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Essential advice for the Christmas season

Christmas Wrapped Up - 15 Top Ecommerce Tips To Help You Succeed This Holiday Season

We've scoured the web and pulled together the best tips and practices from industry-leading publications along with our own insights to help you get the most out of this holiday season.
16 min read
Christmas Wrapped Up - 15 Top Ecommerce Tips To Help You Succeed This Holiday Season

Key points:
•  Black Friday marks the beginning of the busiest trade month of the year. You shouldn't underestimate the potential of the last few trading weeks before Christmas and the post-Christmas opportunity.
•  Make sure you have the basics covered, including: optimised home pages, Google Shopping active in key countries, up-to-date translations and appropriate banners in place, SEO and PPC up-to-date, mailing lists and remarketing emails optimally configured, website easy to navigate.
•  Ensure that you are aware of all competitor activity and that you thoroughly plan all aspects of your Christmas marketing and promotional campaigns.
•  Examine in particular the following aspects of your online operation: landing pages, returns policy, last day delivery, express delivery and your mobile site user experience.
•  Make the most of affiliates and consider offering digital gifts and using text marketing.
•  Consider using any of the suggested promotions: '12 Deals of Christmas', 'Free Gift When You Spend £X', package deals on best sellers, multi-buy offers, free shipping or free express shipping, gift cards and social competitions. Also offer finance where possible.
•  Remember that Christmas Day is not necessarily a rest day and be prepared to change your strategy ASAP. However don't forget to have fun – reward your customers with little surprises and wish them a Happy Christmas.

Q4 has long been seen as the golden quarter for businesses looking to gain an extra share of consumer wallets and boost their revenues to year end. While in recent years the Black Friday phenomenon has somewhat taken over, you shouldn't underestimate the potential of the last few trading weeks before Christmas and the post-Christmas opportunity to release old stock and start the New Year on a high with Boxing Day and New Year's sales.

Black Friday doesn't mark the end of the shopping peak – it marks the beginning of the busiest trade month of the year (see Fig.1, Statista). There are still a few lazy people (me) who always leave it until the last minute to buy gifts!

Statista Chart Showing Sales Over Black Friday & Christmas Period 2016
Fig.1 Statista Chart Showing Sales Over Black Friday & Christmas Period 2016 (Statista)

We've scoured the web and pulled together the best tips and practices from industry-leading publications along with our own insights to help you get the most out of this holiday season.

The Basics

The Basics

  • Is your home page optimised to trade (mobile and desktop)?
  • Are your top country home pages optimised? Is there a free shipping threshold for each country? Is it competitive?
  • Have you set up Google Shopping in the key countries?
  • Are your translations up to date?
  • Do all your banners have a clear call to action on them, for example, 'Shop now'?
  • Is your SEO up to date for the main landing pages, brands and categories?
  • Is your PPC ad copy up to date with key company USPs to help customers pick you?
  • Is it easy to navigate the site? What improvements can be made?
  • Is your mailing list signup offer attractive to encourage customer conversion, for example, 10% off your first order?
  • Remarketing Emails:
    • Do you have a dropped basket email live? Over Christmas and Q4, dropped baskets soar with many customers unsure what to buy or are shopping around for the best deal. Make sure you take advantage of the opportunity with a really strong creative that showcases why they should purchase from you (include key USPs here).
      • Is there a discount code to entice customers back?
      • Are your timings right? Ask your Account Manager to talk you through best practice.
Landing Page Optimisation - Make it Count

Landing Page Optimisation – Make it Count

Great landing pages are the key to succeeding in the holiday season. Well laid-out pages showcase your best-selling products and best deals and help the customer find that perfect gift. Key things to think about include the following:

