Summer might feel like a recent memory, but with just 76 more sleeps until Christmas it really is time to start thinking about getting your Ecommerce store ready for the holiday rush. The Christmas season has always been a vital time of year for retailers, with larger stores investing vast amounts in planning and marketing. However, for smaller stores it often feels that much harder. Either we have a go at tailoring our store for Christmas – with limited success – or we reach December and realise all the things that we should have been doing back in the Autumn. In this article we’ll be looking at how to get your Ecommerce store ready for Christmas.
To make it a little easier for you to follow we’ve broken the article down into two sections. We’ll look first at the ways you can get your Ecommerce store ready for Christmas, and then consider what you need to do to get your business ready for the holiday season.
How to Get Your Ecommerce Store Ready for Christmas
1. Do a General Website Health-Check
The holiday season tends to result in peak times of traffic for Ecommerce stores. It’s therefore crucial to do a general website health-check because additional traffic tends to expose the weaknesses in your site. As Christmas approaches you should be looking to hold or increase your conversion rate, not see it tumble because your user experience isn’t up to scratch.
There are several things that you should look at. Check that your store is running quickly enough, do some cross-browser testing and view your site on different devices, remove any broken links and make sure that your product inventory is updated. If your store itself isn’t running at optimal levels then there’s not a whole lot of point in implementing the additional steps that we’ve listed below. If you’re not happy with the performance then now is the time to speak to a developer – before the holiday rush descends and you find yourself at the back of the queue.
2. Hone Your Branding and Marketing
Now is very much the time to be rolling out your Autumn/Winter branding and marketing. Your store should have a suitable feeling, from your choice of images and key messages through to the ordering of your products. Once you’re happy with the look and feel of your store you can roll out these branding updates across your social channels, email marketing and your physical literature.
3. Show Your Stock Levels
The most successful Ecommerce stores have a powerful understanding of how their customers feel and behave. One of the biggest concerns we all have during the Christmas season is making sure that the gifts we buy arrive on time! The more hectic our plans for the holiday season, the more certain we want to be that everything is going to run smoothly.
A simple way that you can persuade nervous customers to buy from your store is displaying your inventory quantity. Very simply, this allows customers to see how many products you have in stock. Shopify have put together a great little tutorial showing you how to display inventory quantity on your Shopify store – and it’s perfectly possible on the vast majority of Ecommerce platforms.
Showing your stock levels on your store is also a great way to apply subtle pressure on your customers to buy there and then rather than waiting until later. If you’ve only got 3 products in stock this will put an urgency in the customer’s mind that might not otherwise be there.
4. Tell Customers Your Delivery Policy
It’s always best to make sure that your delivery policies and prices are as clear as possible, but this is an absolute must over the Christmas holidays. Rakuten is a great example of a leading store that has a huge banner at the top of their homepage during the Christmas season letting customers know exactly how long they have left to guarantee delivery for Christmas. Again, this both reassures customers that presents will arrive in time for Christmas and helps to encourage undecided visitors to buy now rather than wait until later.
5. Customise Your Homepage for Christmas
It might be far and away the most obvious way to get your Ecommerce store ready for Christmas, but it’s amazing how many stores don’t customise their homepage for Christmas.
You can do as much or as little to your homepage as you have the time, budget and skill for. There are the obvious visual considerations such as getting suitable Autumn/Winter imagery that will resonate with customers. It’s also worth making it explicitly clear how you’ll be operating over Christmas, including your delivery and opening times.
If you’re looking to go a little further it’s often worth rethinking the product ranges that you’re displaying on your homepage. A good way to do this is by identifying the products that will most appeal to customers looking for Christmas gifts. You might be reluctant to prioritise these products over others, but the reality is that for between 2 and 3 months of the year your most engaged customers will be those looking for Christmas gifts. Alternatively, including a ‘Christmas Gifts’ option in your menu bar will make it very clear that you’re catering for Christmas shoppers and help to keep more visitors on your store for longer.
6. Add Live Chat to Your Site
Adding a live chat bar to your site is a good way to increase customer engagement over the Christmas season. It won’t be possible for every store – it would be counterproductive to use Live Chat if you’re not actually available – but for others it can be a great way to answer customers’ questions directly and increase your conversion rate.
