GUEST COMMENT Ten steps to achieving ecommerce success this Christmas
If a business is prepared with the perfect retail strategy, Christmas can be the most lucrative time in the ecommerce calendar. A successful Christmas strategy should not focus on attracting the bargain hunters and one-time shoppers, but rather utilise the seasonal boom in sales to build relationships and loyal customers.
With last year’s sales growing by 19.2% in December (BBC), it is clear that Christmas strategy is an incredibly valuable part of any businesses approach to ecommerce and should be used to optimise marketing campaigns and show off the smooth shopping experience of the site.
Understanding what makes a smooth shopping experience is critical to creating an effective strategy, especially around Christmas. Although Christmas strategy can seem daunting, here are 10 simple steps that can guarantee pleased customers and e-commerce success this Christmas:
Implement an email campaign
Email is an incredibly powerful marketing tool and an easy, cheap and extremely effective way to build key relationships, reconnect with customers and encourage conversions.
Although most e-commerce businesses will already be using this channel within their marketing strategy throughout the whole year, re-evaluating email campaigns at Christmas is key.
Standing out from the crowd with captivating subject lines and personalised content is critical, yet only rewarding if the email platform used as support is robust. To have any chance of challenging competitors at Christmas, e-commerce businesses should look for an email platform that can schedule emails, be mobile compatible and reflect the business branding.
There is more to this channel than the email itself however, and the platform is just a building block to a coherent email campaign. Without the good, quality Christmas offers and content to link back to, it is easy for any email campaign to fall short during this seasonal boom.
Create a mobile site
In the past, creating a phone app or optimising the site for mobile has passed as m-commerce. Yet with consumers having 24 hours access to the internet via their phone, if a business hasn’t invested in a mobile site it hasn’t invested in the user experience.
As with email, a mobile site is a great initial start to reaping the benefits of this channel, yet won’t reach its true potential without these next steps.
• With 61% of users stating they would leave one site for another if it wasn’t mobile friendly (Google), it is more important than ever to improve site speed and clarity so full advantage can be taken of the rise in traffic during the Christmas boom.
• Users will respond and expect consistency throughout Christmas campaigns. Integrating a multichannel strategy will improve customer understanding of a business and its campaign.
• A mobile site should allow users to fully exploit the platform, enabling features such as text-message marketing and bar code generation.
Adapt the social media strategy
Social media is an extremely influential platform and a great channel for businesses to drive engagement and build relationships with their customers.
Businesses should be using this platform all year round, and should know what already works best with their audience. Adapting the current social strategy to fit the Christmas boom can prove to be far more rewarding and efficient at generating engagement:
• Video content: use this powerful tool to show customers the best gifts ideas, discounts available and the Christmas delivery policy.
• Images: use images to show users your gift or offer of the week.
• Social ads: monitor, measure or optimise your social campaigns. Ads will show you what your users engage with most so you can design effective posts in the run up to the season’s boom.
Utilise the shopping basket
The shopping basket is a highly influential stage in the customers buying process, yet its power is often underestimated. Paying it a little more attention over Christmas, when users are specifically looking for the brand’s advice, can significantly increase sales and improve the customer’s overall experience and all would take is upselling and cross-selling similar products to what they have in their basket, best sellers and what other users bought.
Revisit web design
Web design is the online shop window, and so it is critical it successfully reflects a brand and its personality. Just like a shop window, e-commerce sites should use web design to tell customers they are ready for their Christmas shopping and about their special offers.
Understanding that not all customers will be celebrating Christmas is critical if businesses want to meet the needs of all its users. Web design can be effective without being overpowering, and that is the key thing to remember when creating the Christmas strategy:
• Subtle changes to the site’s colours is a simple yet effective tactic that will tell consumers Christmas is here, without overpowering the overall shopping experience.
• Separate pages for gifts and offers will avoid isolating customers who don’t celebrate Christmas.
• Festive banners to highlight best sellers and gifts won’t alter the look and feel of the site, but still meet the rise in demand for special offers.
Remarketing is standard procedure for many ecommerce businesses now and consumers can’t seem to leave a site without being shown what they are missing out on or what they have forgotten.
It is a successful solution to visitors leaving the site without purchasing, especially during Christmas when competition is so high. There is no doubt that it should be a part of every businesses Christmas strategy to help take advantage of the Christmas rush and keep hold of all potential sales.
Offer more payment options
As Christmas is such a lucrative time for ecommerce, competition will be at one of the highest points. Although a marketing strategy can push a business in front of consumers and past competitors, falling at the last hurdle with payment options is always a possibility.
By extending payment options past the traditional methods to include PayPal or American Express can make the most of the lucrative qualities of this season.
Deliver on delivery
Every business wants happy customers, and there is definitely an added pressure during festive periods. Delivery is key for customers and can easily make or break the Christmas strategy. Investing in improved delivery options is an investment in customers and ticks the boxes for Christmas strategy: attracting loyal customers and building a positive relationship with them.
In addition, the Christmas strategy must have: inform customers of the last order date for guaranteed Christmas delivery. This doesn’t have to be difficult (web banners, email and social media are effective tools to use) and is an easy way to improve relationships between customers and brands.
Calculate stock levels
Evaluating stock is probably the most essential stage of creating an ecommerce Christmas strategy. Without stock, the rest of the marketing campaign will fail to deliver.
No ecommerce business can survive without loyal customers, and selling products that aren’t in stock won’t result in loyalty. Making sure stock levels are sufficient to endure the Christmas boom and keeping customers updated with how much of what is left is a great start to building relationships.
Don’t forget January and February
January and February are renowned for being two of the slowest months for sales, yet it is so easy to transform them. Using the retail boom in December to upsell these rejected months using discounts and vouchers is a great way to prepare for the aftermath of the retail boom whilst encouraging users to return in the new year.
Christmas strategy should be a major focus for every ecommerce business and is so simple to deliver well, and, if implemented correctly, will reward a business with both a loyal audience and lucrative season.
Nick Pinson is director at iWeb Solutions [irdx viwb]