First things first - sorry to mention the C-word! We know it’s only September, but if you haven’t already, now is the time to start preparing your e-commerce site for the slide into Christmas. Sure, some shoppers don’t even want to think about it until November at least, but others are already well into the festive swing. In addition, there are back room issues and plans that should be made now that will ensure a smooth and successful festive commerce season.
The closer we get to Christmas, the more likely it is that customers will be shopping on mobile devices. Regardless of the season, though, mobile commerce has seen a monumental rise over the last 18 months and Christmas will only highlight this trend. So to convert those mobile browsers into sales come the festive rush, make sure your mobile offering is quick and straightforward.
When it comes to shopping, especially around Christmas, consumers don’t want to waste time working out your website. So your user experience should be as intuitive as possible. This means that your layout and product categorisation must be clear and easy to navigate. Ensure that your product pages are SEO friendly for those customers on the search for specific products. At the same time, categorise your products by gift recipient for those shoppers who are looking for inspiration.
Once navigated, the customer journey from basket to dispatch should involve a minimal number of clicks! Offer a guest checkout rather than requiring customers to register an account. This appeals to those in a hurry, and you can follow up with an easy transition into an account at a later time to encourage return visits.
Consumers judge an online store front with as much scrutiny as they do on the high street. If your mobile or desktop site is a jumble of images and information, customers are likely to look elsewhere. So it’s vital to streamline the aesthetic presentation of your site.
When it comes to e-commerce aesthetics, clarity is at the top of the list. By this we mean clarity of layout, brand, information, and images. Streamline your dropdown menus - too many options are off putting. Take the time to structure how your festive fare will tie in to your existing branding. Your product pages should include plenty of information, including clear images, reviews and dimensions if relevant.
OK, September is probably too soon to go full candy cane on your website, so why not start with a dedicated ‘Christmas Shop’ section. Your Christmas zone can be live from the start of Autumn and gradually migrate themes and promotions to your main pages after other celebrations such as Halloween are out of the way.
We all know, though, that it’s not just about looking pretty. Spangles will only get you so far if your site functionality isn’t up to scratch! So, before the Christmas rush it’s time to identify any potential function issues and get them sorted.
When speed is of the essence, no customer wants to wait around for a page to load. They’ll be off to another site before you can say Santa Claus. Ideally a page load time will be 3 seconds or less. Look at utilising caching or compression software to help with load times. Keep monitoring your site speed so you can respond quickly if any issues arise.
Expect a higher rate of traffic in the lead up to Christmas. To prepare for this, ask your hosting provider or developer to size the server based on festive peak user load or the probable spike of traffic over the season.
In order to shop in confidence, your e-commerce site must protect customer data. By obtaining an SSL certificate, your site is able to display to potential customers that they are in a private and secure connection.
Use the data that you have at hand to inform your approach to this festive season. The patterns your data will show are relevant to how potential customers are likely to behave in their festive shopping habits.
Revisit previous seasons’ trends in order to get strategic for the upcoming season. This includes product type, timescales and profile of shopper. Use this information to inform where to place ads, which products to increase or decrease in stock and when to launch promotions.
Start early with re-engaging lapsed customers. Those who may not have bought with you since last Christmas for example. Ask them for feedback to refresh their memory of having a positive experience with your brand. Target your lists with early bird promotion codes or a summary of what’s new in your product catalogue.
Well timed and attractive promotions are one of the most successful ways to drive sales traffic during the festive period. So from re-engaging old customers to enticing new ones, set key promotions wisely.
The world over, there are certain expectations amongst consumers when it comes to festive promotions. From the US, the prevalence of Black Friday and Cyber Monday seems to go from strength to strength, so plan any aggressive promotions for these days only. Keep more gentle promotion products and codes for an advent countdown. This format is fun and engaging for customers.
Offer promotional bundles on product pages to tap into festive impulse buying. Panic Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas, is another key date for impulse shopping. Stick to products which can be shipped quickly if you run a promotion to tie in to this date.
Clarity is key here, too. If delays are possible, be upfront about this with a pop up message. Ultimately, managing expectation will prevent customer dissatisfaction.
Display your expected delivery times, prices and last order dates clearly. A page banner works well here, as it manages customer expectation without requiring them to search for the information.
Appoint extra personnel over the festive period to make sure that shipping stays on track. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, so get the extra staff on board in advance to be prepared for the festive spike.
Most importantly, have a bit of fun over the festive period! By putting in extra thought and planning now, your business can enjoy the cheer as well as the successes of the season!