O come all ye shoppers… Is your online store Christmas-ready?

Currencies Direct November 25th 2016 - 6 minute read

Given the uncertainty generated by recent events (think Brexit and the US Presidential election in particular) many consumers might be thinking that Christmas 2016 is a time for a tightening of the collective belt. After all, who knows what 2017 will bring!

In fact, retail figures have proved surprisingly buoyant over the last three months, according to the latest ONS figures for the UK.[1] In October, the quantity of goods bought in the retail industry was estimated to have increased by 7.4% compared with October 2015 – with the largest contribution coming from non-store retailing. This is the highest rate of growth since April 2002. Indeed, the amount spent online increased by 26.8% compared with October 2015.

So this could be your best Christmas trading season ever!

But is your online store as festive and enticing as it should be at this stage?

Here’s a last-minute checklist to make sure your online store won’t let you down when it comes to grabbing that extra spending.


1. Dashing through the store…

Are you offering a high-quality user experience across all devices?

I’m not suggesting a total redesign of your website in the middle of your most important sales period, but keep a close eye on how it’s performing – particularly at times of peak activity or when you are running a promotion.
Easy navigation through your site, good checkout procedures, and rapid page loading are all important in persuading a visitor to proceed to purchase or to return to your store in the future.
And with more users than ever not just browsing on their mobile devices, but making purchases on them too, make sure your checkout is mobile friendly.


2. O come all ye shoppers…

So much browsing takes place at this time of year, with shoppers looking for gift ideas and researching the best suppliers. Most will begin with a search through Google or another major search engine, so make sure your search marketing strategy is up to the task of delivering new customers to your site.

Search terms connected to ‘Christmas’ are widely used so try to be more inventive with these and adjust your ‘long tail keywords’ to reflect the holiday season. These are the three and four keyword phrases that are very specific to the niches your products serve. They result in less search traffic, but usually have a higher conversion value, as they are more specific. For example: Christmas gifts for foodies; fair-trade Christmas gifts; quality children’s toys, and so on.

It may be worth increasing your investment in paid search promotions too at this stage; or looking at some of the tools available from Google for example which allow better targeting through product ad listings.


3. Store of wonder…

Keep your content fresh

New, exciting content plays a vital role in SEO success, helping you to attract first time visitors and encouraging existing customers to return. With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, it’s time to ramp up your content strategy to full throttle.

Targeted gift guides are popular, delivering that often much-needed inspiration for Christmas gift ideas to the 58% consumers who search online for gift ideas these days.

Blog articles and social posts focusing on the interests and concerns of Christmas shoppers can be helpful in creating a buzz around your products. Use guest blogs and contributions from ‘experts’ or ‘influencers’ to ring the changes.

Offer seasonal advice –  how to dress a Christmas tree, how to dress in Christmas style, how to make the world’s easiest Christmas cake –  anything that is fresh and will keep visitors coming to your online store.


4. Bearing gifts we traverse afar… 

Now is the time to ramp up your promotional campaigns.

A well-timed promotion plopping into a shopper’s inbox can turn a browser into a buyer: coupon/code discounts, 2 for 1 offers, lightning deals, product bundling, free delivery, free gift wrapping – any of these can tip a shopper into action.

Consider running competitions with a festive theme. Apart from showing that you’re in the Christmas spirit, this can be useful to build up email details for use in future marketing campaigns.

Check out The White Company’s #MyWhiteChristmas snaps competition and White Stuff’s ‘win an ice hotel break in Sweden’ draw by way of examples.

Use integrated email, mail and social media campaigns to publicise your promotions for maximum reach and impact.


5. Do you hear what I hear…? 

Keep the communications coming to ensure you have a captive audience when minds turn from browsing to buying – and don’t just rely on the targeted email. Given that one in three internet users use social networks when researching a brand or a product, social media campaigns are vital too.

There are so many social networks at your disposal now, with ‘visual’ channels such as Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube ideal for festive displays and images.

So make sure that you are promoting offers, discounts and competitions across all social media channels – and don’t underestimate the value of advertising on social media either.


6. I saw three ships come sailing in…

Don’t run out of this Christmas’s favourite product.

Restocking arrangements with your suppliers should already be in place, but there is always a chance that you’ll be caught out by a product that just flies off the shelf this year. And Christmas shoppers won’t wait for the next delivery – they’ll go elsewhere.
Keep checking back to figures from previous years to get an idea of how quickly the most popular products sell – and monitor current sales levels closely to avoid running out of stock before the last frantic buying period.

7. In the bleak mid-purchase…

Take a more proactive approach to abandoned shopping baskets.

You will inevitably get a higher number of abandoned baskets at this time of year, with consumers browsing for gift ideas and shopping around for the best deal, and in these instances it’s worth sending a reminder email or leaving an on-site message to see if you can rekindle interest.
Apart from the ‘not ready to buy’, the following are significant reasons given by shoppers for abandoning a basket according to a recent study[2] :
61% said the extra costs were too high (shipping, fees, taxes)
35% were deterred by having to create an account
27% found the checkout process too long/complicated
24% left because they couldn’t see the total order cost up-front
So it is even more important to reduce the total cost if you can by offering free delivery – even if just for a limited time window or for orders over a certain purchase value. Make sure that delivery and other cost information is displayed clearly up-front too.
At the very least offer free returns. This gives shoppers confidence in the ‘total price’ – and it brings you in line with the policy of bigger brands who offer free returns as standard.
And make your checkout process easier by offering the option to purchase as a guest, for example, rather than being obliged to set up an account.

8. In a one-horse open sleigh…?

Don’t disappoint with delivery.

It is increasingly unrealistic for smaller online stores to meet the delivery expectations set by companies like Amazon. That said customers do need to be confident that you will deliver within the time-frame you specify. And, with the ‘deadline’ fixed as on or before 25th December, you need to display your last delivery dates prominently to remind shoppers that they can’t leave it too late to place an order.

A recent survey from ChannelAdvisor[3] revealed a spread of cut-off dates for guaranteed Christmas delivery among UK online sellers, ranging from a cautious 9% who specified 17th December or earlier, through the ‘sweet spot’ 38% offering 20th December, to the confident 2% risking 24th December.


9. Three wise men came from country far…

Don’t neglect your overseas customers.

Given the low value of Sterling against the euro and US dollar in particular, UK-based sellers could be seeing higher than expected sales to Europe and the US this Christmas.

Make sure you have the inventory to cope with higher levels of demand – and during this period of currency uncertainty, ensure that your margins are protected from foreign exchange risk as far as possible.

10. Deck the store with boughs of holly…

Well not literally – but make it obvious that yours is a good place for Christmas shopping. No need for elf-overload – the incorporation of some Christmas colours or symbols on your home page, together with images of festive products or potential gift ideas up front will let people know that you are open for Christmas business.

And as most shoppers will be looking for Christmas accessories and gift ideas, make sure that these are easy to find in a Christmas shop or section, that is prominent on your home-page.
My current favourite is the Barbour site!

The run-up to Christmas is the most important time of the year for most retailers: 74% say that 60% or more of their annual sales are dependent on the holiday season[4].

Many of you will already have reaped the benefits of the Cyber Weekend – and may be feeling very happy with the way things are going. If not, then our last-minute checklist could help you to get back on track!

[1] http://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/bulletins/retailsales/oct2016
[2] http://baymard.com/lists/cart-abandonment-rat
[3] ChannelAdvisor: E-Commerce Holiday Season Survey 2016
[4] ChannelAdvisor: E-Commerce Holiday Season Survey 2016

Written by
Currencies Direct

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