Step up for your holiday sales but be prepared.
"Yeah OK, but there's still 50 days till Christmas so don't hassle me!" Is this what you're thinking? What impact will COVID have on Christmas and the holiday period sales?
Holiday sales normally start to really ramp up as we get closer to Christmas but there are definite peaks along the way. That can mean great opportunities for online retail. It starts early and builds up until we've exhausted our bank accounts in early January. But this year sales have been booming for most online retailers and stock supplies have been a major issue. So planning is more important than ever.
Online retail sales calendar
- Black Friday - 29th November
- Cyber Monday - 2rd December
- Green Monday - 14th December
- Free Shipping Day - 15th December
- Christmas Day - Friday 25th December (holiday)
- Boxing Day Sales - Saturday 26th december and Monday 28th December (holiday)
- New Years Eve - Thursday 31st December
- New YearsDay - Friday 1st January 2021 (holiday)
Getting Your Sales Delivered On Time
The latest that you will be able to take orders online and expect delivery before Christmas (using standard mail services) will be Saturday 12th December and Express Parcel or Startrack Premium Saturday 19th December (delivery within Australia). Australia Post have already provided some advice for Christmas international delivery cut off for major destinations as the 16th to 27th November.
The COVID Impact
We don't really know just yet what impact COVID will have on Christmas 2020. Speculation is that all states and territories will be open by Christmas but there is no guarantee. Most retail outlets are expected to be open and the malls and shopping centres operating but with COVID restrictions in place. We expect online sales will contiue to be strong with some people avoiding places with crowds and opting to buy online.
It's expected that more people will spend Christmas at home this year. That may be an opportunity for local businesses to expand their hours of operation. Christmas and the follow on sales in the New Year may be a little different this year but there will still be good opportunities for online sales.
Getting the Business Ready
To make the most of retail holiday sales you need to plan and prepare in advance.
Bricks and Mortar Retail
If you plan to have your retail store open then you need to plan for contigencies.
- Have a COVID Safe Plan in place
- Make sure your stock is up to date
- Create a COVID information page on your website
Consider some qutestions:
- How long does it take you to pick, pack and ship? That will determine the last available date for selling online with delivery by Christmas.
NOTE: 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?
Be prepared by asking a few simple questions about your business.
- How much stock will you need on hand?
- What content changes do you need for your online 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. Australians are expected to spend on average almost $1,000.00 per person on gifts. Worldwide trends have been favourable for online shopping and can provide some new confidence for online sellers. More people are buying online being driven by many factors and this is unlikely to slow. Conversely, online shoppers are also getting more savvy. People know that merchants often offer last minute promotions and deals, so they wait as long as possible before committing to a purchasing decision.
HOT TIP: If you run a bricks and mortar store why not setup a "pick up in store" delivery method and open Saturday and Sunday before Christmas. Run a campaign for your customers to buy online and pick up in store.
So what can you expect this year?
- Christmas Day is on a Friday and you can expect last guaranteed deliveries to be Saturday 12th December
- Mobile usage to buy online continues to be dominant with people shopping at all hours of the day
- Buying season starts in September but the biggest sales will be around 14th December (Green Monday).
- Apple iPhone 12, Apple Watch 6/SE, along with the latest Amazon Dot, PS5 and XBox Series X games, toys and gadgets and related accessories will all be hot items this year
- Expect an upswell in customised/personalised gifts and gift baskets/bundles with people still restricted in travel by COVID
- Comparison shopping will focus on gift buying
- Buyers will look for added value, special offers, and prompt shipping at low rates
- Expect to see a rise in Buy Now Pay Later sales activity
- Expect heavily discounted sales post Christmas
Holiday & Christmas Sales Trends
More people buying online
The number of people that feel that it is safe to buy online has been steadily increasing. Online stores have become easier and safer to use. There has been move away from the traditional "lay-by" approach and now "Buy Now Pay Later" services like Afterpay, Openpay and Zip have made simple finance easily available to online buyers. This trend will continue to have a major influence in 2021.
TIP: Enable a buy now pay later service on your website and in store.
Marketing Controls 50% of Sales
In 2019 we saw that around 50% on the sales during the holidays where driven by Paid Search, Newsletters, Emails (edms) and Social Media. This percentage is growing. You need to develop and run a digital marketing campaign leading up to the Christmas period.
