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Christmas is coming - are you ready to sell online

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Don't leave Christmas preparation to the last minute?

Every year we hear of stories about retailers who leave the preparations for the Holiday sales and Christmas to the last minute and then wonder why they don't do well. Christmas is the biggest retail sales time of the year for the vast majority of businesses. Sales increases related to holiday spending start around late September and peak late November to early December. There are heaps of issuses to think about so start early.

 

This year it is expected that the latest that you will be able to order online and expect delivery before Christmas will be Tuesday 20th December for most Australian deliveries. Australia Post have already advised for the international sea-mail cutoff dates however they have yet to announce the Australian dates.

 

Our advice to make the most from the opportunity of great retail holiday sales is to plan and prepare now. How long does it take you to pick, pack and ship? That will determine the last date for selling online and delivering by Christmas. Remember there may be backlogs in delivery so check with your shipping agent. What are the peak number of orders that you can handle each day and still get the deliveries out? Maybe you need some temporary staff to help you get through the holiday rush.

 

Being prepared is as simple as asking a few simple questions about your business.
 

  • How much stock will you need on hand?
  • What content changes do you need for your web store?
  • Do you have photos and new stock information from suppliers?
  • What about pre-Christmas promotions and sales?
  • What about Christmas gift cards and gift wrapping materials?

 

Every year Christmas is the dominant retail sales period in Australia and New Zealand if not worldwide. Worldwide trends have been favourable for online shopping and the latest can provide some new confidence for online sellers. The trend is for more people to buy online being driven by many factors and this is unlikely to slow.

 

So what can you expect this year?
 

pokemongo

  • Christmas Day is on Sunday so you can expect last deliveries to be Friday 23rd December
  • More people will buy using their mobiles expected to be over 50%
  • Buyers will work to a budget there is not expected to be a change in buyer sentiment this year
  • Gift buyers will look for mobile tech novelties and quality
  • Comparison shopping will focus gift buying
  • Buyers will look for added value and special offers
  • Pokemon Go will be BIG

Unique Strategies for Christmas


It might be a good time to review your overall eCommerce strategy and to look at how you can develop a more successful online business. 

You can take some time to consider how you will deal with;

 

  • Content - have you updated the descriptions of your categories and products to promote holiday sales opportunities
  • Pricing - most gift buying is to a budget so make sure that you can present your products in price bands - i.e. $10 - $15 so your buyers can easily find the products that fit the budget.
  • Inventory - can you get enough stock and how long will it take to restock if you sell out
  • Logistics - you need to get the product to the customer at Christmas and there is a hard deadline. Make sure that you do not create a negative expectation for delivery.
  • Service & support - there will be consumers buying at strange hours so consider extending your support hours and look at services such as Live Chat.
  • Payments - taking payment on your online store is always important. If your products are expensive it might be an opportunity to offer term payments or even financing. Read more about this a little later.
  • Refund/returns - a lot of gifts get returned after Christmas, make sure your policies are clear
  • Marketing - plan your marketing campaigns to coincide with the higher levels of activity. Focus on gift buyers if you are in the consumer market.
  • Social media - start to offer gift buying advice. Social media drove a higher propotion of sales last Christmas and that is increasing.
  • Mobile - you need to check that you key content, products and messages present well on mobile devices. More than 50% of gift sales comes from mobiles.

 

Spending a little time developing your plan and strategy can deliver better short and long term sales results and higher margins. It might also be a good time to look at promotional micro-sites to target the Christmas traffic.

 

 

Issues and ideas to improve holiday sales


Buying online for Christmas starts as early as September but the real peak starts from late-November. This year we will expect to see a busy and a longer buying period. The after Christmas, New Years sales, will still be important to sell off overstocked items at bargain prices.

Simple strategies to improve sales and conversions:

  1. Is your online store ready?

    It is no use waiting until December to set up the store as you just won't make it in time. If you have an existing store then now is time to clean up old content and get rid of out of date product and stock information. Each year there are new fads, styles, colours and collections so be up to date and prepared to take advantage of the demand. Christmas is about gifts for others more than about personal purchases. This may mean that you can offer different categorisation for your store at Christmas. For example - "Gifts from Grandma for the 18 - 24 year olds".

    Customer service is a key factor in getting sales anytime but specially during the holiday sales period. So make sure that you provide an easy way for your customers to contact you. So make your contact details obvious. Maybe setup  a special holiday / Christmas sales contact form using the custom form capability in ePages. You can also add Live Chat easily to your website. If you can answer questions quickly for your customers you can increase conversion rates by up to 40%. Check out more information about live chat at Live Chat Inc our live chat partners.
     
