Preparing Your Online Store for Christmas

With Australian Online Sales for Christmas beginning to peak from around December 1, we would hope that everyone already has their online stores prepped and ready for the rush.

If you’re not ready yet, there are still a couple of weeks to go before you need to despair. You can target a few things to do in the short term to get your store in good shape. The good news is that the same principles apply year round, it’s only under the extra pressure of Christmas that the cracks are noticed. If you don’t get in fast enough for Christmas this year, any work you do now will put you in good stead to start the new year – and prepare you for next Christmas.

YOUR HOMEPAGE SETS THE TONE

Your homepage should be revamped to get people excited for Christmas. Add in some Christmas themed banners, make sure people know your value proposition, offers, the products that you really want to move, and make sure they know that you have gift vouchers available.

Take a moment to give your homepage a quick health check. Use our tips in Basic Store Optimisation Part 1 to assess how well your homepage is working to deliver your business objectives.

USE YOUR WEBPAGE REALESTATE TO SELL YOUR PREFERRED PRODUCTS

You probably have at least one product that you purchased up big in preparation for Christmas sales. If your customers don’t know you have it, you won’t sell it. Make sure that your customers know your main promotions. They can be featured on banners on the homepage, on category pages, as related products, or as essential extras on other products. You can even email customers who have recently made a purchase offering them an incentive to come back and buy it.

ENSURE YOUR PRODUCTS ARE WELL PRESENTED & EASY TO FIND

In some cases, your product will be exclusive to you. In most cases it’s not. Make sure that your product looks more appealing than the same product in other stores. Have large detailed photographs, and put time into your description. You want your description to both sell the product well and be unique. Too often, people cut corners in describing their products, relying on the manufacturer descriptions to save themselves time and effort. Sadly, so do many others who sell the same product and you end up competing against, and being penalised for, a lot of duplicate content. Put time into selling your product with an individual description; it’s worth it.

Being able to find your products in your store is also really important. We recommend that you look at improving your customer experience with product categories and filters, but please bear in mind that this requires a lot of thought and planning to implement well and is something best looked at early in the new year.

You can look at product page optimisation in more detail. How well do your product pages stack up against recommendations?

PRODUCT VALUE ASSESSMENT

If you compete against other people for selling the same product, value for money is vital to assess. We say value for money, because your products do not necessarily need to be the best price to present the most value. Your prices should be in the same ball park as your competitors, but what you offer needs to stand out. Value perceptions can be enhanced by offering free shipping, or free shipping over a certain purchase value or with particular bundles of products. You can increase the value perception of your products by offering loyalty points towards further purchases, free gift-wrapping, or a small free gift on purchase. The actual value added is unimportant. What is vital, is that your customer when comparing your product against someone else’s identical product, feels good about buying from you. Take a look at what your competition do, how can your store offer a point of difference on the sale?

PRODUCT AVAILABILITY

At the back of the customer’s mind around Christmas is usually the question; ‘If I do my research and come back to buy it later, will it still be available?’, more so the closer they get to Christmas. Having stock quantities displayed for your customers to view can be a good sales technique. If they are aware that you only have two of an item left, they may make that purchase before they miss out; if they see you have plenty left of a popular item, they may just tell their friends.

Making a social share available on your products could encourage people to easily share your products with their friends and family and increase your potential customer base.

If your product is sold out, but you have another shipment arriving in the next few days, it is something that your customers should be made aware of. Pre-purchase and a stock due in announcements may really help your sales.

GIFT VOUCHERS

Gift vouchers become more valuable the closer to Christmas it gets. Gift vouchers get your customers out of all sorts of sticky situations. They may not know the recipients’ taste, size, or existing collection, which is all easily remedied by allowing the recipient to choose their own gift. The best part about gift vouchers at Christmas that your store can capitalise on online purchases without fear of a delivery deadline.

If you use Arpastart eCommerce, make sure you customise your Christmas gift voucher with a festive image.
We strongly recommend you make sure that customers know exactly how your gift vouchers work. If your system sends out an automatic gift voucher to the recipient at the time payment is processed, you will need to make it clear to them that this is the case so they can elect to have the information sent to their own email address so they can control the time that the recipient is delivered the good news and redemption code.

MANAGE CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS

Anyone who has worked Christmas retail understands that the closer to Christmas it gets, the more customer stress is involved. More customer stress equates to more staff stress. Not everyone gets organised early for a variety of reasons. They may not be able to decide what to give people, don’t have time to shop, can’t find exactly what they’re looking for – or find it in the delivery timeframe or stock quantities that they want. Good customer service is never more important than at Christmas time. You will need to decide how you will manage this. Will there be more staff members available to answer the phones and email queries? Will you implement live chat for the holiday season (and possibly beyond)? Do you have your contact hours and details clearly displayed?

Customer satisfaction ultimately comes down to managing expectations. There is never a more important time to manage your customer expectations than at Christmas. If people know what they’re signing up for, there won’t be any disappointment. Customers should always know exactly what they are buying, the full price they are paying (including shipping and taxes) and what they should expect in delivery time and quality. Make sure that you make it clear at every stage, exactly what and how you deliver. With the deadline of Christmas looming, any purchase cut off date for shipping should be absolutely clear. This means that you need to be clear exactly what service agreements your delivery companies are offering over Christmas before promising the world to your customers. If you’re taking a break over Christmas, make it clear to your customers when and how they expect returns and exchanges to take place if things don’t go according to plan.

Time is limited, so you will need to do an assessment of your store and work out a priority list of things to address. If you don’t get them all in before Christmas, don’t worry – there’s the new year to regroup and set yourself up for peak performance for Christmas 2016.

If you chose one thing to focus on at a time you’ll be amazed at what you achieve.

2018-05-19T16:49:21+00:00 November 19th, 2015|Online Stores|

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