Christmas – that all-important festive season that seems to get earlier and earlier every year.With calendar events seeming to roll ever closer and most major retailers holding “Christmas in July” events to capture the crucial Christmas press and PR deadlines, time is not always on your side when it comes to optimising your e-commerce site for this key trading period.
Stores – both bricks and mortar and online – are launching their Christmas activity earlier every year and competition is rife – Selfridges revealed their famous Christmas windows earlier than ever this year to beat their main rival Harrods. This famous Knightsbridge store now keep their Christmas department open year-round to target the affluent Arab market who flock to London in the summer months and spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in London’s most luxury stores.
While I’m not advocating this approach for all businesses, read on for some top tips on how to optimise your own “shop window” for maximum conversion potential this Christmas and to make sure you don’t get left behind by your competitors!
Remember who your customer is in everything you do. Reaching the right demographic is essential to the success of your business and competition is rife at Christmas so you need to get it right first time. Always have your target customer in mind – I find that creating a mini profile of each customer segment helps keep the customer in your mind – give that customer a name, an age, an occupation, a number of children, etc etc.
It’s better to do one thing well rather than a number of things poorly. Define the needs of your key customer base and target them. Don’t be distracted by the “catch all” temptation that your competitors may implement.
Treat your site as your would treat a traditional shop – place your best products in full view of the customer. Ensure they look appealing to the potential buyer – detailed product descriptions, clear, enticing imagery, engaging videos and honest reviews cannot be underestimated as key conversion drivers.
Remember your customer can’t physically see your product – they are relying on information you’re providing to make their purchasing decision. Don’t lose out to a competitor by offering sub-standard, low quality information.
It’s a fine line between promoting what you know are your best sellers (as proven by your analytics data and sales history) and pushing them so much that your potential customers never see all the other fantastic products you have on offer. Try to maintain a natural customer journey at all times – browse your own site the way a customer would. You may find testing beneficial here – A/B split testing and multi-variant testing can be very effective.
Plan ahead! It is essential that you have enough stock to meet your customers’ demands as you head into Christmas. You could spend several hours and hundreds or even thousands of pounds marketing a product to your customers who then want to purchase it and it is out of stock which is very frustrating and likely to lead the elsewhere.
Whilst stock planning and forecasting is not an exact science it’s essential to review previous seasons and implement any key learnings you find.
Customers are getting ever more savvy and are leaving it until later and later in the season to make their purchases. You have until your last order date to sell your stock so don’t rush in and discount too early as there is still time to capture a full price sale.
Plan your Christmas promotional calendar early and with care. Consider promotional mechanics such as Deals of the Day, flash sales, an advent calendar, vouchering campaigns and competitions. Encourage customers to sign up to your database early in the year by offering them access to exclusive promotions, offers and deals. This will grow your customer base in good time for Christmas, giving you a broad base of engaged customers to target.
Whilst it’s important to appear competitive with attractive price points to entice your potential customer, if you take it to far you could devalue your brand. Supermarkets are able to offer loss leaders to get the all important footfall as they can take the hit elsewhere and as a result the “price wars” are often well publicised – this is simply not achievable for other business models.
It’s also extremely important to bear in mind the order in which you run any promotional campaigns over the Christmas trading period– for example don’t shout about a 20% off event then follow it with a 25% off event as you will simply frustrate your customer and they will lose faith in you, resulting in them shopping elsewhere.
Keep an eye on what your competitors are up to. Track previous years’ activity on a calendar as it’s often repeated – this will give you an insight into when is the best time to run any promotions you are planning. It’s also helpful to review the performance of your own promotions and campaigns to see what was successful and worth repeating.
Don’t get so caught up in what your competitors are doing that you lose sight of your own performance. Promotional planning can be quite hit or miss as things are often changed at the last minute. Go with your gut instinct and you’re likely to succeed.
Be competitive – offer free delivery on all orders if possible, or at least a free option, even if it takes slightly longer than your standard offering – customers don’t mind waiting a little longer for something if its free! Think about options like one-hour delivery slots and services like Shutl.
Collect in Store is now a popular option that many retailers offer which is beneficial to both customer and retailer. Make it as attractive a proposition as possible for your customer to choose you over a competitor – the less effort involved for them the better.
There are countless examples of disappointed customers sharing their horror stories of late or missed on social media which can be extremely brand damaging.
Utilise active merchandising across your site and any brand communications, usually emails to your customer database. This is an excellent opportunity to create an affinity with your customer. Take advantage of any previous order information and behaviour you may have collected and target them accordingly, for example if they bought X product earlier in the year offer them X accessories/add ons in a personalised, segmented email. Customers also respond well to small touches like adding their name to the subject line of your email communication.
Don’t over do this – customers do not want to feel like they’re being “stalked”. Less can often be more with personalisation and segmentation. It may be worth trialling any potential activity with a customer focus group or test.
Make your returns policy clear, concise and easy to find on your site. Consider an extended Christmas returns period so customers have confidence that they can return unsuitable gifts after Christmas quickly and easily. Make your Customer Service contact details clear and easy to find. Consider the importance of social media channels, live chat and Q&A sessions as quick and easy ways for your customer to contact you.
Don’t ignore customer queries or concerns that may crop up as this often causes them to escalate. Talk to your customers and resolve any concerns or issues they may have. This will reassure them and make them more likely to shop with you in the future. Positive word of mouth is essential.
Have you got any more tips? I’d love to hear your comments below..