28th November 2014

Preparing your online store for the Christmas Rush

Preparing your online store for the Christmas Rush

Get ready for the seasonal havoc of increased site traffic and hopefully increased sales. Christmas is a huge opportunity for you to satisfy your customers with promotional offers, smoothly run sites and speedy delivery times.

Deliveries- all about communicating

Its the most wonderful time of the year- if you are cleverly prepared for an onslaught of orders and deliveries. Increased site traffic could leave you overwhelmed and cause you to disappoint your customer base, or should you be prepared, it could allow you to deliver memorable smooth and convenient service.

They key things to bear in mind, if you want to succeed in managing customers, is communication. Clear messaging throughout your site, detailing explicitly when you will dispatch and deliver orders, will encourage customers to use your site to ensure that their gifts are available for Christmas. If your site does not make it clear that orders will reach homes and offices by a certain time, customers will be more than likely to opt to use one of your competitors sites instead.

Despite the huge importance of clear messaging and the vital need to keep customers informed about delivery timescales at this time of year, so many leading retailers still get this simple task wrong. H&M for example have no special delivery message on their site. The delivery information is only available at the checkout stage, by which point many customers will have presumed that no special delivery is available over the Christmas period and may well have gone elsewhere.
M&S does a better job. On their product page, they explicitly state next to each product whether or not it will be available in time for Christmas.

In addition to information clearly outlining the delivery times of goods, customers also benefit from the piece of mind that comes from clear, accurate online tracking of parcels.  Informative, proactive communication via text, phone or email updates, will nullify any anxiety that customers may have about deliveries and will result in them having a positive experience with your brand. It is those positive experiences that allow you to create a lasting rapport with your customers. For your benefit, constant updates can reduce pressure on your call centres. There will be less frantic ‘Where is my T-shirt’ calls to deal with.

Despite all your best efforts, problems can and will still occur. You cannot foresee freak weather, or courier or driver problems disrupting the steady flow of your deliveries. In these instances communication is again key. Do all that you can to ensure that you keep customers informed of any delays and they will appreciate your diligence. Supply free to call hotlines and SMS updates. Remember, any delays and the customer will hold you, not your courier accountable.

So, remember, when it comes to delivery, clear messaging is paramount. Make the delivery timescales clear, and don’t promise what you can’t deliver.  Offer a range of delivery options, for extra flexibility. If you can offer next day delivery then, even better and make sure you shout about it.

Ensure your site speed is lightening quick

The eCommerce shopping season kicks off in earnest on Cyber Monday, which will fall on December 1st in 2014. Prepare for the first huge influx of customers and make doubly sure your infrastructure can handle the sudden spike. Make sure you can scale up resources quickly to meet emerging demand. Ideally, you want to be able to scale backdown as soon as the post January tides reseed. If your hosting partner doesn’t allow for this quick upscaling and downscaling, it’s time to find one that does. During this frantic period customer attention spans can be shorter online, and download speed must be fast to ensure customers don’t click elsewhere. Preserve your sites fast download speed by ensuring that you don’t saturate your homage with messages. The homage is the entry point to your site, for a lot of users. If you are tempted to create a seasonal welcome page, just make sure that the download speed is not affected, as this will impact on the bounce rate.

Know your customers

In the run up to the Christmas months make sure you really know your customers. Understanding customers’ browsing behaviour, shopping behaviour and creating a full profile of “what they do, what they like, where they come from” is an important place to start and you can do the same thing for your products to gauge how well they are faring. You can start by looking at the products that have been added to baskets, but weren’t purchased. Why was this? Were these products constantly abandoned because after a quick bit of online research, customers found that similar products on your competitor’s sites were cheaper? If so, then you may need to alter your prices. If someone bought during the Christmas period last year and you spot them on your website this year, then they are incredibly likely to make purchases again. To ensure that they do you could display items similar to their past purchases along the bottom of your product pages, in a similar fashion to asos.com. This is an effective way of encouraging sales. To target your customers, consider a Christmas email to all previous buyers, offering promotional codes that enable discounts on products. You are hereby rewarding customers for their loyalties and giving them added incentive to use your site again.

In-store Vs online

People are likely to spend a good amount of time and energy browsing and comparing products online, but then go on to part with their cash in a high street store. Research online, purchase offline is a recognised trend in buyer behaviour. So, make sure your physical stores have the same  levels of available stock as what is offered online. It is worth your while to allow for items to be purchased online and picked up in store or at various collection points, if customers feel this would be more convenient for them. Allow your customers to reserve stock online, to be viewed and later purchased in store.

Pricing

Pricing of products is critical over the Christmas period. Offers will attract shoppers. Take care to advertise seasonal promotions on product pages and homepages. This will entice visitors to make a purchase online.

The season of goodwill offers much is the way of opportunity for you as an E-commerce site owner. You can increase your profits and customer retention levels. It requires serious dedication and resource however, to effectively implement the right amount of customer care and on time deliveries. So what are you waiting for? Get a competitive edge over your rivals. Start now!

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