  • Are you promoting products that customers want to buy? So often retailers try to flush out stock and offer lukewarm promotions to entice customers to purchase. Christmas is not a time to do this. Customers are looking for the ideal gift, usually on bigger ticket items or something on a wishlist – they don't want second best. We suggest running deals on your best sellers. These are the products that draw in the most traffic and convert the best and are a sure win to success in Q4.
  • How have you helped your customers find the perfect gift?
    • Consider building a Christmas Gift Guide where you split customers out by age range, gift type, gender, product type or even animal!
    • You could help identify best sellers to make their choice easier.
    • You could recommend/highlight your 'top picks'.
    • You could create 'Mystery' gift bundles to help customers who don't know what to buy and can't make up their mind.
  • Landing page examples:
Christmas Returns Policy – Extra Peace of Mind

Christmas Returns Policy – Extra Peace of Mind

It's no surprise that with so many purchases taking place, customers don't always get it right – just think of that coffee machine you received last year that was exactly the same as the one you received two years prior.

In order to make things easier for customers, we suggest extending your returns policy from the start of November and allowing customers to return products purchased for gifts up to the 31st January.

The Last Delivery Day – Make it Clear!

The Last Delivery Day – Make it Clear!

Just like children count down to Christmas, retailers count down the days left before they can no longer guarantee Christmas delivery. In order to save disappointment, ensure that you make the last order day clear by placing a banner or alert on site and in all emails.

Top Tip – why not put a countdown timer on your site to increase the sense of urgency and encourage people to purchase?

Know Your Competition!

Know Your Competition!

Throughout Q4, retailers will be fighting for customers' hard-earned cash, so it is important that you are aware of all competitor activity in your main markets and react where possible. Think about the following:

  • Are all your best sellers in stock?
  • What are your competitors selling the most of?
  • Are you competitively priced?
  • What deals are your competitors running?
  • How will the deals affect your sales?
  • What can you do to counteract your competitors' promotions?
Plan, Plan, Plan!

Plan, Plan, Plan!

  • Promotions/Marketing:
    • Set out a weekly promotion/marketing calendar from Nov – Mid January. Doing this will ensure you stick to a schedule and get the most from your promotions.
  • Think about:
    • Your key marketing channels and the message going out across each promotion/event.
    • Assign owners for each task in the tracker and hold each member of staff accountable for the performance/deadlines in their area.
    • Agree a CPA for the Christmas period – you may want to increase your marketing spend slightly to attract more customers through search, affiliates, shopping, etc.
    • Think about the length of the promotions – for one-day or weekend promotions you can increase the sense of urgency and encourage purchase by using email subject lines like 'Ends Tonight!' or 'Only 48 Hours Left' and using a countdown timer on site.
Don’t forget about mobile!

Don't Forget About Mobile!

For a lot of our clients, mobile is now their biggest traffic source but not necessarily their biggest revenue source. Optimise your mobile experience in a few simple steps:

  • Ensure your promotional banners are clear and concise and all text is readable.
  • Ensure you update mobile banners at the same time as the desktop banners.
  • Ensure your mobile menu is optimised with custom mobile menu links.
  • Ensure customers can navigate easily to your top brands, categories and offers from the home page.
  • Ensure your heading banners are readable and highlight your key USPs (start with free delivery threshold, returns policy, guarantees, payment options, etc.)
  • Ensure any custom content pages you create are mobile responsive and linked to the mobile version.
  • Check out ASOS and River Island for WGLL in terms of mobile experience.
Suggested Promotions

