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Christmas 2020 will be different to any other year, with huge changes in consumer shopping behaviour making it difficult to forecast sales. Independent retailers have seen a surge of shoppers flocking to their doors during lockdown, but the demand for online services has also been huge. Whether you already have a solid e-commerce setup or have just started, it’s clear that maximising online offerings and services over the run up to Christmas is going to be a key to success.
Prepare for orders
Retailers should “arm themselves with as much digital assistance as possible to cope with our first post-COVID-19 Christmas,” advises Ciaran Bollard, CEO of Kooomo. “Ensuring stock levels are optimised and maintained correctly will be crucial for the success of retailers and grocery providers during the busy period. Stock will need to be synchronised to provide an accurate and efficient experience for workers and consumers.”
Edward Hancock, founder of The Cheese Geek, believes that customers have become familiar with buying online from independents over the pandemic and that this will continue. To prepare for the Christmas season he says, “We have certain measures in place to try and encourage customers to place their Christmas orders earlier to enable us to manage the forecast increase in demand and prepare accordingly.”
“Busy periods will ramp up the amount of traffic on your site and it must be able to withstand such periods to provide the best possible customer experience,” adds Ciaran. “You must prepare so you can prevent things like system crashes, site outages and slow load times. Failure to do so will cause revenue and reputation damage.”
Consider an omnichannel Christmas
Maximise all potential sales by making sure that all your online platforms are accessible. “Make your services flexible by giving customers the option to buy across all channels. Omnichannel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than single-channel shoppers – a significant statistic in terms of customer retention. Offer multi-channel options such as click and collect, purchase from mobile apps, purchase from marketplaces and purchase from social media. In short, offer as many channels as possible to ensure the needs of the user are met,” explains Ciaran.
Curate products online
Customers are becoming more savvy when it comes to shopping online. Ensure that products you want to push are at the forefront and that the online experience is easy to navigate and convenient. Edward says, “Put together a concise selection of products that you believe customers will love, and back yourself. We focus on a core of 10-12 curated products, and no more than 30 cheeses (40 at Christmas) individual cheeses. This extends to condiments, where we only have a handful. Minimise the amount of decision making a customer needs to make. Clear, concise information on what the products contain, supported by fantastic imagery. Don’t go overboard on copy, customers just won’t read it, and try and ensure as much is visible as possible on the landing page.”
David Seear, founder of Devon Rum Co adds, “I think the key is to have an interesting clear site and message and make the actual shopping process, easy and intuitive. We have technology set up to follow up on any uncompleted orders or left baskets, but for us, thankfully, this is a very limited problem.”
Where possible also show customers they are valued – Ciaran recommends personalising offerings for the individual. He states, “Create a tiered system for customers so that you can spread offers out, identify your most valuable customers and offer them the most substantial discounts first. After you have done this, you can then open up offers to all consumers. Leveraging customer data to provide the best shopping experience will ultimately drive customer loyalty and generate greater sales.”
Utilise social media
Use social media platforms to encourage sales on the website. Dave says that at Devon Rum Co a social media plan is used to get organised: “We work with a social media plan, that is set out at least a month in advance so that we have an organised and relevant feed onto social media. In the run up to Christmas, we would create specific content to draw engagement from our followers and encourage online sales. Things like gift suggestions and special festive gift sets work well. We will also focus on festive rum cocktails, rum hot toddies and the like. We also market seasonal offers and products with our emails to subscribers which works very well.”