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How To Prepare Your eCommerce Business For The Christmas Period [Updated for 2018]

With Christmas just around the corner, now is the time to start thinking about your strategy and effectively preparing your business, in order to take full advantage of the potential influx in sales over the festive period.

To help you out, we have compiled some tips and best practices that have been proven to increase your chances of success during the busiest time of the year.

Test your website’s checkout

Shopping cart abandonment can happen for a number of reasons, but it often comes down to a negative user experience at the checkout.

Now while you can’t avoid it entirely, one way to reduce it is by testing the usability and overall checkout experience on your website.

In fact, this is something we would recommend you do sooner rather than later.

By offering a guest checkout option, as opposed to making it compulsory that a customer registers for an account, you can increase conversions by as much as 45%.

You should also limit the number of form fields you require customers to complete, and instead only request the most relevant information.

SEE ALSO: The Key Takeaways From Baymard Institutes "E-Commerce Checkout Usability" Study

Create product bundles

An effective, and often overlooked, way of increasing sales, is by simply combining several related items, and branding it as a gift set or bundle.

A couple of examples could be selling a camera bundle with a tripod, memory card and case, or alternatively if you sell speciality food, you could create a themed hamper, which are particularly popular around Christmas.

Overall, product bundles give buyers the immediate impression that they are getting increased value, making them much more likely to purchase.

This approach also increases your average shopping basket size, and what’s great is that you can potentially charge the same price as you would selling the items individually.

Let your customers know about your discounts

There are plenty of marketing and advertising tactics you can leverage in the lead up to the holiday season, in order to generate awareness and gain more traction.

That's not all though.

In addition to this, you should keep in mind that you will likely have a huge surge in sales on each of the key shopping dates, and by extending your promotions in the lead up to each event, you can alleviate some of the strain on infrastructure and your fulfilment team.

Firstly, consider using social media to promote your upcoming deals to build up excitement, and encourage your followers to share and retweet your posts. 

It’s also important to remember that many customers will be researching where they can find the best deals in the lead up to both the Black Friday and Christmas periods, so you should also look at running Facebook ads or an AdWords campaign to attract these customers.

We would also recommend creating a page on your website that is dedicated to Christmas, so that any website visitors can immediately view the pages and start benefiting from your deals.

Email marketing is another great channel to use to drive traffic to your site, and you should be using promotional emails to provide teasers about your offers.

Consider building this into themed campaigns, for example, you could unveil new discounts every day in the lead up to Black Friday, offering a sneak peak of some of the offers you will be releasing the next day.

For Christmas, you may wish to start your promotions early in December, and perhaps even link it to an advent calendar style campaign, offering discount codes, free shipping, chances to win competitions etc.

For maximum results, we would recommend that you start trying to build up your mailing list now. 

Provide flexible delivery options

Delivery options, particularly around the holiday period, can sway a customer’s decision to purchase, and you should therefore be offering a range of competitive, and flexible delivery options.

Another key thing to remember is that you must also be clear about last minute delivery dates, perhaps by including something on your site that tells the customer exactly how many days they have left for guaranteed Christmas delivery.

It's also worth offering an extended returns period, which can be hugely beneficial for customers purchasing Christmas gifts.

Something else to keep in mind, is that with certain shipping providers, it is actually in their terms that you are entitled to a refund if they fail to deliver the package on time. While this is by no means ideal as it impacts your reputation, it is something to keep in mind.

SEE ALSO: How To Save Money On Shipping: Advanced Options For Cheap Delivery Costs

Finally, if you’re using drop ship services, it’s worth checking what they can do to help, for instance whether they can offer a discount for handling more packages during December, which can be passed onto your customers.

Ensure your website is prepared for the surge in traffic

There is nothing worse than having to deal with a site that is slow to load, and this can cause significant frustration amongst your customers, leading to loss of sales.

One way to avoid this happening is by testing your server load capacity in the lead up to these busy periods, in order to make sure your website can handle a surge in traffic.

You should also ensure that you are able to cope with the additional demand for products across your selling channels, and that you are effectively monitoring low stock levels, to avoid overselling. One of the best ways to avoid this is through the use of an inventory management system.

Offer great deals

The one common thing about all of the key shopping dates is that people expect amazing deals.

For this reason, regardless of the preparation you do in the lead up to the Black Friday weekend and then the Christmas period, if you’re not offering good promotions, then you risk these customers going to your competitors who will be.

Why not use this as an opportunity to get rid of old stock, in turn freeing up valuable warehouse space and increasing your profit margins.

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Topics: Marketplaces & Websites, eCommerce Best Practices, Online Marketplace, eCommerce Marketing