For retailers up and down the country, the busiest and most important time of the year is almost upon us. So with Christmas drawing ever closer, what you can be doing to ensure your business is best-placed to win the e-commerce battles during the festive period?
There are many areas of your marketing offer which need your attention in the run-up to the Christmas period, such ensuring your onsite and offsite SEO are on point and marry into your wider marketing campaigns. Then there is the spike in web traffic, online orders and subsequent returns to contend with.
Here are our tips on getting your e-commerce ready for this festive season.
Onsite optimisation for Christmas
When it comes to onsite SEO for the festive period, you really need to ensure your website is in peak condition. As we know, there are many elements of SEO to consider onsite, with both usability and performance now incredibly important in addition to the usual content requirements.
Take time to carefully review and consider your e-commerce website in the following areas:
Responsive web design
Whereas 2-3 years ago you could have got away with your e-commerce website not being responsive, it is no longer negotiable. We’re all aware of just how influential mobile has now become, with many industries reporting mobile usage to at least be rivalling the more traditional desktop usage, if not surpassing it.
The last two years have really seen an explosion in e-commerce on mobile, with user confidence in purchasing on mobile growing all the time. Consumers now expect to be able to make purchases quickly and easily from their mobile device, without a significant loss of functionality nor impaired user experience. Not only should your e-commerce website be responsive, but you should also consider whether you can optimise it for mobile.
Usability plays a large part in Google’s ranking algorithms now, and within that mobile friendly is key.
Tied in with the above point, and also key for those with specific mobile apps or functionality. Ensure all of your mobile platforms are optimised and delivering outstanding performance. Perhaps on mobile, more than ever, users are impatient. If your page loads slowly, you will lose that consumer and they will not have a reason to return. Do not leave it to chance.
Your keyword research and implementation needs to start early and not be left as an afterthought. You will want to find keywords that have good levels of traffic with potentially high conversion rates but ideally include those that your competitors are not using as part of their strategy.
Think about the long tail variations and additional phrases that people may use to target their search but also over the festive period. For example, if you are selling ‘widgets’ then do they have a size, colour, weight, brand, style, material and is the content geared towards the targeted audience?
Once you have these details think about how you can incorporate them into your page content and build unique paragraphs around them. One of the biggest mistake retailers make when selling another brands products is just to repeat the title and description. Make yourself unique and create your own content that is not just another duplicated page.
Audit your Google Adwords
If you are using Google Adwords, now is the time to focus on increasing budgets for important target markets this Christmas. Focus on upping the budget for specific niches. This may be tied into a range of products you’re particularly pushing this Christmas, or it may be simply to marry-up with an offline marketing campaign. Either way, be targeted and do not try and aim for everyone. Stick to the niche, and decide on a more competitive budget.
Consider starting to use Adwords remarketing campaigns and if you aren’t already then take a look at display advertising. Make sure you are creating mobile ads separate to those of desktop as there will be an increase in this area in coming weeks. Either way, be targeted and do not try and aim for everyone. Stick to the niche, and decide on a more competitive budget.
Optimise your landing pages as soon as possible
Those immortal words uttered by Bill Gates all those years ago; “content is king” still ring so very true. You need to be working on optimising your key landing pages to maximum efficiency ahead of the festive rush. The earlier you can optimise your landing pages with targeted keywords and well constructed content (that is strong, relevant, non-duplicated content), the more chance you have of really competing in the top-end of Google for those terms.
A content strategy, or calendar, should always have your Christmas campaign written in as early as possible so that you can concentrate on getting the pages optimised and the Christmas content out there as soon as possible.
Launch your Christmas branding
As we have touched on already, it goes without saying that your site has to be branded in a way that matches up to any Christmas marketing activity or campaign that you’re working on. The user needs to feel that joined-up approach. Even if you do not have any specific, branded off-site festive marketing happening, still take the time to add festive detail to your website.
