I really hate to use clichés, but failing to prepare really is preparing to fail. And never has this saying been more apt than for online retailers at Christmas.
With just a few months until the festive delivery deadline, you have probably already started the preparations for the annual surge of business. If you haven’t – don’t panic, there is still time.
According to IMRG, online Christmas sales were up more than 18% on the previous year. And with today’s hard-pressed consumers looking to get more for less, it’s likely this year will see a further increase, despite the weather.
So, if you’re worried it’s your online store that might become the Christmas turkey, here are some tips that can help to make sure it’s your competitors that get stuffed.
Learn from your experience
Since you’ve probably been through Christmas before, which products performed well – and more importantly, why? Did these products appear high in the search engine rankings? Did they perform better in some search engines than others? Perhaps the product descriptions were better – or clearer images were provided. If some products outperform better than the rest, find out why and emulate this success across the entire range.
Give customers what they want
According to our research, what consumers value most are great images, a speedy checkout process, and timed deliveries. They are also concerned about security, so anything you can do to show people that you are a real company and you do care will help – phone numbers, recommendations and brand affiliations, together with a tight design and flawless textual content. Female customers particularly value product reviews and other feedback – unlike men they actually do like to ask for directions!
No company is perfect, so you can expect to receive complaints in the run-up to Christmas. Arguing with customers is a waste of time and invariably generates negative sentiment and critical reviews – even when you are in the right! Make your returns policy clear and resolve issues speedily. Remember, your customers are under pressure to get their gifts in place in time for the big day – if they need to source an alternative product, then time will be of the essence.
Deck your halls
Give your site a bit of festive cheer. Any shopper on the high street would expect shops to be decked out in Christmas decorations, festive themes and sparkly lights. Your website should be no different. Remember not to go overboard on the decorations though; you want to make the whole process as simple and intuitive for the customer as possible and you don’t want to mess up your SEO.
Most of the time, shoppers aren’t really thinking about a gift – they’re thinking about a person. By offering leading categories for your products, such as “for him” and “for her,” you guide the customer through both the purchase and decision-making process. The last thing you want is a vast array of products to boggle and confuse the buyer.
Mobile marketing is set to be one of the major drivers of sales this Christmas, with a high proportion of shoppers expected to buy their Christmas presents on mobile devices. Online retailers cannot afford to ignore this trend and should make sufficient effort to develop their mobile marketing strategy. Having a mobile website as well as a standard version is less and less about having an edge over the competition and more about keeping up with them.
According to Google, “44% of total searches for last-minute gifts and store locator terms will be from mobile devices.” Important information like delivery dates and opening hours should be clearly visible on your mobile site. Nothing could be worse for a retailer than not delivering items in time for Christmas day.
Deliver on your promise
The main thing that puts off last-minute shoppers is the agonizing experience of delivery. It’s vital you’re able to provide customers with a choice of delivery options. People are far more inclined to buy if they know exactly how long it will take to get it.
UK e-tailers will lose £132.5m this Christmas due to late or missing deliveries. So make sure your address data is accurate. Also, giving your customers an agreed window of delivery can really give your company a competitive advantage against others currently on the market.
It’s equally important to account for those shoppers who leave it to the last minute. Consider a last minute store pick-up option for anyone who might have missed the posting dates.
Offer gift wrapping and messages
Go the “final mile” and offer gifts complete with wrapping and personalised messages. It might be extra effort, but it may well be what ultimately pushes the consumer to the “buy” button. Anything that makes life easier for the online shopper translates into higher profits for the vendor.
Optimise social media
The pre-Christmas period provide ample opportunities for online retailers to take advantage of social media. Update your Facebook page and tweet frequently. Your customers will like to keep informed of any promotions, gift ideas, offers or news you may have. If you have a blog, get updating it more often. Pack it full with product reviews, promotions and anything else that will engage your customers. Correctly-executed blogging can project a positive brand image and drive new traffic to your website.
Capitalise on Facebook by launching F-commerce platforms to encourage orders as well as enhancing awareness of your brand.