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With the Christmas shopping season just getting under way, what can online retailers do to drive more traffic to the site and convert as many visitors as possible? 

Here's a checklist of 12 things etailers should be doing to make the most of the holiday season... 

Adjust PPC strategy for seasonal trends

There are always a few must-have items around Christmas, the iPad is likely to be one this year for instance, so if you stock these items, this is one way of pulling customers in. 

Other things to look at include 'free delivery / shipping', since searches for this tend to peak around the Christmas shopping season, and this is something that can give you an edge over competitors. 

Make gift shopping easy

Adding navigational categories for gifts can provide Christmas shoppers with ideas for gifts.

For example, M&S has a 'flowers & gifts' drop down which enables shoppers to search for gifts by him/her etc. The ability to search by price range would also be a useful option:

Xmas tips 1

Offer gift wrapping

If you don't normally offer this service, it's worth considering this. It's a useful option for people like me who are very bad at wrapping presents, and can be used on the shopping basket page to bump up average order values. 

Provide flexible delivery options

Offering a range of delivery options is a good idea all year round, and can be a key differentiator, but it becomes even more important in the run-up to Christmas. If you can offer next day or even same day delivery then you can sell right up to Christmas Eve, and attract more last minute shoppers. 

Make delivery cut off times and dates clear

If customers can order and have items delivered in time for Christmas, then the cut-off dates and times should be clearly communicated to customers.

Messages like this one from Next's homepage last year provide clear information, while the countdown clock could also help to create urgency in customers' minds: 

Make sure customer service is ready

Expect more calls and emails from customers with questions about products they are thinking of buying, or chasing up deliveries, and make sure you have the resources to cope with this. 

Make returns policies and delivery charges clear

Cost of delivery and returns policies are always significant factors in the decision to make a purchase, so make sure customers can find this information without having to work too hard. It should be clearly accessible from product pages. 

Offer hassle-free returns

When people are buying clothes for people that may not fit, or they may not like, and the risk of buying things that people already have, returns policies become even more important. 

Since its more likely that items will be returned, then customers need to be assured that this will be easy. Clear messaging about your no hassle returns policy, as shown on the Javari homepage, is one way to do it: 

xmastips2

Also, if you are a multichannel retailer, make sure customers can return items in store if they prefer. 

Offer free delivery

Free delivery has proven to be an effective tactic in the past, and in a competitive pre-Christmas market, this could give you the edge over competitors. 

Displaying free delivery offers on the homepage and elsewhere on the site immediately answers any customer questions about delivery charges, while using the term in title tags can help you to pick up a little more search traffic: 

xmas tips

Offer gift vouchers

If you don't normally offer them, gift vouchers can provide an alternative option for customers who just cannot decide which present to buy. They are also a useful option for last minute shoppers, as they can be delivered by email or SMS. 

Offer reserve and collect 

We know that reserve and collect services have worked well for retailers, but it can also give you the edge at Christmas, by allowing customers to save time in stores by researching and selecting items in store first. 

If items can be collected from stores the same day, it is also a useful option for appealing to last minute shoppers. 

Make sure your website can handle the Christmas rush

If your site can't handle the extra traffic, the consequences in terms of lost sales would be serious at this time of year, so you need to take steps to ensure this doesn't happen. 

One thing to do is to estimate the peaks of traffic you may experience, and carry out some load testing (there are a few free tools for this) to see how many users the site can handle before the user experience is affected. More tips on coping with traffic spikes here.

Graham Charlton

Published 7 October, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Axon Publishing

Number One in the checklist should be: Have you scheduled in a print communication to drive online purchases? According to the Royal Mail, as many as two-thirds of online purchases browse a catalogue before purchase.

about 6 years ago

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Sam

Royal Mail are hardly going to say that people don't bother reading hard copy any more so don't bother running a huge print campaign which will be sent through us! ;)

about 6 years ago

Artur Jach

Artur Jach, Technical SEO Manager at MPG Media Contacts

I'd add to that: make sure your new gift pages are well optimised for KEY search terms relating to your product range.

Use keyword research tools and look at their seasonality and don't just go for generic 'Christmas Gifts' as the chances are you'll never get to page 10 in Google.

about 6 years ago

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surfwear

Thanks Graham - add research search terms to cover all bases, and have your post-Christmas sale prepared to follow seamlessly. Now sales start after the first mince pies of Christmas morning, you want to catch all the afternoon surfers (and those not prepared to sit for 3 hours in front of The Great Escape). Consider the whole time online throughout the festive period and position your presents at the foot of every online tree - the Surfwear team.

about 6 years ago

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