Increasingly shoppers are using online e-commerce stores for their Christmas shopping rather than hitting the high street, so give them some taste of Christmas. They want to feel that festive joy and inspiration. It may be as simple as updating your logo, adding some Christmassy text to your content or changing some font colours or a header image.
Review the customer journey
When it comes to website usability, industry expert Steve Krug has a book aptly titled “Don’t Make Me Think”. This is a great way to review your customer journey that you expect your consumers to take. It has to be simple, quick and clear. The more a user has to think about what it is they’re doing, the less likely they are to complete it.
Go through the journey yourself and ask others outside of the business, view all of your key landing pages, and see how the journey feels. Are your calls-to-action clear and prominently displayed? Is the performance allowing the flow to be smooth and simple? If not, now is the time to tweak it so that you can continue testing it out. Do not leave it until December – you will have missed the boat.
The John Lewis Chrismas Advert 2016 Released
Offsite preparation for the festive period
Once you have your onsite preparation complete, take a look at your offsite activity. Much of this boils down to your level of service and interaction with customers across all mediums.
Clear goals and strategies
Having a set of clear goals and a strategy for how you will reach those goals is going to be key in the run-up to Christmas. Spend time with your staff making them appreciate the key targets for the festive period, and any new marketing offers and campaigns that customers may ask about online. Enable staff to see the goals as being achievable and how the part they play fits in to the overall performance of the business.
Internal Christmas promotions planner
Consider putting in place a member of staff, or a team, who will be responsible for planning and directing the execution of your Christmas promotions. Again, make sure all of the staff across the company have visibility of the promotions you will be running, what they involve, and how to help drum up interest in them.
Engage on social media
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make at any time of the year is treating social media as a one-way channel for communication. By its very nature, it needs to be a social channel, sparking engagement on a human level back and forth between you and your customers. Do not use it as a platform for corporate or sales led messages. Instead, get festive, get social and interact with your audience. Have a strategy in place ahead of the Christmas period.
Social networks should also be used for customer service where required. Handling even the trickiest of enquiries well can be a great thing for your image and can help potential customers find confidence in the way you will act should anything go amiss.
Also, try some dedicated offers, campaigns and marketing for your social media channels, capitalising on the specific powers of each platform or network.
Offers and promotions
Christmas is the perfect time for offers and promotions, across all manner of marketing media. Offering reduced prices or other purchasing offers, or a coupon to come back and use on your site again in the New Year, can be fiercely popular in the run-up to the festive period. Consumers love a bargain, never more than at a time when money is traditionally a little tight!
Prepare your business
Finally, it’s time to consider what other preparation you can look at ahead of the festive period. From demonstrating added value for customers through to making life easier for everyone.
Offer gift packaging
Offer your customers an even higher quality of service, not to mention convenience, by including the option of a gift-wrapping service for all products purchased in the run-up to Christmas. You don’t have to offer this for free, it can be a low-cost up-sell, but it’s incredibly popular during the festive period and is just another point of added value for your customers to keep them coming back for more.
Great customer service
While Christmas is the happiest time of the year for many, it’s also the most stressful. Orders for gifts will come in late, items may be delayed in the post and some products may just not be what the customer was expecting. Give your staff some additional customer service training to help them prepare for what will follow. Consider introducing a Christmas customer service FAQ to your website, and offer customers an easy way of contacting you. It’s also worth extending your customer service opening hours in the run-up to Christmas.
Help videos and guides
Video content is an area of growth within digital content and digital marketing, so consider producing ones to help customers use your products, or set them up. You can even give them a little Christmas theming and add quirky touches to help them stand out. The aim here is for potential customers to see your business as a minimised risk when it comes to purchasing, with guides, support and returns all easily accessible.
Clear returns policy
Finally, ahead of the hectic festive period, make sure that your returns policy is clear, simple to understand and well-placed so that customers can find it and get in touch if needed.