Christmas is a jolly season for everyone: families and friends come home for Christmas for that much awaited reunion; most people receive their Christmas bonus so they can enjoy the season with their loved ones; and, brick-and-mortar establishments hold Christmas sales with the intention of encouraging consumers to purchase more products.
The question is: as an Ecommerce business, how can you ensure that this holiday will also be jolly for your business?
After all, small and mid-sized retailers make as much as 20% to 40% of their annual revenue during the last two months of the year!
If this isn’t enough to get you up and running, listen to this: according to a Google Consumer Survey of 1,500 consumers conducted in early July, nearly half of consumers plan to buy holiday gifts online.
We have awesome news for you – in a world where more and more sales are produced by a click of a mouse rather than the ring of the tills, you’re at an advantage. With the exception of boomers and seniors (age 55+), every other demographic plans to shop more on the Internet rather than in physical stores.
Now, you may be pumped up and ready to plan for your Christmas preparation for your business, but you probably have a lot of things on your plate, like shipping your existing orders, meeting with your long-term suppliers and handling your customers’ emails.
You can come up with a lot of excuses not to start, but if you continue procrastinating, you’ll only be on the losing side. At the end of the day, you need to act on your plan.
Well, you know what they say: action does not necessarily guarantee success – but we can guarantee you that your business will never succeed unless you act on improving it. And in this post, we’ll tell you the eight things that you should be acting on right now to prepare your online business for the busiest time of the year: Christmas.
Let’s do this:
Okay, you need to optimize your online store for Christmas, you understand this. But why is there a need for you to plan ahead? 40% of holiday shoppers say that they begin shopping before Halloween.
And because consumers are already deciding on brands and shops before they shop, it’s paramount that you create a “top of mind” awareness for your online business. After all, last year, 6 out of 10 retailers began their holiday advertising before Halloween. You need to start your campaign earlier for you to get ahead.
For you to achieve this, you need to be systematic: ensure that you have an organized promotional calendar way before the Christmas season begins. You can use online tools like Google Calendar or Trello to map out everything. Include here the specific dates and times that you will:
- organize a meeting with your team to talk about your holiday marketing campaign;
- secure your payment options and update your policies on returns and exchange;
- optimize your website design and social media presence;
- manage your product inventory to guarantee that you can meet your customers’ demand during the Christmas rush;
- release your timely blog posts;
- send email newsletters to your customers;
- offer free shipping;
- start and end every specific holiday promotion; and,
- track and evaluate your marketing campaign’s progress regularly, among others.
Everyone on your team needs to be in sync with your promotional calendar. Don’t forget regular meetings to keep everyone up to speed with your progress.
2. Put up additional payment options
Make it easy to convert visitors into customers by giving them different options to give you their money. If your online store only accepts credit cards, now’s the time to include Alternative Payment (AP) options such as:
If you’re not offering Paypal, you’re missing out: in a research done by WorldPay, Paypal owns more than half the AP market in US and around 45% in the UK. As of December 2013, Paypal owns over 137 million active accounts in 26 currencies worldwide. The best thing about Paypal is that it allows your customers to purchase your products even without leaving your online store.
While most payment processors such as WorldPay, Braintree and Stripe accept both credit cards and debit cards, your customers may be unaware of this unless you specifically state so in your checkout page. Accepting debit cards has advantages both to you as the business and the your client:
- Since the debit card is funded by withdrawing from the client’s bank account, you can guarantee that the client has enough funds to pay for their order. This way, it won’t be charged back to you; and,
- Since it’s charged to the client right away, there’s no credit card shock when they receive their monthly statement of account.
- Online checks
“Traditional” checks are used by consumers in 11% of all online transactions. If these customers are willing to actually mail checks, why don’t you offer them a more convenient way to pay by online check through your store’s website?
In online checks, your clients fill out a check-like form online with their banking data, date and amount. Then, they press “send” so that their information is processed by:
- Your computer: You buy a software which allows you to print the check and deposit it to your bank so you can get paid. This is less expensive but inconvenient as you still need to wait for clearing. Also, before going this route, make sure that your bank accepts this kind of check.
- A transaction service: Your client’s banking information is encrypted and transmitted to a clearing house which settles the payment within 48 hours. After settlement, the funds will be transferred from the client’s account to your account, together with a receipt (for the buyer) and an online report (for the merchant).
3. Extend your return and exchange policy
According to eBay’s final gifting report in 2014, 77% of eBay shoppers feel that an extended return policy is necessary when they are purchasing products for gifting during the holiday season.
The holiday season is perfect for offering an extended return and exchange policy: in the past, if you only accepted returns within two weeks, now may be the time to extend it to one month instead. You can even put the icing on the cake by offering to pay for the return shipping.
Another option you may consider is including a 30-day money-back guarantee. As with any strategy, of course, you also need to consider how these offers will impact your target sales, your inventory and your order & delivery processes.
4. Personalize your online store to represent the “Christmas spirit”
Once your order systems are in place, the next step is for you to personalizing your content to match the holiday season – but don’t do this during December; you need to have at least two months before Christmas to prepare all your materials for your holiday marketing campaign.