If you’re running your store through Shopify there are several Live Chat apps on the app store that you can plug into your store.
7. Plan Your Email Marketing Campaigns Now
As we get closer to Christmas many of us will start to feel the pressure mounting as we realise just how many more gifts we still have to buy! Unsurprisingly, email marketing campaigns are incredibly effective during the holiday season when customers consider making purchases that they wouldn’t during the rest of the year.
Whether you’re running multiple campaigns or just starting out, now is very much the time to get your email campaigns in place. As Christmas approaches you want to be focusing on sales, delivery and customer service, not trying to think up effective email campaigns and catchy strap-lines. Magento have put together a nice little guide to developing a holiday email strategy that you might find helpful.
8. Start Blogging About Christmas
If you haven’t really thought about how to get your Ecommerce store ready for Christmas, the good news is that it’s certainly not too late to start. A great way to raise the profile of your Christmas campaign is to start blogging about it – even if you haven’t actually started planning yet. Don’t just get your store ready for the holiday season; make sure that you tell your customers that you’re getting ready. You’ll drive traffic, build confidence and probably see some pretty significant conversions too.
There are lots of ways that you can do this. Take seasonal photos of your products, share them on Instagram and then put together a compilation on your blog. Build gifts lists to help inspire people who are short on gift ideas (and link to products on stores that you’re friendly with – you’ll get a lot more links/shares that way and it shows customers that you’re not just interested in selling your own products). Letting your customers see how you’re getting ready for Christmas will encourage them to do likewise – and maximise your chances of making more sales over the holiday season.
9. Take Advantage of Retargeting
If you’re not already retargeting then this Christmas you should definitely give it a go. You already know what retargeting is, even if you think that you don’t. When you’re browsing Facebook or see a Google Ad and it’s selling something that you were browsing earlier on, you’re experiencing retargeting. The seller has used cookies and sponsored advertising to place their advert in your browser. It’s a highly effective way of bringing customers back to your store, particularly during the Christmas season when we’re browsing numerous possible gifts for multiple family members and friends.
We all shop around at Christmas time, but retargeting helps you to really hone in on customers.
10. Don’t Forget About January!
It’s so easy to put loads of effort into Christmas and forget about January. Making sure that you’ve planned for life after Christmas is essential, because you’ll almost certainly be exhausted when you get there. Think about getting your store into January sales mode, stripping away the Christmas references and making an aggressive push for sales with discount codes, sales and email campaigns.
Practical Steps to Get Your Online Business Ready for Christmas
Now that you’ve got your store ready for Christmas, here are a few practical measures that will help you to keep your business running smoothly in the lead-in to the holiday season.
1. Calculate Your Projected Sales Figures
The last thing you want to do is work hard on smashing Christmas and then run out of stock. Look at historic figures, year-on-year growth and make sure that you’re going to have enough stock to fulfil all your orders. It’s also worth having a backup plan in case things do go spectacularly well.
2. Make Customer Service an Absolute Priority
You have a great chance to win customer loyalty over Christmas. Many of us find Christmas to be a pretty stressful time. If you can make customer service an absolute priority and deliver a winning experience to every customer – particularly those who have complaints – you’ll help to really raise the profile of your business.
3. Get to Christmas Markets and Fairs
Don’t forget that one of the best ways to raise the profile of your store is by meeting new people face-to-face. With loads of Christmas markets and pop-up-shops available over the holiday season, why not wrap up warm, grab your iPad and get involved.
This is a great way to meet new people, network with other owners and have great fun.
4. Consider Hiring Additional Staff
If you’re expecting a big surge in sales over the Christmas period then it’s well worth getting additional help, either through temporary staffing or by getting family and friends to pitch in.
5. Plan Your Own Holiday Time
Finally, make sure that you work out in advance when you’re going to be taking holiday and when you’re going to be working. It’s essential to get some down time and enjoy the holiday season. If you allocate time off then you’re far more likely to actually take it – and you can let your customers know when you won’t be available.