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Holiday Season: Stand out to bring shoppers, hang on to convert them

The 2021 holiday shopping season put retailers to the test like no other. Having a strong online presence became mandatory to survive the shift in consumer behaviour brought on by Covid-19. The competition was fierce and converting shoppers to paying customers became more challenging. And the 2022 season is shaping up to be similar.

Reshma Iyer, product marketing manager at Algolia, shares her views about how retailers can rise above the competition this holiday shopping season to attract customers by offering robust, highly personalised experiences that make them more likely to convert. 

How will the 2022 holiday shopping season differ from 2021 and what challenges do retailers face? 

Many retailers plan to increase their online offers for shoppers, which means they will need to differentiate to stand out. There’s also likely to be more online events than ever before: flash sales, online treasure hunts and significant sales events days or even weeks before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. More online events will lead to an even higher load on retailers’ systems than prior holiday seasons. To do this well, retailers need to invest: in ensuring their platform is as robust as can be and in thinking through these campaigns and the related experiences consumers will have on their site. Ultimately, their online stores must perform well, so they can quickly convert the new traffic coming to the site and see a return on that investment. 

What strategies should retailers implement to overcome these challenges? 

Retailers need to prepare early. They should run load tests in advance, assess what parts of their online experience has issues and then update those parts – fix them or disable them, if necessary – so they can handle the load. For example, if a retailer uses a (monolithic) platform that doesn’t pass the load test, they’re probably not ready to run such events this year

What technologies can help them do this? 

A headless commerce architecture can undoubtedly help. It allows sophisticated tools – such as headless search, navigation and recommendation solutions – to manage each part of the experience and function of the online store. It offers many benefits, including improving the ability to run these special events because the robust, distributed infrastructure can manage traffic spikes at scale. With headless commerce, if one part of the stack cannot handle the loads, it’s easy to replace it with another solution that will. In addition, a headless stack permits the flexibility and agility required to run retail programs at this scale and velocity.

How can retailers go about implementing these technologies? 

This holiday shopping season, competition will be high and retailers need to differentiate themselves by delivering highly relevant and personalised shopping experiences. And they need to make sure to have robust systems in place to convert them. Partnering with a vendor that provides sophisticated technology, such as headless commerce architecture, makes that easy. Algolia, for example, provides retailers with guaranteed lighting fast, relevant search at scale, reliably, all over the world. To add to it, with Algolia Recommend, we double down on the personalisation and relevance strategy. In 2020, we supported numerous e-commerce companies that experienced spikes 170 times their average search traffic. We provided relevant search results without any downtime. During the last holiday shopping season, Algolia processed more than 4.5 billion search queries on Black Friday alone, with peaks reaching 7.2 million requests per minute – up 85 per cent from the highest peaks in 2019. 

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