  2. issues to improve online christmas salesCheck you website on your mobile

    Over 50% of your potential buyers will come via a mobile this year. That might mean you can get more sales and more profit if those visitors can find and buy a product on a mobile. Don't expect your website to look the same on a mobile as a laptop or tablet. Your website needs to be mobile friendly. eCorner websites are mobile friendly but if you have not checked and optimised your content for mobiles it might need some work.
     

  3. Do you have the products to sell?

    Silly question you say well not really. Getting the stock can be tricky the closer you get to Christmas so you need to know what you will need now. Buying stock early can have a negative cash flow affect on your business so look at the possibility of committment with deliveries later.
     
  4. When is my delivery cut off date for Christmas?

    It is no use selling to a customer who expects pre Christmas delivery if you cannot get the product delivered on time. So you need to tell your buyers what they can expect if they buy on the 24th December. Make sure that you provide specific advice regarding returns and refunds as you do not want to get stuck after Christmas.
     
  5. Time to check Payments & Security

    Do you have a safe payment process setup like PayPal Express or eWAY one of Australia’s leading payment providers? Consumers will be more careful this Christmas and look for security when buying online. But there are also interesting new services like Zipmoney that allow you to offer interest free terms to your online buyers and get the cash right away. Contact eCorner for more information.

    Add an SSL certificate to your webstore like a COMODO Instant SSL, these add to buyer confidence.Trust and security can help dramatically improve shopping basket conversions and reduce abandonment.
     
  6. Think about promotions?

    You can setup special Google AdWords Campaigns just for Christmas and help drive Christmas traffic to your store. You will be competing with lots of other businesses for customer attention but we know that most online purchases with start with a search and around 70% of those will be via Google. The use of a well prepared and funded online search engine marketing campaign leading up to Christmas can be a good investment.
     
  7. Use the Price Comparison portals like Google Shopping

    You can promote your products and special offers and drive qualified traffic to your webstore.What are your unique selling propositions (USP) for Christmas as these should be promoted. For example offer free shipping for purchases over a certain value. Offer free Christmas gift cards and gift wrapping. Discounts are less of a value proposition at Christmas for buyers. You can find out more at Google Merchant Centre. eCorner also supports other digital channels to enhance your online business checkout Marketing menu >> Portals from you administration.
     
  8. eBay Sales are Huge at Christmas

    Selling your products through multiple channels can dramatically increase your sales. eBay is a easy additional channel to add and we have support available as standard (and free) to connect your online store to eBay. By selling through eBay you get the advantage of the size and power of the eBay marketing machine to get new customers. All the orders are still managed via your online store administration.
     
  9. Add Christmas keywords?

    Make sure that you add the Christmas keywords to you Meta-keywords with plenty of time to get crawled by the search engines before Christmas. Also make sure that you add Christmas Gift category names and description text to match up with you keywords.
     
  10. Special Christmas Categories and Promotions

    Products are all important and you might think of price ranges for gifts so that you fit everyone’s budgets. People buying gifts want ideas so give them some. Set up special categories like "Gifts for him", Gifts for Mum", "Gifts for the dog", "Take a chance gifts" and so on. Be inventive as you need to stand out in a crowd.
     
  11. website-qualityCheck you SEO and Website Quality

    Make sure that your website content and keywords are ready as it might take weeks for search engines to crawl and index your new content so allow plenty of time and don't wait till the last minute. There is plenty of help that you can get using the built-in SEO tools in ePages. eCorner is also now offering a Website Quality Service to help you get better results than you key competitors.
     
  12. Gift buying, wrapping and gift cards

    Delivery options in ePages can be easily added in the shopping basket so you might want to think about offering free gift wrapping and free gift delivery.

    You can have multiple shipping addresses so your buyers can ship directly to an alternative address. Offer this service and make sure you get the gift there on time.
     
  13. Free shipping at Christmas

    Buyers look for deals and free shipping can be a great motivator to buy at Christmas or anytime, can be a great incentive to buy online. If you are selling a product online you can structure an average shipping price into your costs. Then allow free shipping by Australia Post.
     
  14. Post Christmas Sales & Boxing Day

    People on vacation like to shop around for bargains. So don't think everything stops on December 25th. The smart store operators will be ready with the Boxing Day and New Years specials campaigns come December 26th. Remember you can create special procuts and product bundles that can automatically be made visible come December 26th.
     
  15. Give your store a modern theme

    It is easy to setup a new style and change the colours and banners for Christmas. You can even start doing that right now and make that the live style later in the year. Set up a count down to Christmas - it can be a easy as a little added text to your home page. eCorner is offering specials right now of new design and themes so check them out.

    Winter Specials from eCorner

 

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