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Catching the Christmas trade: 10 tips for online retailers

The peak selling season is here and online traders should use the pre-Christmas period to perfect the presentation of their range.

Online Christmas trading gets going from mid- to late November. This is the period when online retailers see a significant increase in turnover. The buying frenzy then continues until about four days before Christmas Eve.

Why? Because from then on time is running out for items to be delivered on time. But even then Christmas trading is nowhere near over. Our 10 tips show you how to get your online shops in the best shape to cope with the Christmas rush.

1. Fast delivery

The weeks leading up to Christmas are, without doubt, a stressful period for you as a trader. But customers are also in a rush and they will take their anger at delayed online orders out on you. For this reason, in addition to the standard delivery (2-3 days), you must be sure to offer an express delivery (24 hours).

You should also make the payment methods available clear to your customers, as these are a very important factor in the purchase decision.

2. Proactively contact customers

The pre-Christmas period is a very good time for customer newsletters. Write to your customers and tell them, for example, that your online store will deliver as quickly as possible or that your range includes special festive offers.

3. Keep an eye on your stock

Check stock levels in advance and stock up on your best sellers. Avoid having to advertise popular items as “Not available” at all costs. It’s also important to remove items that are no longer in stock from the range immediately or stipulate a reliable delivery date.

4. Check the website

It goes without saying that you know your own online store like the back of your hand. Even so, in the pre‑Christmas period you should be even more vigilant in checking and improving your website.

Highlight your customer service, mention the delivery options (standard and express delivery) - it’s better to do it once too often rather than not enough - and don’t forget to highlight discounts and the payment options available. When delivery time is short just before Christmas, that’s when gift vouchers come into their own.

5. Offer vouchers

Don’t underestimate the option of vouchers, as gifts of money can be of great significance. Offer your customers a gift card. Prepaid credit cards, ideally branded, are perfect for this. They can be personalised and have your logo on them. For prepaid credit cards the only technical requirement is your standard credit card tool.

6. Offer accessories

People loosen the purse strings at Christmas and customers like to buy even more than they originally planned to. For that reason it is important to display suitable accessories alongside selected items at all times.

7. Christmas service

It’s not only your stock that needs to be primed for the Christmas trade. Customer service is also on red alert for six weeks. Prepare your customer service for the stressful Christmas trade; that will be sure to pull in extra sales.

8. Show goodwill

Put your store’s goodwill agreements to the test. It’s definitely worth adapting them and adjusting them to fit the customer. But one thing to note: that doesn’t mean giving the customer something for nothing. Just be aware of your customers’ needs. Satisfied customers will come back.

9. Collect customer feedback

On the subject of satisfied customers, do follow-up with your customers after delivery. Ask them whether everything was to their satisfaction. If for whatever reason that’s not the case, try to help the customer.

10. Post-Christmas is just like pre-Christmas

So Christmas is over and sales were good? Congratulations, but for online shops the whole circus starts again on Boxing Day. Impatient types will shop online at Christmas just the same or will want to exchange something quickly. Stay in contact with your customer as immediately after the Christmas trade comes what is known as the post-Christmas trade.

Frank Breuss is director of International sales at The PPRO Group