14 Tips to Get Your Retail Site Christmas Ready

Christmas is coming quickly and with it the opportunity for major financial rewards.

Is your site properly prepared?

According to the Australian Retailers Association, Australians spent in record numbers during the 2014 holiday season, forking out almost $45 billion, a slight increase over last year. In the six weeks leading up to Christmas, those aged 14 and over spent an average of $2,500 each.

Since this time of the year is by far the most lucrative for online retailers, online marketers owe it to themselves to do everything possible to make the most of this opportunity. Below is a list of great ways of maximising profitability during the holidays. These methods fall under four main categories of sales techniques:

  • Employing Urgency
  • Offering Interactive Promotions & Discounts
  • Promoting Holiday Services
  • Facilitating Shopping

The combination of all four methods acts like a shot of adrenaline to your website and is sure to optimise your conversion power when it’s needed most. We finish off with some smart tips for Boxing Day.

Happy holidays and good luck!

image1-christmas deals

Employing Urgency

Christmas rush

Urgency is a great motivator and there is no better time to use it than before Christmas. Shoppers are already under pressure to get all their shopping done before the holiday. Take advantage of this by moving them quickly through the sales funnel. There are several ways you can do it.

1) Stock levels

By showing dropping stock levels you can motivate shoppers to buy. Some personalisation engines monitor stock levels and can inform shoppers close to make a buying decision if the item they want is selling quickly. These engines display messages such as “Hurry—only six left in stock.”

image2-only 6 left in stock

2) Discount time limits

Combine urgency with your promotions by limiting the period a discount is available. Do it by including a countdown clock informing shoppers how much time they have left until the offer expires.

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3) Limited number of coupons

Also create urgency by limiting the amount of available coupons. Do it by showing shoppers how many coupons are left in real-time.

image4- limited coupons

Offering Personalised Promotions & Discounts

4) Offer coupons/discounts

No holiday season is complete without incredible sales. It could even be said that this entire shopping period is driven by discounts. It’s therefore a good idea to use personalisation to welcome those particular visitors with a holiday greeting combined with a discount offer. Highlight your sales by embedding them at the top of your homepage or display them prominently in a banner or pop-up. The trick is to design promotions that keep you competitive without giving away too much. You should therefore make your discounts contingent on a minimum purchase.

Use personalisation to offer customised discounts to price sensitive customers. For example, if a particular visitor previously left items worth over $100 at your site, offer them a five percent discount. If they left items worth $500, offer them a 15 percent discount. Personalised discounts can also be included in your email promotions, where different coupons are sent out to different types of customers. Auto-applied coupons ensure that only the intended recipients use the discounts.

image5-coupon for 20 dollars over 99 dollar purchase5) Include auto-applied coupons in your emails

Emails that include discount offers or coupons are popular with consumers and can significantly increase holiday traffic.

The best way to do this is to embed auto-applied coupons in your retargeting emails. Coupon codes easily get lost or forgotten. In contrast, auto-applied coupons are automatically applied at checkout. Reinforce the promotion by displaying it in a special welcome banner on your site for customers who arrived by clicking on the coupons.

image6- auto-applied coupon in email

6) Daily discounts for specific categories

Besides general sales, offer 24-hour discounts for certain departments based on the customer profile and interests. For example, offer a discount on men’s clothing on one day, on women’s shoes the next day, and so on. And don’t announce the sales in advance! By keeping them a secret, you encourage visitors to continually return to your site to check if their preferred items are on sale. These discounts can be personalised for each customer. See for example how Fnac Spain presents a daily promotion, where each day the product on sale is from a different category.

image7-daily delas

Promoting Holiday Services

7) Make the shipping policy clear

According to the Complete Online Shopper survey, free shipping was rated as the number one factor encouraging shoppers to buy more online. A recent NRF survey found that close to half of all shoppers said that free shipping deals will influence their decisions about where to shop during the upcoming holiday season. Therefore, when possible, you should offer free shipping. To offset costs, make the offer contingent on a purchase minimum.

image11-free shipping

8) Geo-targeted shipping offers

The location of your distribution centres may greatly affect shipping times and rates. Geo-targeting enables you to determine which customers are closest to your distribution centres so you can offer them personalised free or expedited shipping depending on their location. Below is a personalised free shipping offer. One is for visitors from Maine and another for visitors from Philadelphia, with the offer triggered automatically by shoppers from those areas.

image8-free delivery

9) Pre-Christmas delivery deadline

Your holiday customers need their items before Christmas and are worried they might not get them in time. Give them a pre-Christmas delivery deadline. Use geo-targeting to offer delivery deadlines personalised to customer location.

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10) Offer an extended return policy

Your return policy can significantly boost or hinder sales on your site. According to a survey by Harris Interactive, 88% of US adult online shoppers said that when shopping online, a convenient return policy is “somewhat important,” “important,” or “very important” to purchase decisions. Many online and offline stores offer a more liberal and extended return and exchange policy during the holiday season. Since buyers can never be sure the recipient will like the product, this can help put their mind at ease. Promote the special return policy before Christmas to be certain customers are aware of it. Make sure to first consider not only the impact on sales, but also on your established business processes.

image10-extended christmas offer

Facilitating Shopping

11) Create a gift guide

One of the best marketing tools your retail business can create during the holiday season is a gift guide. Everyone needs a little inspiration this time of year to assist them in choosing gifts for their friends and family. Why not showcase relevant products and services in an easy-to-buy format? The gift guide could be displayed to visitors in a pop-up or banner. This should be limited to once per session, upon site entry. If you sell clothing you might also want to create a size guide.

image15-gift guide

12) Take advantage of upsell and cross-sell opportunities

Shoppers are more open to upselling and cross-selling during the holiday season. Take advantage of this tendency by pushing upgrades and accessories.

In the following example, you can see how the product recommendations engine automatically presents the customer with an upsell suggestion. The visitor is interested in buying a ‘Firefighter’ costume that costs $39.99 and the first product recommendation is a ‘Fire Chief Role Play’ costume for $69.99.


Cross Sell

13) Offer cross-sells on the basket page

Implementing cross-sell strategies beyond the product details page is vital. The following is a good example of cross selling offered on the basket page. A customer who chose to buy a bed is presented with offers to buy a headboard and a four pillow pack for a special price.

image13-dreams cross sell

14) Boxing Day bargains

For many online merchants, Boxing Day is the day of the year with the greatest returns. It also offers you an excellent opportunity to unload stock no longer in style, or stock that hasn’t sold well, and win back old customers with great deals.

On Boxing Day, shoppers want to buy for themselves and are on the lookout for bargains. Take advantage of this by highlighting your lower priced items and those of better value.

If possible, employ a price drop live notification. This widget monitors products for price changes. If it finds a downward trend for a specific item, it will display a message like “Product price has decreased 30 percent in last three days.” This reassures the customer that they are getting a good deal. Both the percentage and number of days is calculated automatically by the system. Using a personalisation engine, a marketer can create a price drop rule.

The following illustration shows how this rule works in real-time:

image14-boxing day sale


Success during the holiday season isn’t magic. All it takes is the right approach. Try a combination of some of the techniques outlined here and your site is sure to reap big rewards.

Have some of your own holiday marketing tips? I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment.

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