How small businesses can plan for a profitable online Christmas

online christmas salesChristmas is one of the most important times of the year for many online retailers.  December 2013 saw UK shoppers spend a record £11 billion online – a year-on-year rise of £18% . So considering as a nation the Brits spent £91bn online in 2013  and are anticipated to spend £107bn in 2014 , Christmas 2014 looks set to be another profitable period for e-commerce.

If you haven’t already started planning for the Christmas period, then now is the time to get organised. You don’t want to risk losing out on those lucrative seasonal sales just because you haven’t planned ahead.

What will consumers be doing?

Trends indicate more and more people will be shopping online this Christmas.  November and December are still likely to be the key shopping months, but don’t forget a significant number of consumers start shopping in September and October.

  • In the UK 61% of people said that they completed more than half of all their Christmas shopping online during 2013
  • Online sales in 2013 grew by a staggering 19.2% compared to 2012.
  • In 2013 the majority of consumers (49%) planned to do their Christmas shopping in the months nearing Christmas – particularly in November or beginning of December, 27% and 22% respectively.
  • 30% of consumers expect to start holiday shopping before Halloween
  •  22% of women had already started their Christmas shopping by September or October in 2013
  • 28% of women  ‘do their Christmas shopping early to avoid stress’.

importance of planning aheadWhy and what should you be planning now?

So, if time has slipped away from you (as it often does when you are managing your own business), don’t worry it’s not too late to start planning your Christmas activities. Although early bird shopping may have commenced, the busiest sales period is still to come.

Don’t underestimate just how useful an exercise planning is. Putting time aside now to work out all your seasonal activity will save you both time and stress in the long run. A plan helps you keep on track and alleviates the need for any last-minute, poorly executed and panicked promotions. It also serves to inform other members of staff of what is happening and when – keeping all of you singing from the same songbook.

Promotions – put together a schedule of planned activity

Decide on what christmas promotions you intend to do and then put together a schedule of activity. For example supposing you want a special offer to go out in time for this year’s Black Friday and cyber Monday (28th November and 1st December respectively) then schedule in the day your activity needs to go out and work backwards from there. You can then calculate when you need to have all your preparatory work completed.

Get started now on planning your promotions:

Christmas offersSeasonal offers

Offers are a great way to pull customers in over the Christmas shopping period. By our very nature we love a bargain, so think about planning some special yuletide promotions such as:

  • By one get one half price
  • 3 for 2
  • Free delivery
  • Early bird incentives – such as 15% off

Tip: If you’re not 100% sure what offers you going to do then you can always do a teaser for customers. For example, Check out Argos. They have already set up a separate webpage for their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for customers – without stating the exact details of what their offers will be.

Email, social media, advertising, blogs

Whatever offers you decide upon, then you need to schedule when you want  your promotional activity to hit. How are you going to tell everybody about all the great products and offers you have if you don’t shout about them from the rooftops in time? So plan in when you are going to send out your promotional emails, publish your festive blogs, launch your promotions on your websites and social media networks and if and when you are going to advertise.

Sales platforms – what are you going to need to tweak

Getting  customers into the right mindset can really help your sales conversions. So think about how you can ‘Christmas up” your sales platforms.

Website: Making your website Christmas friendly is essential. Inspire customers as much as you can by showcasing products that you think will make perfect gifts. Make it easy for customers to find things – try categorising headings such as; stocking fillers, gifts for children, gifts for her, gifts for food lover or gifts for under £15. For ideas on how to get your website ready for the festive season check out some online businesses that do Christmas well like notonthehighstreet.com.

Open a Facebook shopFacebook store: If you haven’t already got one set up, then now is the time to  create a Facebook shop and give yourself an additional sales channel for your products in time for Christmas. With 1.23bn monthly active users, a Facebook store offers a cost-effective channel for small businesses and start-ups to sell directly to an engaged audience in an environment in which potential customers are actually interacting in the here and now.

Multi device friendly: Mobile and tablets play an increasingly important part in a consumer’s purchasing journey. 

“Mobile phones and tablet computers are now used for nearly 6% of all retail sales as Brits embrace shopping from the sofa, the train and under the duvet” The Guardian 2014

December 2013 saw online sales via mobile devices double from the previous year to £3 billion.  With the trend likely to continue, if your website is not already multi-device friendly then now is the time to get it sorted.

Landing pages: Don’t forget to plan in appropriate and relevant Christmas landing pages. If you’re sending out specific yuletide offers and promotions, make sure your message is carried right through and reflected on the landing page. Your landing page has a significant impact on your conversion rate so make sure you don’t just send customers through to a bog standard home page. Make sure it reflects the content of your Christmas promotions – otherwise all your hard work and planning could be wasted. 

christmas stock and resourcesStock levels and resources

If you’ve identified products from last year that sold particularly well or have products you are confident are going to prove popular, make sure that you’ve got enough stock in to fulfil any Christmas orders. This way you can rest assured that any seasonal lifts will be catered for. Equally if you feel you are likely to experience a large increase in orders then decide whether you will need any extra help to manage the fulfilment and despatch. If you think you will struggle then have a plan in place to get more hands on board when you’ll need them – whether that means pre-warning family and friends that they may need to be roped in to help or hiring in temporary seasonal staff. Essentially be  prepared!

prepared earlier‘Here’s one I prepared earlier’

Finally, if you know that the Christmas period will be hectic, have a think about what you can do now to get yourself a bit ahead. This will save you a great deal of time and stress during those really busy periods. For example:

If you have a regular blog write extra articles now, in advance. They are then sitting ready to published when you need them.  The same goes for emails and newsletters. There is no reason why you can’t them prepared in advance when you have a quieter moment.

Just by thinking ahead and planning in advance you can avoid any nasty surprises and keep your stress levels lower. And if you really have no time at all then think about some seasonal outsourcing – it may well be worth it in the long run!

Further reading for some more Christmas tips:

 

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

 

Advertisements

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