Yes, the kids have barely been back at school a week and the toy adverts are already on the TV. If you’re an online store, there are a lot of things you might have to plan for over the next few months: Halloween, Diwali, Bonfire Night, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and the Boxing Day sales. Here are some tips to help ensure you make the most of these 2021 retail opportunities.
Experience over price
While price is important, it doesn’t mean you need to slash your margins to an absolute minimum to win over customers. In fact, 86% of shoppers are willing to pay more if the customer experience is better. How much more? 16 %, according to PwC.
So, to maximise income and attract new, loyal customers, focus on creating a better customer experience. Personalise customer accounts using product recommendation engines, make shopping easier, contacting you more convenient, speed up delivery times or offer click and collect, make your brand look more prestigious, offer services like gift wrapping – the opportunities are endless, but, done well, it can pay off handsomely in the end.
Plan any changes to your site
Your website needs to create the right mood as soon as your visitors land and this means you might need to change the way the website looks more than once between now and the beginning of 2022. You may want to spook it up a little if you are selling Halloween themed products and then get the trimmings out in the run-up to Christmas.
To make sure your website is doing a great job, plan exactly what changes you need to implement and get them ready early so that you have time to tweak anything that’s not quite right. Remember to test the website changes before going live too, to make sure they don’t have any unwanted effects.
Stock up and deliver early
While the restrictions of the lockdown have been removed, one lasting effect is the shortage of HGV drivers and this has led many companies to warn of shortages over the festive period. Ordering your stock early so that you know you’ll have it available to sell might be the best option to avoid letting customers down.
At the same time, driver shortages may have an impact on delivery. Even last year, many shipping companies struggled with the increase in deliveries from online sales. With fewer drivers available, it’s important to get your shipping organised and to set the right cut-off dates. The last thing you need is angry customers complaining their kids are left without presents on Christmas morning.
A longer run-up
The impact of the pandemic means many consumers will have to tighten the purse strings again this year. According to Retail Week, Christmas spending in 2021 is predicted to increase by a modest 0.5%; however, people will buy their gifts, decorations, party dresses, food and drink over a longer period, mainly from September onwards. So, even though we’re basking in a September heatwave, there will be people already out there looking for seasonal products. If you want to make the most of that extended window, you’ll need to act quickly.
Additionally, if you want to provide extra help for those with tighter budgets, you can always offer flexible payment options. If you offer a PayPal payment option, customers that spend over £99 at your store can pay over 4 months at 0% interest via PayPal Credit.
If you want to attract more customers, you need to start marketing your brand and products as soon as possible. You can do this on your website, via email, using PPC and social media ads and through social media posting. Do remember, however, that this is a highly competitive time of year and that paid for advertising will come at a premium. You also need to consider unique ways to attract customers; with so many other competitors vying for attention, standing out from the crowd can be difficult to achieve.
Alternatively, you can also consider selling your products on other platforms besides your website, such as on eBay, Amazon or social media sites where you might reach a wider audience.
Stress-test your website
Online stores always hope that the festive period will bring more customers than ever before. While this is potentially rewarding for the brand, it can all go horribly wrong if your hosting package is not up to the job. If you don’t’ have sufficient bandwidth, RAM or memory to deal with a spike in visitors, there is the risk that your website could start working sluggishly or even go offline. If it does, you could lose sales and damage your reputation exactly when you least need it.
Stress testing your website to see if it is capable of handling a sudden peak in visitor numbers will help you understand if you have the hosting capacity you need. If you don’t, it’s time to upgrade to a hosting plan with more compute resources.
As we approach the coming festivities, it’s important that online stores are fully prepared for the hectic activities ahead. Careful planning is essential to ensure everything is in place and ready to go. Hopefully, the areas covered in this post will help you get your seasonal preparations in order.
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