Preparing for a stress-free Christmas online

Handling extra customers

Having to refund money because you run out of stock or can't deliver in time are problems that guarantee unhappy customers who won't be returning.

A 30% rise in web orders in November/December is common, so make sure that the business can cope. Ensure you have temporary staff to help with order processing and your web hosting can take the extra traffic without crashing.

Test marketing

Test out your festive marketing ideas on a small scale, well ahead of time. Establish what works best, and refine it. And put extra effort into your search engine optimisation, in plenty of time. On the PR front magazines will be preparing in September or before, so think about press releases promoting new products in advance.

Fulfilment matters

Make sure your fulfilment operation has capacity and maybe give customers the option of a next day courier service or Special Delivery for guaranteed delivery. Allow customers to use their work address to avoid missed deliveries. Do you have an order tracking facility on your site? It can significantly reduce ‘when will my parcel arrive’ calls.

Decorate

Put up decorations on your site and find creative ways to mark the season. Put likely presents and links to gift packs on your home page, and stock Christmas-themed items. Festive deals may even let you start clearing slow-moving stock before your January sales.

Maximise margin

Some gifts don't stand alone but need supplementary items, like batteries for example, so offer related items wherever relevant. You might also suggest other, similar gifts to buy. And people buying presents can be susceptible to offers like 'buy two and get one free'.

Last deliveries

Publish the last day customers can order for guaranteed Christmas delivery at the top and bottom of every page. Email existing customers to remind them. Once the deadline date has gone, highlight this.

Help buyers

Online shoppers are often impatient and especially at Christmas. Ensure your site search can match both by category and by price range. Your E-Commerce product must integrate the two: search engines may be fine for text-based searching, but they're very poor when, for example, you want a present that costs less than £20 for your brother.

Try offering a gift-wrapping service for a small fee as a helpful service that also provides an opportunity to increase margin.

Thank suppliers

As well as regular customers, it’s important to thank your suppliers as they are an integral part of your team. Good supplier relationships can really help when you have problems. Why not give suppliers and good customers a ‘gift’ of a discount during January which also helps your sales in a slow period.

GSOH required

One Christmas Eve, Robert Johnston of www.gentlemans-shop.com had several calls from an angry customer demanding to know where his father’s present was. “We had dispatched it two weeks earlier but he slammed the phone down accusing me of ’ruining his Christmas‘. Just as we closed, the same guy called to apologise. His sister had signed for the parcel and dad’s special present was already wrapped and under the tree.”

January sales

Have your January sales pages ready to go up on Boxing Day. It gives the ‘value shoppers’ a chance to clear all that dead stock for you.

Written by Chris Barling, CEO of E-Commerce software supplier, Sellerdeck. Originally publishhed at B2business Hub.

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