7 tips to boost your online sales this Christmas

Chritmas shopping trolleyThe predictions are in and by all accounts Christmas 2013 looks set to be a record year for online retailers. So, as we go full steam ahead into the busiest shopping period of the year, ask yourself whether you are making the most of the opportunities Christmas presents to maximise your online sales.

A record Christmas for online sales

Forecasts indicate that consumer spending will break through the £10 bn mark for the first time this year as internet shopping will account for the largest ever share of sales . Retailers are already coming in with glowing pre-christmas sales reports. Indeed,  John Lewis has announced a 23.7% year-on-year growth in eccomerce sales, with  31% of  the £101.4m made in the week in question were from sales made online.

Monday 2nd December – Cyber Monday – is just a few days away and looks set to be the busiest online shopping day of the year. Therefore we thought it was the opportune moment to offer some timely tips to help you take advantage of this record breaking period and increase your Christmas sales.

7 tips to boost your sales and keep your customers happy this Christmas

1. ‘Christmas up’ your Website

Get into the Christmas spirit and inspire your customers  by making your website Christmas friendly.  Creating a festive feel with the use of some appropriate graphics sets the right atmosphere and helps create a relevant environment for Christmas shopping.

Identify the products that will make great Christmas gifts and  create a Christmas page where you can showcase them.  Make things easy for customers and categorise products so they are easy to find under headings such as; gifts for him, gifts for her, gifts for kids, gifts for foodies, gifts under £20, sticking fillers – you get my drift. This helps inspire customers with gift ideas and can help motivate them to buy.

Don’t be afraid to look at what your competitors are doing and to take some inspiration from other bigger websites like John Lewis and Not on the High Street .com  that do Christmas really well.

2. Be multi-device friendly this Christmas 

“Online retailers also need to be mindful of the need to provide a consistent multi-channel experience to shoppers across all devices”  Digital Strategy Consulting

According to the latest research findings from IBM the volume of traffic to UK retail websites has grown 60% year-on-year (October 2012 – October 2013) and sales from mobiles is up 80% in the same period. Therefore, it is more important than ever to make sure your  website is equally well viewed on whatever device your customer is using to browse or buy from your online shop – whether laptop, mobile, tablet or desktop.

You may have a fantastic Christmas friendly website selling a multitude of great products but if it can’t be viewed effectively on the device the customer is using at the time, then you may lose the customer and the potential sale.

3. Special christmas promotions – discount codes and special offers

Christmas shoppers are on the hunt for good deals so now is the time to entice customers to your website and motivate them to purchase with some special Christmas promotions.  For example use discount codes and sales vouchers to offer special Christmas savings such as  percentage off, multi-buy savings, free delivery and limited time money-off discounts.

4. Entice customers with Christmas friendly shipping and delivery

Getting shipping and delivery right at Christmas is hugely important. Offering free shipping is great but only if the product gets to the recipient in time for Christmas. Give customers peace of mind by being very clear about estimated delivery dates. Remember at Christmas the sheer volume of packages results in longer delivery times. Build this into your delivery estimations so as not to disappoint customers. Why not consider click and collect options for your customers. They may find this more more convenient than waiting at home for a delivery.

Communicate with your customers, send email status up-dates letting customers know when their products have dispatched.  And most importantly don’t forget to make sure you state the last day for guaranteed Christmas delivery. As we’ve already mentioned, not getting their purchase in time for Christmas is a huge frustration for customers. Reinforce your last shipping dates on you website, social media sites and in email communciations. Perhaps consider a Christmas delivery countdown such as  – 11 shipping days to go.

5. Don’t forget stock and resources

With all your offers and promotions – take time to think about your stock and staffing levels . Identify the products most likely to sell (last years Christmas sales figures should help) and make sure you are managing your stock to meet any uplift in sales. Also, with increased orders do you have enough hands to fulfil and despatch orders in time to meet your promised deadlines? Think about taking on some temporary staff or rope in family and friends to help if necessary.

6. Promote, promote, promote

Christmas is the time to go all out with your marketing. You need to make sure your offers are communicated effectively to customers. There is no point implementing great offers and incentives if your customers remain unaware of them. Shout your promotions from the rooftops using your website, all your social media channels and email. As a small business all these tools are low-cost and effective ways to get your messages out. Keep promoting, refreshing  and pushing your messages throughout the entire  Christmas shopping season.

