We all know that Christmas time is traditionally the biggest sales period of the year. Figures from last year indicate that in spite of a struggling economy, people still continue to increase spending over the Christmas period. BRC figures reveal that while total sales only grew 0.4% during Christmas 2013, the online market showed a 19.2% increase. Current figures suggest equally strong growth this year: Online sales […] in the UK grew 15.4% in October 2014 versus a year earlier, when they had grown 12.1%. This was the highest online growth since Christmas 2013″

This, as well as our own figures from the designer eyewear e-retailer market, suggests that we’re gearing up for the biggest online shopping season ever.

The Christmas sales period, according to last year’s in-house data from SBG, begins to pick up starting in mid-November. For shoppers this means preparing earlier in the month to look around for the best deals on and offline. With the customer being savvier than ever, both online retailers and brick and mortar stores face big challenges.

Virtual Christmas – Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

The retail space at Christmas is engrained in our psyche. Stores spend a lot of time and money attracting customers with window displays, in store ambience and extra staff on-hand to help with inquiries. These are all challenges that the online retailer has to combat, but that’s not to say there aren’t advantages to operating online. The first main reason shoppers shop online is price; a physical retailer will rarely be able to offer the discounts that an online retailer can. The second is convenience; shopping from the comfort of home is a huge bonus. Plus online a customer usually has more choice and, with the right technology behind the site, they can receive customized support and take advantage of intelligent shopping tools.

So Christmas is important but it’s the preparation that will determine your success. With eight years of experience in online retail, here at SBG we’ve figured out what it takes to be the company who wins at Christmas:

11 Tips For Xmas E-Commerce Success

Be Prepared – Ensure that your Christmas plans are flawless and run enterprise wide. It’s pointless creating a sales campaign if there’s no stock to support it.

Provide An Experience – Online there’s no chance for window displays or in-store experiences like music and smells. It’s important to be creative to ensure that you’re providing as much of an experience as you can. Gift Guides, recommendations or even a Santa hat for your logo can all make a difference.

Cater For The Early – If you’re properly prepared, this is no problem. Unofficial shopping rules dictate that the Christmas shopping period can begin the day after Bonfire night. Be ready.

Cater For The Late – A drawback of online, unless you have a click and collect option, is the delivery time. There will always be a date at which you can no longer send out gifts in time for Christmas. Something as simple as an electronic gift card can help to attract those last minute shoppers.

Offer What An Offline Store Can’t – Being online does have its benefits. You can typically be a lot more competitive on price as well as being able to offer a lot more choice. Use this to your advantage and ensure that these key messages are visible on the home page. Plus advanced technologies like Virtual Tryon can bridge the gap between the online and offline experience as it provides a platform similar to being in a physical store which can really help drive conversion.

Invest – The saying goes ‘you gotta spend money to make money.’ But investing money is only half the battle; invest in your staff as well. Ensure that they are properly trained to deal with the increase in orders. However, it is important to make sure any investment is reasonable, which leads onto the next point….

Don’t Go In Blind – Always review sales figures from the previous year. If Christmas wasn’t hugely successful, analyse why and whether you need such a high-investment campaign.

Be Ready For The Worst – You’ve prepared, you’ve got your stock in the warehouse and the staff are fully trained. Likelihood is it won’t always go right. Delivery delays, stock issues and an increase in orders can all create problems, just be prepared. Ensure that customers are notified immediately of any issues and that there’s a contingency plan for stock not arriving. This can be as simple as emailing a printable letter that a customer can use as a temporary IOU.

Christmas Is Big But The Sales Are Bigger – Shopping events get bigger every year. Pre-Christmas, the UK and US have Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and after Christmas there are the Boxing Day sales. It’s essential that any seasonal plans include these events as they can provide a great ROI.

Be Friendly, Not Annoying – You want everyone to see your campaign, but do you really want to send them a newsletter about it seven times in four weeks? After managing to get these people to sign up, you don’t want to lose them now. So don’t be annoying, it won’t boost your sales.

Be Organised – The most basic of principles but one that can easily be forgotten. Make sure you have all tracking in place as well as weekly reports to ensure that sales are high. Any problems can then easily be wormed out with plenty of time left to shop.