Get your eCommerce site ready for a bumper holiday season

With the Christmas holiday shopping frenzy starting earlier every year, now’s the time for online retailers to start planning ahead for a bumper season. This is an opportunity not to be missed for online retailers, especially as the festive season is when internet users are more likely to buy.

But while the conversion rate is much higher than the rest of the year, businesses should develop an action plan to take advantage of the spike in customers. Follow these 7 techniques to boost online sales in the coming months. With just a little advance planning your e-commerce site can reap the rewards of the Christmas shopping season.

1. Maintain web traffic

Maximise the end-of-season sales period by five to six weeks to build up a steady flow of web traffic. In this case, start with discounts of 20 per cent.Then, week by week, increase the discount to 30, 40 and finally 50 per cent. There is no need to go overboard at the very beginning. Split products into categories in order to facilitate the customer experience. 

For example, have a section for discounted items, but within this space also showcase non-sale items since, by contrast, they will make the discounts seem all the more impressive. This will also give the customer the chance to make additional purchases. Take advantage of the high traffic to promote any new collections or premium product lines.

2. Offer exclusive benefits

Internet users are in high demand during this period, so in order to attract them to your website you must offer your existing customers offers they cannot afford to miss. Segment your customer base and, on a weekly or even daily basis, send a newsletter with exclusive benefits such as an additional 10 per cent off or free delivery.

This marketing exercise requires frequent, highly tailored alerts. A compelling visual and a selection of three “hot” products can be enough to drive additional traffic to your website.

3. Sell your stock on online marketplaces

Use marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and CDiscount to sell your stock. Consumers flock to these platforms and they can help to shift large volume of stock. But be careful to only sell your most profitable products and those with flawless logistics guaranteed. These marketplaces charge 10 per cent commission on average for each sale and you needn’t give unreliable delivery companies a second thought. Keep the exclusivity of your bestsellers on your own e-commerce site. If you do not have exclusive or innovative products, adjust the prices of your products according to the competition.

4. Consider social networks to promote your offer

This does not necessarily mean setting up a Facebook page or running a Twitter account. On Facebook in particular, it is possible to advertise for a very reasonable price. The new advertising format called ‘carousel’ allows you to pop up five images and/or videos with a title and a link in a single advert. It's a good way to give visibility to your products in an environment of trust. The main advantage of Facebook is your ability to choose a precise target audience by factors such as age group, interests and specific behaviour patterns.

5. Encourage conversions by adjusting your delivery strategy

42 per cent of online shoppers in the United Kingdom prefer next day delivery, whilst 11 per cent would rather click and collect. Increase conversions by offering a wide range of delivery methods and making it really easy to estimate shipping costs. Boost your average basket by opting for a free shipping order minimum.

Display the “Shipping costs estimate” so buyers can automatically calculate the value of their order, shipping costs included. Incite more sales by installing a “free delivery” option. You will experience fewer basket abandonments and receive more orders.

6. Boost sales with an attractive, seasonal layout

Customise your online store's template in time for Christmas. Take advantage of free templates and ready-made professional graphics to reinforce your brand image. From food & drinks to cosmetics and electronics trade you are guaranteed to find a template that fits your particular business or seasonal trend.

7. Use last minute tricks to improve your sales' funnel

Draw maximum advantage from digital communication to overcome consumer hesitation. 67.2 per cent of consumers in the United Kingdom prefer to contact retailers via their websites to reserve a product, as opposed to just 11.2 per cent who feel more comfortable on the phone, according to Statista. Stand out from the competition with exceptional customer service. Offer customers multiple means of contact: social media, WebChat, contact forms, telephone, etc. On online platforms, configure an automated notification of absence which is sent out whenever a customer contacts you whilst you are offline. Reassure customers by displaying detailed information on how best to contact you.

Finally, keep up with e-Commerce trends: Google, for example, has some very practical videos designed to help you improve your AdWords campaigns. Plan ahead to ensure your marketing operations are more effective. Test new web tools and schedule your marketing operations early to save time during the inevitable end-of-year rush.

These simple techniques can give your online shop a real competitive edge in attracting customers all year round, particularly when timed around peak buying periods. So what are you waiting for? Get your e-commerce site ready for Christmas holiday shoppers today.

Laurent Bizot, Customer Satisfaction Director, Actinic UK

Image source: Shutterstock/Kaspars Grinvalds