Five essentials for your first Christmas as an online retailer

Five essentials for your first Christmas as an online retailer
“Make sure your last delivery dates are achievable,” Nicola Hollow, director of consulting, Practicology

December is a crucial trading month for online retailers. As seasonal selling starts in earnest, here are five essentials to help you make the most of it.

1 – Track your stock

During your first year of trading it’s difficult to know what will sell and where to buy deep. Keeping an accurate track of sales and targets is especially important at Christmas, which is most likely to be your most profitable time of the year.

“Be aware of your stock levels and ensure the whole team knows where to focus in order to maximize sales and profit at this busy time,” says Anne Wright, founder of fashion indie Young Ideas.

“Only promote or highlight lines on your homepage, and in marketing communications, where you have deep stock,” advises Nicola Hollow, director of consulting at Practicology. “And think about discounting or promoting lines which are slow moving or are less likely to sell as Christmas gets nearer.

Top tip: Don’t waste prime spots on products that are likely to sell out anyway.

2 – Be ready to flex your marketing

Ensure your marketing is planned but be prepared to be flexible to respond to promotions and price changes.

“Customers are used to more marketing material at Christmas and that includes more emails and social media messaging,” says Hollow. To keep front of mind, retailers should adapt their messaging to remain competitive.

Top tip: Have the right content ready (such as graphics) in advance so you can quickly change promotions as and when stock runs out.

3 – Deliver on time

As well as ensuring you have good fast delivery options, don’t leave it too late. Hollow says: “Make sure your last delivery dates are achievable. A two-day delivery service may take three to four days nearer to Christmas and the last thing you want to do is disappoint your customers. Better to be safe than sorry.”

Top tip: Staff up to ‘pick and pack’ to ensure customers receive the goods in the time you’ve promised.

4 – Shop your site

Just a store retailer walks their store to check everything is as it should be, online retailers should shop their website to experience what the customer experiences.

“By doing this regularly, you will be the first to know of any problems, not your customer,” says Hollow.

Top tip: Complete a purchase through to transaction and double check there are no problems with your payment provider.

5 – Ramp up your customer service

Christmas is a good time to impress new customers so prepare for the rise in customer enquiries and do not disappoint.

“It’s easier to keep a customer than to acquire one,” says Fran Prince, social media and marketing executive at Prezzybox, “and therefore making them a lifelong customer can be paramount to your success.”

“Questions around returns policies and stock availability will increase so make sure your phone lines and social media channels are manned and ready to respond quickly,” says Hollow. Top tip: Pre-empt the questions by updating your website clearly with information about delivery and returns for the Christmas period and be clear about cut off dates.