Suggested Promotions

  • 12 Deals of Christmas – why not run 12 one-day deals to boost revenues on your best sellers? The urgency and limited-time nature of the deal will drive customers to grab a bargain and could form an email each day for the first 12 days of December. For extra impact, re-run all the deals for one day only on the 13th of December.
    • TIP: If you have any leftover stock from Black Friday, you could recycle it here or use it as an opportunity to flush out overstocks. But remember, customers are looking for gifts and best sellers over the Christmas period so the product and price need to be right!
  • Free Gift When You Spend £X – Treat your customers with a free gift worth £X when they spend over £X with you. Reward them for shopping with you, build customer loyalty and spread a little Christmas cheer. For example: 'Get a FREE tub of Cadbury Heroes with every purchase over £100. YUM!'
  • Build Package Deals on Best Sellers to boost order values – bundle up your best-selling products with relevant accessories/add-ons to ensure you maximise the sales opportunity this Q4. Consider bundle discounts – see Xbox and PlayStation as prime examples of how to upsell this Christmas.
  • Multi-Buy –– help customers get everything they need in the one place with multi-buy offers on gift sets, clothing, household essentials and decorations. See Boots 3 for 2 on Beauty:
    Boots 3 for 2 on Beauty
  • Offer Finance Where Possible – Christmas is expensive! Offer your customers a way to split their payments across the year with interest-free finance or buy-now, pay-later options. This could be the difference between choosing you and a competitor!
  • Free Shipping or Free Express Shipping – give them another reason to choose you this Christmas by removing the shipping charges for November and December. Customers love a freebie and free shipping is a no-brainer when it comes to winning at Christmas.
  • Offer a gift card with every purchase of £X or more – by doing this you can ensure that customers come back to spend more and more money with you this holiday season and beyond!
  • Social competitions with a TWIST! Offer some of your best-selling products as competition prizes this Christmas. What about running the '12 Treats of Christmas' on Facebook? For the customers who do win, offer them a voucher for £X or X% off their next purchase to encourage more sales.
  • Important questions to ask yourself:
    • How low can you go? What are the best deals you can offer?
    • For how long can you offer the deals?
    • What audience are you targeting?
    • By how much can you afford to increase your ad spend?
    • How can you successfully re-engage customers to maximise spend (email/social/Google/text)?
Make the most of affiliates!

Make the Most of Affiliates!

Affiliate websites come alive in Q4 with special promotional activity, gift guides and deal finders all geared at helping them receive the most commission on customer purchases over the holiday period.

Ensure your affiliate creatives, links and offers are up to date and engage in paid placements on key sites, where you have the budget, to ensure you maximise this channel in Q4.

Make the most of affiliates!

Don't Forget About Digital Gifts

If you're anything like me, you wish that you were prepared for Christmas yet every year you end up in town on Christmas Eve hunting for last-minute gifts. Don't underestimate the potential of gift cards and e-vouchers in driving revenue in the last few days before Christmas.

In the few days before Christmas, gift voucher purchases increase from around 10% to over 30% off all orders (Riskified).

Ensure you offer an EXPRESS DELIVERY service

Ensure You Offer an EXPRESS DELIVERY Service

Customers want peace of mind and knowing that their purchase will arrive the next day via Royal Mail Tracked Delivery can help push them over the edge to purchasing. Will you help your customers to meet all their little one's wishes?

It is also a great opportunity to increase revenues from delivery if you can negotiate a good deal with couriers.

Consider Text Marketing

Consider Text Marketing

Who doesn't answer their phone? Get your deals instantly into the hands of your top customers with text marketing. Highlight new deals as soon as they go on site for as little as 2p per customer in the UK and watch your sales rise. Check out Fire Text for more information.

Christmas Day Is Not A Rest Day!

Christmas Day Is Not A Rest Day!

Criteo carried out a study of apparel stores in the UK in 2016 over the Christmas period and found the following trend: Christmas Day was the 6th highest-grossing sales day of the recorded period! This is due to many businesses launching their Boxing Day Sale on Christmas Eve to beat the competition.

Criteo Study
Fig.2 Criteo Apparel Basket Analysis Over Christmas Period 2016
Be Prepared to Change Strategy ASAP

Be Prepared to Change Strategy ASAP

Competitor activity may cause a sharp drop in sales, or you may run out of your best sellers and be out of stock until after Christmas. In both scenarios it's best to have a back-up plan – ask yourself:

  • Can we afford to match the competitor deal to boost seasonal trade?
  • Are there any other alternative products we can promote?
Don't Forget to Have Fun!!!

Don't Forget to Have Fun!!!

Christmas is as much about the festivities and time of year as it is about the presents. Reward your customers with little surprises like free sweets in every delivery and wish them a Happy Christmas – with no strings attached!

Share your team festivities on social media and spread the holiday cheer!

Anonymous - Very informative! To the point
31 Oct 2018 11:05
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