website to their own ecommerce offering, e.g. with a simplified payment process that only requires a passcode to complete any transaction, rather than the completion of a lengthy payment page.

Finally, getting returns-ready

Whilst discount days are likely to drive an increase in online sales, retailers should be prepared for a corresponding uplift in returns. Consumers increasingly want to order multiple items in order to make a choice at home, and recent Barclaycard research revealed that three in ten online businesses claim that managing the returns process has an impact on their profit margin.

To counter any issues, retailers should find a way to manage the need to meet customer preferences for flexible returns (whether that’s a longer window or cost-free) and protect the bottom line; it can take a while to get right, but streamlining the returns process, and making the most of new innovations available – such as enabling customers to try on clothes digitally – can go some way towards finding a mutually convenient solution for consumer and retailer alike.