Like it or not, Christmas is just around the corner once again. It may be a little too early right now to be decking the halls…as some are already doing…but blink just a few times and we’ll be right in the thick of the festive season.
The good news being that for the average ecommerce business, this Christmas could be happier than any to date. While nothing it set in stone, trends over the past few years would seem to suggest that total ecommerce sales over Christmas will once again climb exponentially. On the downside, competition among rival ecommerce businesses will also be more ferocious than ever before.
Once again therefore, it will be the usual case of survival of the fittest. If you manage to outperform your competitors over the festive period this year, the pickings could be rich to say the least. By contrast, rest on your proverbial laurels and you may find it impossible to keep up.
As we’ve touched upon in countless posts before, the number-one rule when it comes to effective Christmas marketing is also the most obvious. That being, to plan your strategy as far in advance as possible. Procrastinate too much and you’ll find yourself fighting a losing battle, perhaps forced to offer terrifying discounts to shift any units at all.
Not that this is likely to work – Christmas discounts are pretty much the norm everywhere.
So for those looking to hatch-out a Christmas marketing strategy at this early stage, what areas should you be focusing on?
The answer…well, we can think of at least 10 ways to (hopefully) gain and maintain a competitive edge this Christmas, which could lead into a very happy new year:
- Personal Greetings
First up, this is absolutely the time of year you should be lavishing your most valuable and loyal customers with niceties. These days, the average consumer receives tens of thousands of marketing messages from an incalculable number of businesses. The vast majority of which are so generic and outside their interests that they simply ignore them. By contrast, something that’s been written to you and you alone is far more compelling.
Irrespective of how much time it takes therefore, it’s worth getting busy with at least a few personal greetings. Particularly if you’re able to go so far as to include a special deal or discount, in accordance with their shopping habits and preferences. If you’re completely unaware as to whom your most loyal and valuable customers are, you might want to correct this rookie error as quickly as possible.
- Edit your Product Descriptions
Don’t forget that this (as in right now) is the time of year when people all over the place are starting their Christmas shopping. In doing so, they’re also hammering thousands of weird and wonderful festive search terms into Google, Bing and so on. This is precisely why now is also a good time to think about incorporating Christmas keywords into your product descriptions. You don’t have to go crazy and rewrite them completely – simply slot a few choice references in here and there.
Or if looking for maximum impact, think about doing the same with your Meta tags. Always remember that your Metas will be seen by prospective customers long before your actual website, so be sure to let them know you’ve got whatever it is they need.
- Create Gift Guides
Just as millions of online shoppers are indecisive, millions more are just plain lazy. They head online with the intention of getting things done as quickly and easily as possible, having no intention whatsoever of spending hour after hour trawling through product listings. Hence, it can be highly effective to produce gift guides and separate sections for Christmas products. Choice isn’t always a good thing – especially when there’s too much of it.
Consider adding individual pages are sections to your website for specific gift categories. One page for ideal gifts for dads, another for gifts under £20, one for romantic gifts and so on. Narrow down their choices and speed up the process of helping them find what they want, increasing their likelihood of making a purchase in doing so.
- Host a Competition
Running contests is by far one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to this kind of marketing. Nevertheless, it’s also one of the most effective and easy to execute. Get things started as far in advance as you like, selecting a decent prize people will actually want to win. A voucher for a luxurious Christmas lunch in a glamorous restaurant, gift vouchers to be spent at a major store, a weekend break to a winter wonderland or anything else that’s universally desirable.
It’s then simply a case of promoting the living daylights out of your contest, ensuring as many people as possible take part. Get it right and the additional business you win will more than augment the costs of the prize. Just try to stay away from anything too dull, cliché or predictable.
- Create a Sense of Urgency
These days, everybody knows that special deals and discounts are typically offered for a limited time only. Nevertheless, pushing exactly how time-sensitive your best offers are can be a great way of creating a sense of urgency. Something known to have a dramatic impact on the likelihood of any given shopper to make a purchase. Even when Christmas itself is a fair way down the line, the appeal of an ‘Exclusive Early Bird’ discount is difficult to deny.
Over Christmas in particular, shoppers are painfully aware of the requirement to comply with certain deadlines. By setting additional deadlines yourself, you capitalise on their existing sense of urgency by injecting furtherurgency into the equation. Rather than making them think they have forever to decide, tell them exactly when they need to decide by.
- Use Limited Quantity Offers
It’s exactly the same theory with limited quantity offers – a strategy that taps into our fear of missing out. In a working example, you could sell 100 units of a certain sweater for £25, after which the price will return to its normal £40. Simply because there are limited quantities available, shoppers who were just vaguely considering it are far more likely to go ahead and make a purchase.
You can even take things one step further by listing exactly how many of any given product you have in stock, even if it means getting a little creative with the truth. If the above-mentioned sweater is only available for the next 20 customers – and then it’s gone for good – its appeal will take a huge step in the right direction.
- Extend your Promotions
Sure, it’s cheeky, but it’s also a universal standard among retailers worldwide. You decide on a promotion, you set it in motion and you make it clear that it all comes to an end on December 26th. Only when December 25tharrives, you announce a ‘surprise’ extension of the sale for another couple of weeks. For you, this means taking advantage of last-minute shoppers and post-holiday shoppers. For the customer, it means every excuse to pick up a few additional bargains.
Ecommerce traffic in general remains relatively high right into the new year. Things have a habit of tapering off mid-January, but typically remain pretty hyped for a good couple of weeks after Christmas. So you might want to take advantage of the spirit of the festive season while it lasts.
- Get Blogging
While it’s not as if your customers will have forgotten Christmas is coming, there’s nothing wrong with a gentle reminder. Your blog is one of your most important and influential marketing tools at all times of year. Particularly when looking to generate interest and conversation around subjects such as Christmas.
Share your Christmas stories, provide Christmas gift inspiration and welcome the comments and feedback of your readers. Whatever it takes to get them thinking about Christmas…and all those purchases they’ll be making between now and then.
- Brace for Mobile Shoppers
This year is likely to see the largest volume of online purchases via mobile of any Christmas season to date. If your site isn’t already an absolute work of art for mobile web users, you need to do whatever it takes to get things sorted as quickly as possible.
Mobile shoppers make the kinds of impulse purchases that can have an extraordinary impact on your bottom line. Nevertheless, it’s up to you to ensure they’re able to find and buy whatever it is they want in a matter of seconds. Otherwise, they simply won’t bother.
- Deck the (Virtual) Halls
Last but not least, Christmas shoppers respond well to websites that are beacons of all-things Christmassy. It’s up to you how far you take things, but giving your website a festive makeover could significantly enhance its appeal. Throw in some holiday visuals, add a couple of yuletide video clips and play around with your festive banners.
Long story short – let them know they’ve come to the right place for all their Christmas shopping needs, the very moment they arrive. It may take time and effort to pull off, but could also work wonders for your Christmas conversion rates.