That’s why now I’ll show you some of the things you should consider changing in your online store to match the Christmas times.
Design and Graphics
- Match the visual of your website to the typical Christmas colors of red and green. You can also incorporate classy and subtle Christmas icons.
- Consider using Christmas-related promotional banners in both your website and your social media profiles.
- To really get your visitors into the Christmas mood, how about placing a countdown to Christmas in your homepage?
- 25% of shoppers say that an important factor that influences their decision to shop with a specific retailer is the presence of easy-to-use mobile websites. Make sure your mobile site is optimized as well.
- Update your product descriptions to include copy that talks about how a specific product would make a great gift for a particular recipient. Use Christmas keywords that are optimized for SEO but make sure that you do this ahead of time because Google needs time to crawl and index your new content.
- Additionally, include a cross-sell recommendation in your copy so that your clients can also consider purchasing related products.
- Your blog posts should be focused on providing value for free – not on promoting your products or services. You can also consider dedicating a blog post to show your customers how your company is planning to celebrate Christmas. Set up your own editorial calendar and produce content months in advance. Outsource premium writers from oDesk or ProBlogger to get the job done.
Pricing Range and Gift Ideas
- For budget-conscious consumers, make it easy for them to browse through your products list by categorizing them into specific price ranges: for example, $1 to $10, $11 to $20, $21 to $30. You may also want to give them the option to list your products from the cheapest to the most expensive order.
- You can also set up special categories like “Gifts for your awesome mom”, “Gifts your dad will love”, “Gifts for your jet-setter friend” or “Gifts for your boss”. That way, you’ll be attracting specific types of customers that are much more likely to buy something from you.
There are a few tactics you should consider using to play with your customer’s sense of urgency, now that it’s Christmas time.
Deals and Discounts
Consider developing daily deals. 56% of consumers say that a daily deal can influence them to purchase something on a social networking site.
If setting up daily deals is not feasible for you, try setting up weekly deals where your audience can enjoy a coupon code according to the amount they purchase. For example, spending a certain amount can give them a coupon code for this week that entitles them to a 20% discount.
Then for next week, give them a flash sale that selects certain items to be discounted for a limited time.
If coupon codes aren’t your specialty, you can go the simple route and offer to give three products for the price of two.
Also, to encourage more orders, you can do “buy products worth $50 and get a free $20 gift card”.
Finally, for your new customers, why don’t you give a discount, encourage a purchase and give a free item and get an email subscriber – at the same time? Here’s how:
For 55% of brands, email is a top holiday marketing channel, so make sure to include your regular holiday marketing campaigns in your newsletter. A simple, informative and regular email with visually appealing content is better than a long, complicated and once-in-a-blue-moon newsletter, so send several and well-timed emails for each promotion. You can even include subscriber-only discount codes to your audience.
Use email to also let your customers know about your Christmas-themed gift card. In the last eight years, gift cards are the most requested gift among people celebrating the holidays.
- Customized parcels: Give your customers the option to add a message to their purchase. Majority of your transactions will be purchased as gifts, so give your customers the chance to include a customized personal message to the receiver of their parcel. In fact, why don’t you go the extra mile and include a short postcard on the parcel to send the receiver your company’s holiday greeting? 62% of shoppers Tweet about purchases they made – you may want to take advantage of this.
- Free shipping: Free shipping is considered as the 2nd most important factor for online shoppers during holiday, so incorporate it by offering free shipping for purchases that reach a minimum spending threshold.
- Gift wrapping: Since most businesses may offer free shipping, be ahead of your competition by offering free gift wrapping for purchases that reach a certain value. This is an added convenience that your clients can appreciate.
Follow your promotional calendar as your implement your holiday campaigns. If you have prepared ahead of time, the only thing you need to do here is to execute and adapt accordingly.
As for tracking, here’s a famous quote by John Manamaker that you may relate with: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” An Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) is a tracker attached to a URL that enables you to produce unique links for different marketing campaigns. For you to know which campaigns are effective and which are not, assign a specific trackable link, a UTM, for each of your campaign.
For an in-depth article on this, here’s a video by KISSmetrics on “How to Track Online Marketing Campaigns with UTM Parameters in Google Analytics”.
At the end of your holiday promotion, don’t forget to dedicate enough of your resources to evaluate your marketing efforts. This way, you have access to information that can help you do better next year.
Plan for the Christmas holiday – you’re sure that this will always happen every year, right? Prepare ahead and execute on time. Holiday marketing all comes down to the thought of making your customers feel special by going the extra mile, may it be in terms of offering discounts, incentives, and free items.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to promote on television and you don’t need to conduct an expensive party just so you can get customers.
Focus on giving and adding value to your clients. This way, the holiday season will also be jolly for your online store. You’ll get your Christmas present in the form of increase in purchases, referrals and repeat customers.
After all, Santa rewards those who are nice, right?
This blog posts listed several tips, so it’s understandable for you to be overwhelmed and as a result, fail to take action. Let’s make this simple:
What one thing do you seriously commit to do to prepare your online store for Christmas?
We’d love to know! Tell us in the comments below.