Ecommerce - how to win christmas salesRetail sales are already down 1.6% and high street stores are slashing their prices with the Boxing Day sales starting 21 days early. So, as a company looking to cash in on this seasonal spree, what do you need to be doing *today*?

BBC News had an interesting piece with a shopper this morning, who said she was doing plenty of window shopping and then going home to check out the prices online for the items she wished to buy as Christmas presents.

“The deals are online. You can tell your friends about them, shout about them.”

This highlights in itself a human trait: people love to boast about a bargain, and social networks have made this very simple.

So, firstly, give your web presence a once over and make sure that the items you most want to sell during the coming 3 weeks are easy to find – on your site, on your Facebook page, on Twitter, and on the search engines. You will struggle to change your search engine rankings in this short time period (Note to self: start preparing the website for the Christmas season in July/August) but there are plenty of quick ways to promote your site that will get instant exposure using social media and alternative methods such as optimised photos and video, which are often listed more quickly by the search engines.

Next, check your backend systems. If you promote items, will you be able to ship and deliver in time? Are these items already in stock? A failure to deliver on time, which could be hampered by unforeseen circumstances such as this week’s snow, will have long reaching consequences for your brand and reputation so don’t raise expectations. Be realistic in your promises to customers about delivery time. If the item is likely to be late, issue a beautiful gift card or voucher, along with expected delivery date, so that the recipient can be given that on the day. Don’t lose the sale – it is simple touches like this that will make the purchase decisions easy for the customer.

Next, work on your social media presence. Build up your following by offering your existing friends and followers special deals to ‘shout’ about to their friends. And put someone in charge of your Twitter and Facebook accounts for the next week at least to get people engaged and talking to you.

You need to get a dialogue going and not just people with large numbers of followers. You cannot know what people do offline. We all know plenty of people who don’t tweet but who know people who do, and that chance conversation about, “Oh, I saw one of those on twitter today. Company XYZ have an offer on,” could win you that all important sale. And every sale matters, as does the customer service backing it.

So, man your phones and email account with the friendliest, nicest, most patient staff you have. Christmas is a stressful time for everyone, and a cheery voice and a 🙂 in an email will go a long way towards buying you long-term evangelists of your brand and products.

What other ideas are you putting into practice this holiday season to increase the chances of a sale? Share them with our readers, especially easy to implement ones that may make that little bit of difference in these hard times that are upon us.

And we are all consumers, so what would you like companies to be doing? What will make you part with your hard-earned cash?

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology