Mutual has purchased assets from The Rye Agency and our new website will launch in 2017.

I'm Andrew - part the production team at Red Carrot Web Design here to write about how the Christmas period affects eCommerce in the UK. But first, some stats...

  1. £19.17 billion is projected to be spent on eCommerce sites in the UK this Christmas
  2. The holiday season makes up 20-40% of an average site's annual revenue
  3. "Cyber Monday" (December 2nd 2013) is the biggest shopping day in the UK (online, at least). That's this time next week!

Up for the challenge? Follow these action points to get more sales this Christmas.

Identification

The first step is to identify which products to sell. Get the following data:-

  1. Identify which products sold well during the period last year - make this the starting point of your list
  2. Identify which products have been trending upwards over the past quarter which you think would be popular over Christmas - add them to your list
  3. Identify which products sold well last year but are out of fashion or out-dated this year - take them away from your list

Let's call the remaining items on the list your "product hit list".

Now make a list of your main online competitors. Go through your product hit list and see how your competitors are selling them...

  • Are they cheaper?
  • Do they offer a better warranty?
  • Do they include free postage and packaging?
  • How are they selling the product? Imagery, text, reviews, video?

Make your listing of the product the most valuable to the customer. If your imagery isn't selling it well then source or commission higher quality photography. If the copy isn't highlighting why the product is great, scrap it and rewrite it. If your prices are too high - lower them down. If you can't beat the competitors - take them off your hit list.

Website Enhancements

Realistically it's too late for these now - but consider the following enhancements that the 2013 shopper is looking for online and try to implement them as soon as possible:-

  • Clearly shown stock / Inventory levels - "Only 3 left in stock! Order today..."
  • Responsive design - 16% of online sales this year will be on mobile phones and there is a clear trend that it will be considerably larger for the 2014 holiday season
  • 73.6% of customers abandon the checkout procedure before parting with their money and 99% of customers won't purchase on their first visit. Abandoned cart emails to customers can recover 18% of lost first-time customers.
  • Ask shoppers "Is this a gift?" and offer wrapping or a card to go with it - you will reap the rewards post-Christmas when you have data about which products were gifts and which were casual purchases.
  • Only one third of customers who use a single channel came from search

...Talking About Channels

Search isn't the only channel you should be relying on. Here are a list of other channels you should be focusing on this holiday...

  1. Email campaigns - using a system like Mailchimp hit your existing customer base with great offers at the right time (more on this in a bit) and reap the rewards. Use your mail campaign software wisely, don't just have a single "Customers" list. Segment them into gender, age, interest. Send emails that are right for that person
  2. Paid search and display ads - consider investing in PPC (Pay Per Click) ads on Google and display ad networks for what you consider to be the best on your hit list. You may have the best price, content and best delivery options but if you can't be found it won't sell. Consider paid search as a temporary cheat to jump to the top of Google for products that aren't ranking well organically.
  3. Abandoned cart notifications - while it's too late to adopt this now, consider it for next year - you will be able to recover some of the customers who quit your site near checkout
  4. Social media - build a presence on networks like Facebook and Twitter - your fans will be loud advocates among their friends and you can promote directly to them
  5. SMS / Text - much like email campaigns, why not text groups of your customers with "exclusive" offers based on what they've bought in the past. Tread carefully, it can be obnoxious but many retailers (in particular restaurants) use it to great effect.
  6. Offline to Online - if you have a brick-and-mortar store send them online. Explain how there's a bigger range, it's easier to find things and "oh, here's a 10% off coupon for your first shop online". People are more likely to come back to an eCommerce site than a brick and mortar store.
  7. Online to Offline - if you can facilitate it, have a "click to collect" function on your website. Particularly good for local chains, let people shop on one channel and pick up at another. It takes the stress out of Christmas deliveries.

Promotions

That's not good for you - but careful use of promotions can help you win more sales. Pop quiz: which of the following do you think were most successful last year?

  • % Off the entire website
  • % Off this product
  • % Off this department
  • Coupon code for money off your cart
  • Free delivery
  • Exclusive Online Only Sale

Free delivery won by a landslide. It's an easy option for a shop owner to implement (although you need to be prepared to swallow the cost - adding it back to your product cost isn't going to convince the modern savvy shopper) and requires almost no explanation or terms and conditions to be made unlike the other options. It's quick and easy and exactly what customers want.

The other ones are all good options too - with the possible exception of online-only sale and coupon codes. Their lower success rate means that they're probably ones to skip and focus efforts on other areas.

An aside note about voucher codes: many eCommerce sites have an "Enter your coupon code:" area. This directly leads to cart abandonment because users go, "Oh, cool I can use a coupon - I'll go on Google and find one". Use them wisely. For example ask users to click on a special link on an email which automatically redeems the voucher rather than making them type it in.

Timing

Finally it's important to know when people shop and get them at just the right time to convert.

  1. December 2nd (Cyber Monday) is the biggest digital shopping day in the UK. It's one week away from today. In the run-up to Cyber Monday start using your channels to promote special offers. On Cyber Monday - people expect VERY special offers. Amazon often drops prices as much as 80%.
  2. The week of December 16th is the biggest shopping week. People are making last minute gift decisions, they probably have no idea what they need and are stressed. Use this to your advantage. Run email and social campaigns such as "The top 10 gifts still in stock for her" and make a big deal of "Order before 5pm on December 20th to get this for Christmas day"
  3. December 17th is often called "Free Shipping Day", promote this heavily with your existing customers via email and social media and integrate it into your paid ads. Promote it clearly and concisely on every page of your website. Last year Free Shipping Day made $1,013 million in the US.
  4. The week of December 23rd naturally dips but are still higher than usual because users are looking for boxing day special offers. Consider this week a mini Cyber Monday - use what you learn from Cyber Monday to influence your special offers this week.
  5. Shopping plummets on Christmas Day - but it's a great time to be promoting boxing day offers.
  6. The evening of Christmas Day onwards is a good time to start collecting reviews of products gifted over Christmas. Send emails to purchasers asking "Did they like the gift?" - this works especially well if you collected "Is this a gift?" data. Products with good reviews (in both frequency and score) are more likely to sell all year round.
  7. The week of December 30 brings the lowest level of purchases since early November and signals the end of the Christmas boom.

Conclusion

Running an eCommerce website is hard work - you're competing on the world's largest high street. But by knowing your customer base, your competitors, shopping behaviour and a little inside knowledge you can make the Christmas period very successful for your site.

Now, it's going to be impossible to effectively pull all of this off this year - but start thinking about how you can improve your site in preparation for the period next year. Pro tip: most eCommerce sites realise their site needs work around October and November and agencies get booked up quickly. Try to get in earlier to make sure you don't miss out next year.

All of us at Rye hope you have a really successful Christmas period!