Don't hide your light under a bussle. Your customers take around 3 to 5 seconds to determine if they will buy from your website. Your key products need to be easily found. If potential customers arrive at your website and cannot see what you sell they will leave.
Issues and ideas to improve holiday sales
Buying online for Christmas starts as early as September but the real peak starts from late-November/early-December. This year we will expect to see an increase in sales activity a longer buying period. Then after the Christmas rush is over, the New Year sales, will help sell overstocked items at bargain prices.
Simple strategies to improve sales and conversions:
- Is your online store ready?
It's 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 any out-of-date products 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 throughout the year but its especially important during the holiday sales period. 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 you website on your mobile
Over 50% of your potential buyers will come via a mobile device. 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. Mobile customers look for simplicity and to find what they are after easily - focus on functionality like search and clear promotional imagery to direct customers on smaller devices.
TIP: Make sure you test your online store on a mobile device.
- Do you have the products to sell?
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 effect on your business so look at the possibility of commitment with deliveries later.
- 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.
- Time to check Payments & Security
Do you have a safe payment process setup like PayPal Express or eWAY? Consumers will be more careful this Christmas and look for security when buying online. Make sure you display information about your payment provider, credit cards accepted and your SSL Certificate logo on your website.
- Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL)
The BNPL storm is growing for online retail and BNPL can account for 25% of sales for retailers. Add services like Afterpay, Openpay and Zip that allow you to offer interest free terms to your online buyers and get the cash right away. Contact eCorner for more information.
- Make your Online Store secure
Add an SSL certificate to your webstore like a COMODO Positive SSL, these add to buyer confidence. Trust and security can help dramatically improve shopping basket conversions and reduce abandonment. If you don't already have an SSL certificate, then eCorner are offering a 50% off deal until Christmas just use coupon code 50OFFSSL.
- Think about marketing and promotions?
You can setup special Google Ad-Words and reMarketing 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.
Also consider campaigns on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, these channels tend to be much more cost effective per click than a campaign on Google and can build great engagement if done correctly. Facebook and Instagram let you set up "profiles" for the target demographics for your products, for example if you are selling women's beachwear in Brisbane you might create a profile to only market to people who are between 16 and 50 in Queensland with interest in the beach, swimming, watersports etc etc. The tools allow you to get quite specific with your target demographic so you aren't wasting money marketing to people who can't or won't buy your products.
- Cart Abandonment and Cart Recovery Marketing
Gift seaching can result in a lot of incompleted baskets being left behind by those people searching online. You can take advantage of that by using a Shopping Cart Recovery or Marketing system than reminds people what they have left behind. This can result in a 20% or more improvement in conversions and sales>
- 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 than convenience or added value. 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 your administration.
- eBay and Amazon Sales are Huge at Christmas
Selling your products through multiple channels can dramatically increase your sales. eBay and Amazon are easy additional channels to add and we have support available as standard (and free) to connect your online store to eBay and Amazon Australia in all paid store packages. By selling through these market channels you get the advantage of the size and power of their marketing machine and budget to get new customers. All the orders are still managed via your online store administration.
- Add Christmas keywords
Make sure that you add the Christmas keywords to your website content on key pages and using unique landing pages 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 your keywords.
- 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.
- Check you SEO and Website Quality
Make sure that your website content and keywords are ready for Christmas as it might take weeks for search engines to crawl and index your new content. Allow plenty of time and don't wait until 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 your key competitors.
- 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.
- Free shipping at Christmas
Buyers look for deals and free shipping (or at least free shipping when the basket is over a certain value) can be a great motivator to buy (or buy more) at Christmas. If you are selling a product online you can structure an average shipping price into your costs. Then allow free shipping by Australia Post.
- Post Christmas Sales & Boxing Day
People on holidays 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 products and product bundles that can automatically be made visible come December 26th so you don't need to be feverishly revising all your content on Christmas day.
- Give your store a modern theme
Mobile Responsive and flatter and simpler themes are more modern and can improve user experience and SEO. It is easy to setup a new style and change the colours and banners but it might be a little late for that this year. eCorner can completely redesign your website for a modern look and better user experience contact us about a new design and themes now and be ready for the new year.