As online shops begin preparing for Christmas, they already know that this year is going to be very different. The expectation is that more people will buy their gifts, decorations, food and drink and other seasonal products over the internet but, with consumers having to tighten their belts, overall spending may go down. This change is going to affect what consumers want from online shops. Here, we’ll discuss four things customers will expect from stores this Christmas and how to put them in place.
Help to make Christmas more affordable
Though economic uncertainty might lead consumers to be more, they’ll still want to buy presents, decorate the house and splash out on a few seasonal treats. The way many of them will try to manage this is by spreading the cost of Christmas.
As an online retailer, you can make it easier for customers to spread the cost by putting stock online now, so they can buy early. Additionally, you can offer flexible payments on your website using PayPal Credit. PayPal Credit is an option available to customers in the PayPal checkout. It allows your business to receive the purchase amount upfront but lets customers spending over £99 spread payments over four months at 0% interest.
PayPal Credit can be very helpful to your customers and more affordable than using a credit card. It can also have a positive impact on your sales. According to PayPal, over half of those who use it say they wouldn’t be able to make a purchase without it, while 21% of users spent more than they would have if credit hadn’t been available.
A different range of products
If there is one thing that we can be fairly certain of this year, it’s that there are going to be fewer opportunities for Christmas and New year socialising. It’s unlikely that Christmas parties, pantomimes, big family Christmas get-togethers, carol services, school events, new year’s celebrations and all the other social occasions will be able to take place. That means people are not going to be spending money on them. Sales of party outfits, party food, fancy dress costumes, table decorations, etc. will decline.
At the same time, people will spend less on Christmas gifts associated with activities that are going to be difficult to do in the foreseeable future. The demand for kit or equipment used in team sports, vouchers for spas and treatments, tickets for shows, events or activities and many other items will decrease.
Instead, people will spend their money on gifts for the home or on things to do at home. The big winners are likely to be anything related to gaming, gadgets, hobbies, cooking, home improvement, personal fitness, home-based beauty and care, jewellery and watches, etc.
This poses a tricky problem for online shops as it will affect the inventory that you need to buy and sell. Research and data are key to understanding how the market is shifting so that you sell the products that people will want and don’t end up with a stockpile of unwanted items that, because of social restrictions, may be difficult to get rid of even in a January sale.
An additional issue is that, once you’ve identified what you do want to sell, you need to ensure that you can procure them and have them in stock in time for the Christmas run-up which, this year, is going to begin earlier.
Products delivered on time
Online shoppers have always wanted their products delivering on time: the difference in 2020 is not customer expectation but in your ability to guarantee delivery. The issue is that with shoppers being unable or unwilling to buy from the high street, the volume of products sold online is going to rocket.
According to the FT, the increase in parcel shipping stretched Royal Mail to its limits during the lockdown. At the same time, shipping companies, like Hermes, recruited thousands of new staff to cope with demand. The run-up to Christmas is significantly busier for all shipping companies than when the lockdown occurred and this means they are likely to find Christmas 2020 their most challenging yet.
As your customers rely on you to get the products to them in time, you need to make sure you have adequate shipping in place to cover your increased needs and the ability to cater for longer shipping times. You’ll also need to keep your website shipping details up-to-date and keep customers informed of any issues.
A user-friendly website
UK online shopping grew by 129% during the lockdown and this is expected to peak even higher as we approach Christmas. With that in mind, it is worth investing time and effort into ensuring your website caters for the needs of that growing number of customers. This will require looking at the front and backend of your site.
At the front end, you may want to make finding products easier by installing product search and product filter tools as well as simplifying the checkout process by enabling guest checkouts. Offering a wider range of payment options, free shipping and special deals, together with showing related products or product recommendations (best done using a product recommendation engine) can all help improve sales.
At the backend, the key requirement is to make sure that your website hosting provides you with the computing resources to keep your store performing well during periods of peak demand. A slow-loading website can force users to leave your site before it fully displays, while sluggish response times can lead to shopping cart abandonment. The worst-case scenario is that you have so many visitors that your website crashes or runs out of bandwidth and goes offline. If you think your website needs more resources, i.e. RAM, CPU, storage and bandwidth, it might be worth upgrading to a bigger package or a solution like VPS.
Your customers will have a different wish list this Christmas. They’ll be looking for different products than normal and help to make them affordable, they’ll want to buy from a reliable website that loads quickly and performs well and from a shop that can guarantee delivery in time for Christmas. Hopefully, the points raised in this post will help you get everything you need in place to meet their needs.
If you need to upgrade your hosting to cope with more visitors, check out our homepage.