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Despite a tough economic backdrop and widespread fears over delivery times, this was another season of growth for UK online retail. It may seem a little early to be thinking about Christmas again already, but given that careful planning is often hailed as the key to success, what can you start doing now to prepare for next Christmas?
In another bumper year for web businesses, more Britons spent more online than ever before. In fact, a study commissioned by Tealeaf showed that 44% of the country’s web-enabled adults did some of their Christmas shopping online. And if recession and a looming year of cuts weren’t enough to dampen online Christmas shopping growth, then next year is also likely to break a few records.
This means that all consumer-facing online retailers need to ensure that their websites are ready in time for the busy festive season.
The need for a streamline buying process was highlighted by the Tealeaf research, which showed that as many as 45% of respondents said they’d encountered difficulties with their shopping. Almost half said they wouldn’t return to a shop where they’d had problems, and one in 10 said they had criticised retailers on social networks.
With that in mind, how can you ensure next Christmas goes without a hitch?
Start planning your festive marketing straight away
If you’re starting to wonder about your Christmas marketing in November, you’ve left it too late to do a good job.
Fantastic festive viral campaigns, targeted advertising and meticulously executed email marketing drops aren’t thrown together in a few days or even a few weeks.
Start brainstorming your approach now and have a firm idea in place by summer. You then have months to plan it and stage it well. On top of that, you’ll save yourself a horrendous rush in the final few months, and you’ll cut down on hours of expensive overtime.
Protect your Christmas budget
Just as every family is urged to save a little each month to ensure they don’t run into debt in December, your business should be spending a little less each month to make sure it has extra marketing budget to spare at Christmas.
That way you can really work platforms like paid search advertising and drive more festive business to your online shop.
Delivering a reliable and efficient service at Christmas can win you long-term customers, so it’s well worth it.
Offer Christmas discounts throughout the year
Rewarding customers for their loyalty is always a good idea, and pledging to give them a Christmas discount for their shopping earlier in the year can be great.
Not only will you give your customer that warm feeling they get when they know they’re being rewarded, but it will also boost your festive sales.
You can even email the shopper closer to the time to remind them of the discount available, putting your online store at the forefront of their minds.
Start building a gift finder
If you consider yourself to be rubbish at Christmas shopping, the online gift finder is your friend. But an effective gift-finding tool takes time to build and test.
Start planning and budgeting for it now, so that you can have it up and running by October. That should allow you to set it live just as the earlybirds start Christmas shopping.
Examine your customer journey
This is good advice generally, but it will help your Christmas shopping figures.
Comb through your customer journey to check for barriers to sale and to ensure your clients enjoy an easy shopping experience.
Rid your site of unnecessary clicks; each one is a barrier to purchase, increasing your chances of shopping cart abandonment. Ensure your search functions are performing as expected.
One of the best ways to improve your customer journey is to ask your customers, perhaps offering a prize draw as an incentive to complete a survey. Very often a website’s designers can be simply too close to the project to view it objectively.
Customers will have no qualms about putting you right!
Keep sales in mind too
It used to be that the sales began on Boxing Day, but for the online retailer, the sales begin as soon as it’s too late to deliver in time for Christmas.
For most businesses that’s December 23rd or even earlier. With that in mind, when planning your Christmas campaign, don’t forget to give some thought to the sales frenzy that follows it.
You’ll need to work on your marketing campaign for that in advance too.
Have staff working Christmas Day
It’s a pain and no one wants to ask their staff to work over Christmas, but you need to have someone behind the scenes just in case.
According to eDigital Research, 86% of UK consumers went online over Christmas Day and Boxing Day in 2010, and many of them did so to take early advantage of the sales.
Put plans in place now to have your IT teams working over those days, to ensure your website runs smoothly no matter what traffic you face.
Larger stores may also want to have a skeleton customer services team on call, just in case there are any problems. Having a ready response to an issue can turn a negative customer experience into a positive one.
Start making plans now and your staff may be more willing to work the bank holidays. You could even offer them some extra holiday over the year to make up for losing a few hours on Christmas Day.