7. Don’t forget last-minute shoppers

There is a  large proportion of shoppers that do their Christmas shopping at the last minute in the week before Christmas so try and think of creative ways of enticing them in for some extra last minute sales. Perhaps offer next day delivery options or promote some last minute offers. You could even think about a last minute Christmas shopping promotion – perhaps a special offer and some last minute gift ideas for customers.

Christmas 2013 looks like a great year for online businesses so we wish you some very happy and healthy Christmas sales.

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Mobile commerce – is your website multi-device friendly?

Mobile ecommerce shopping cart checkoutThe rise and rise of mobile and tablet commerce

In a nutshell, mobile commerce (m-commerce) is the use of wireless electronic handheld devices such as mobile phones and smartphones to conduct business. In this blog we’ll also be including tablets under the m-commerce umbrella.

The last few years have seen a near explosion in the use of handheld devices and there is no sign of a slow down. In the US alone 54% of adults now own a smartphone and by 2016 it is estimated that 450 million tablets will be sold annually worldwide (Business Insider).

In terms of online shopping ComScore Research shows that during Q4 2010 mobile commerce accounted for just 3% of US e-commerce but by Q4 2012 this had risen to 11%.

So what does m-commerce mean for you as a small business?

OK, so you could argue that the 11% figure quoted above is relatively small in the grand scheme of things, but the important point is that the trend is upward and looks set to continue upward.

As a business you also need to take into account of how devices are used and your customer’s overall path to purchase. For example according to Google, 67% of shoppers start on one device and finish on another. I know I often browse an online store using my iPhone whilst out having a coffee only to complete the purchase later at home on my iPad watching TV .

It is important not to lump together devices. Research indicates they are used by the consumer in different ways. Tablets are used primarily around the home, mostly in living room 96% and bedroom 94% (Monetate). Whereas Smartphones are more ‘on the go’ and still chiefly used for email, making calls and accessing social networking sites like Facebook (Adobe 2013 Digital Publishing report).

“Companies should work to deliver device specific experiences to visitors in order to maximise the likelihood of purchase.” (Forrester)

An often quoted statistic is that by 2014 mobile internet access will overtake desktop internet access. There is still somewhere to go before handheld devices displace the PC for research and purchase usage, but as a business you need to be flexible enough to cater for each specific device.

Tablet usage is having a momentous rise. Indeed Monetate note a whopping 348% growth in traffic from tablets between 2011 and 2012. This supports the rise in what is  often refered to as ‘sitback shopping’ or, as in a great infographic from Monetate ‘couch commerce’ http://monetate.com/infographic/couch-commerce-how-tablet-shoppers-are-changing-online-sales/.

Consumers continue to move away from desk-top and lap-top computers when shopping online, requiring e-commerce businesses to rethink the consumer experience on smartphones and tablets (Monetate).

As a business you need to be looking ahead and ensure your business is geared up for m-commerce. Mobiles and tablets may not have displaced the desktop for online shopping – yet – but the upward trend continues and they are an increasingly important part of your customers purchasing journey.

How to make your online store multi-device friendly

We’ll leave you with a few simple steps to help get you started on ensuring your website is mobile commerce friendly. Google notes that 67% of mobile users say that when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they’re more likely to buy  a site’s product or service.

1. Check how your website looks on different devices.

Look at your website on different devices.  A great place to start is Google’s GOMO http://www.howtogomo.com. You can test your site on multiple devices and they’ll give you some really useful introductory advice.

And, don’t forget to think about your cart and checkout. If you are using a third-party e-commerce make sure that their shopping cart and checkout are multi-device compatible.

2. Make sure your website is ‘fat finger friendly’.

A great term I read the other day for making sure you think about how your users will view and use your website. Use large fonts, drop down menus, big buttons and limit text entry (especially form filling). Remember on a mobile device viewing takes place on a much smaller screen.

3. Simple site design and keep content clear, short and simple

Keep your website design clean, clear and clutter free and content short and to the point. This is essential as no matter on what device your website is being used it will make navigation simpler for your customer.

4. Responsive design, plug-ins, mobile apps or mobile website

There are different options available for you to get your website m-commerce ready.

Plenty of companies out there now offer responsive design. Responsive design effectively adapts your website to fit the device on which it is being viewed without having to create a multitude of device specific websites.

If you are using a Content Management System as a website platform then some CMS like wordpress and drupal offer plug-ins that will reformat your pages to adapt to different devices.

Alternatively, you could consider building a separate, independent website for mobile traffic or create a mobile app.

Whatever route you decide to go down just keep in mind that it’s all about the end users experience on the device that they are using to view your website.