Christmas has always been a key sales period for retailers.
For as long as most of us can remember, stores have tried to capitalize on increased footfall and the generosity of the festive season through the promotion of sales and special offers.
Today, online commerce has opened up so many new possibilities for retailers to better understand and reach their audiences and the season seems to be growing longer, not shorter, as online stores prepare for the festive season earlier and earlier.
Through website analytics and PPC in particular (pay per click marketing), companies are able to target very specific demographics and search intents to ensure their products are positioned in the most lucrative places.
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By this point in the year, online retailers should be sharpening up their websites and preparing them for increased traffic levels and Christmas sales - in fact, this preparation should have started a few months ago. But all too often, eCommerce websites are failing to make the simple changes that are so common in bricks and mortar stores, and that have driven sales for so many years.
To help you make the most of the festive period, here are five basic lessons we can learn from the online store’s predecessor, the physical shop.
1. Create the Experience
People love Christmas shopping. You only need to look at your local high street around the festive period to see that there’s a clear differentiation between the way that street looks year round the magical touches that are added for Christmas. Festive lighting, music, increased footfall, decorations - it all adds to an exciting experience for those participating.
You’ll also notice the increase in sales and promotions showcased in every shop window. But bricks and mortar stores don’t just advertise a sale and expect customers to walk in and buy straight away. The sale is always demonstrated in store too, with further promotion of offers to entice people to pick up extra offers as they walk through and particularly at the checkout. Successful stores are those which are able to inspire their customers and upsell along the way.
To make the most of the festive season on your website, your Christmas offering needs to be clear and consistent across your website and any off-site promotions such as PPC or social adverts.
Think about the way your products are displayed, too. It’s not enough to simply label something up as a ‘Christmas collection’ - consider how the images look, are they festive in their appearance or are you, for example, showing models wearing the clothes you’re selling whilst stood in the glorious summer sunshine?
Also think about your product descriptions and ensure they’re consistent the offers you’re making across your site. Focus on inspiring your website visitors by showcasing products in useful categories such as ‘gifts for husbands’ or by type such as ‘fragrances under £30’, and use language which evokes the feeling of the season. You can even add banners or redesign areas of your site, much in the way bricks and mortar stores decorate for Christmas.
If you’re using advertising such as PPC or social media ads, it’s important that your ad copy reflect the sales offering described on your site. Customer experience is a hugely important part of eCommerce success and this is even more prevalent during the Christmas season.
2. Open Your Doors
It’s a simple fact that if a customer can’t get through the doors of a bricks and mortar shop, they won’t buy any products from it.
Similarly, if you have put no budget or time into promoting your website and ensuring it’s easy for people to find, you won’t get the customers to buy.
In the same way that bricks and mortar shops will often stay open longer during the festive season, consider how available your website is to people throughout the evening, for example. If you’re usually available to help them with their queries through online chat or via social media from 9-5, you might think about extending these hours during the Christmas period.
If you are running adverts through a platform such as Google AdWords, you’re likely using time of day adjustments (or should be doing) to put out your ads at the times people are most likely to convert. You should extend the hours that your ads are showing over during the festivities as it’s likely people will be shopping much longer hours - and don’t neglect the lunchtime shoppers either, as it’s not uncommon for people to be shopping online during their lunch break at work in a rush to get all the presents in time!
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You should also adjust your budgets on advertising during this time of year, which is typically more competitive and therefore your maximum cost per click (CPC) bids will need to be higher.
If you’re using a tool such as Google Analytics to measure what your website visitors do, use this to review the trends from previous years and make calculated assumptions based on how people have behaved in the past.
3. Rearrange Your Shop for Maximum Conversions and Upsells
Bricks and mortar shops don’t just drop their prices at Christmas. They also change the layout of their stores to showcase gift sets or special offers in a bid to inspire people to make that impulse purchase or consider a gift they hadn’t before.
A similar approach should be taken online.
Ensure your key products get the visibility they deserve; you might use your homepage to display banners about certain products or ranges that have a special offer on them. ‘People also bought’ style features are particularly useful at Christmas when many people are stuck for present ideas and will appreciate the additional ideas.
In your advertising, look at pushing focus on your products in the Google Shopping Feed by increasing your bids. For more general PPC campaigns, create Christmas specific landing pages where offers can be highlighted or discount codes displayed.
One huge advantage that bricks and mortar stores have over online shops is the human element. Sales assistants in physical stores will adapt their approach to different customers depending on what they’re looking for, who they’re shopping for and whether they have shopped there before.
It’s important your online customers feel that same sense of personalization as if they’re being personally looked after and guided through their conversion journey.
Make your returning website visitors feel special. If you have login functionality and can therefore track what they’ve bought before, offer up something which will likely interest them based on what others who’ve purchased similarly have enjoyed.
If you’re using Google Analytics, you can create ‘audiences’ by creating segments based on what products or categories they’ve previously viewed, when they viewed them and what they’ve purchased in the past. This can then be used to serve up targeted ads just for them, through Google AdWords and through Facebook using the Facebook Pixel for Facebook Custom Audiences.
On a much more simple level, consider again the content of your site. Does it reflect the tone you want your business to take and does the copy and the imagery give a warm and welcoming impression? By getting this basic elements right, you can really improve how visitors feel about your website.
5. Be Prepared for the Crowds
Christmas is notorious for rushes of shoppers and last-minute purchases. If you’ve promoted your website well, you need to be prepared for an influx in traffic.
Just as a bricks and mortar shop will hire extra security to control the crowd, your eCommerce website should put provisions in place to keep everything moving smoothly.
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Make it easier for potential customers to get where they need to go in your online shop with helpful banners and categorisation of products. Check your online checkout system is working perfectly and that there are no bugs which will be exacerbated by extra volume. For newer businesses, it’s crucial to test your server load capacity prior to the festive period to make sure your website can handle the extra traffic.
The tips provided here are second nature to bricks and mortar stores, but many online shops do not take full advantage of the holiday season. By implementing a few simple changes, you could increase traffic levels and improve conversion rates this Christmas.