10 tips for pulling a cracker of a Christmas online

By: Chris Barling

Date: 18 September 2009

Christmas underpins profitability for the whole year for most stores. When it comes to preparing for the Christmas season online, “the early bird catches the worm” as they say. Before you know it, the rush to service orders has replaced any consideration on how to optimise sales. Here are some seasonal tips from SellerDeck and some e-store owners to help you get ready.

Prepare marketing ideas early
Whatever your Christmas marketing plans, run some small-scale tests soon. Establish what works, and refine it. If search engines matter to you, optimise in plenty of time.

Keith Milsom at http://www.AnythingLeft-handed.co.uk advises, “We plan ahead for promo emails to various customer groups as they take a while to prepare. We also boost PR with a press release in September.”

Can you handle the extra traffic?
If there is anything worse than having no orders, it's having more than you can handle. This just produces dissatisfied customers.

The average etailer gets 30% more orders in November/December. Make sure you can cope with the increase. This includes web hosting, and extra staff for packing.

Bill Stevenson of www.spicesofindia.co.uk advises ordering extra stock and advertising for temporary staff in September. “Last December visitors fell, but conversion rates tripled. We ran out of many Christmas gift sets and could not get new stock. This year we will order a lot more.”

Sort your logistics
Make sure your logistics supplier can cope. To avoid missed deliveries, let customers select delivery to their work address.

Robert Johnston of www.gentlemans-shop.com adds, “We email customers their parcel tracking details and confirmation of delivery date. This dramatically reduces calls about deliveries.”

Seasonal promotions
“Don't be a bah-humbug! Decorate your site and get into the Christmas spirit,” says James Auckland at www.lunaspas.com.

Find creative ways to mark the season. Put gift ideas on your home page, and stock Christmas-themed items. Remember to change the pages on Boxing Day.

Last minute shoppers
Cite a final ordering date for Christmas delivery on every page - highlight when the deadline has passed. You’ll need different dates for home and overseas orders.

Drop customers a reminder email, e.g. must order by end of tomorrow for delivery outside Europe.

Customers in a rush
Most online shoppers are in a hurry, particularly at Christmas. Help them out with a search capability that can match by category and price. Text-based searching is no help when you want a gift for less than £10 for your eight-year-old niece.

Another aid for rushed buyers is a gift-wrapping service. It can also increase your margin.

Upsell to maximise the opportunity
Where gifts need additional items such as batteries, ensure they can be ordered together. Suggest similar gifts, and incentivise extra purchases with offers like 'buy two and get one free'.

Thank regulars
James Auckland again: “Thank your suppliers, as well as your regular customers.” Good supplier relationships can help resolve problems. Consider offering discount during January to suppliers and good customers.

Keep a sense of humour!
Robert Johnston once had an irate customer repeatedly phoning on Christmas Eve, “about the delivery of his father’s missing present. He accused me of ’ruining his Christmas‘. Just as we closed, he called to apologise. His sister had signed for the parcel, and dad’s present was already wrapped and under the tree.”

Advertise January sales
Plan your January sale early. It gives ‘value shoppers’ a chance to clear all that dead stock for you.

Finally, book a well-earned rest for February. You will probably need it. Just beware of tour-operators trying to up-sell you to something more expensive!


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