9 Tasks to Check Off the List Ahead of Christmas

By Mark Gray | 05 Oct 2012

The big man in the red jumpsuit isn’t the only one writing a list and checking it twice. Here’s nine e-commerce tips to help you succeed this holiday season from ChannelAdvisor’s Mark Gray.

It is never too early to start planning for Christmas 2012. There may have been campaigns you didn’t have time to implement last year or lessons to be learned from 2011, so take the time now to plan a successful strategy for December.

Here is a list of tasks to check off so you’ll be ready for the Christmas surge in sales.

1. Boost Conversions with Shopping Feeds

Comparison shopping engines (CSEs) are an important driver of website traffic and are a great way to earn extra Christmas traffic. You can quickly add new CSEs to expand your products’ online coverage, just in time for the spike in traffic.

  • Make sure you review your filtered items for gifts, seasonal merchandise, Christmas products.
  • Remember that long-term promotions perform best on CSEs.
  • Monitor your feeds often, intraday during the busiest days.
  • Encourage product reviews, as they often show up in CSE searches (if you don’t ask for more, you may end up with only negative reviews).

2. Marketplaces Best Practices

There are best practices you should keep in mind this holiday for all marketplaces.

  • Make sure you have a storefront for all marketplaces. This keeps buyers in your store, adding more of your products to their cart and also adds a degree of legitimacy to your business so that shoppers feel more secure buying.
  • Product placement is key. Make sure your products have the appropriate Item Type or Category ID and don’t forget to map to your catalogue to help shoppers find your products.
  • Be sure to provide tracking information to your buyers. eBay’s new eTRS 2.0 program provides discounts on fees and an extra seller icon to those Top-Rated Sellers that provide a tracking number and shorter time to ship. Ensure your Christmas shipping deadlines are clearly visible.
  • This should be a no-brainer, but remember to optimise your title, it’s the first thing buyers see. First impressions are very important!
  • Repurpose your Paid Search keywords (80-90% of buyers find their products via marketplace searches).
  • The holidays are the best time to offer up promotions. Offer and highlight free shipping, buy one get one free deals, free gift wrap and complimentary gift messages.
  • Keep close track of your metrics; namely your feedback and DSRs on eBay to maintain Top-Rated Seller Status (ChannelAdvisor’s eBay 360 dashboard makes this incredibly easy!)

3. Perfect Your Paid Search

Google recently announced that it has reached 100 billion worldwide searches per month, proving that the power of paid search is truly impressive. You’ll want to make sure you are performing well and showing up at the top of the search results. Make sure you budget and bid wisely. Remove your spending cap and ensure you bid to your ROI goals.

  • Bid on long tail keywords that are higher-converting and lower-cost (Check out ChannelAdvisor’s Inventory Driven Search feature that does this automatically for your full inventory). Bid up early and often; your competitors will be doing the same. Also, try to bid on terms like “top gifts” and “Christmas gift.”
  • Review your paused keywords for any seasonal products or gifts and disable ad scheduling to cater to late-night shoppers and working shoppers. Pre-load you ad creative changes and minimise ad copy edits.
  • Be sure to stay on top of your changing inventory. Frequently update and communicate price changes and promotions and out of stock/back in stock inventory.

4. Get Strategic with Social

As evidenced by our Facebook Commerce Index, there is a lot of value to engaging with your loyal social following and expanding beyond it. Around the festive season, especially, you want to see fans sharing your deals, engaging with your brand and Liking or Pinning your content.

Be sure to reserve your name on Social sites (eg. www.pinterest.com/Nike belongs to a girl named Nicole E.). Pinterest is big this year; it’s free and product-focused. You can add themed keywords in Pinterest pictures you post and make sure you tag prices.

It’s important that your website is enabled for Social buttons, and purchases can be easily shared. A good tactic is to extend products to Facebook Fans. You can do this by offering daily deals, special promotions and flash sales, engaging new fans with sweepstakes and incentivising fans to retweet and sharing posts.

Finally, keep an eye on your social reputation; negative tweets and social talk can be damaging.

5. Make Use of Mobile

Last year saw a dramatic surge in mobile shopping during Christmas, and we predict mobile shopping to further grow this year. Forrester recently revealed that in 2012 55 percent of Australian retailers surveyed now sell through a site accessible via mobile, up from 39 percent in 2011 and only 16 percent in 2010. Having a mobile optimised webstore is a must.

Last year “Couch Commerce” made headlines and we’ve seen an increase in research on mobiles, in store and the use of QR codes. More purchases are being made on tablets and tablet users are 50% more likely to buy in the evenings.

Make your site is mobile-friendly. Use www.howtogomo.com to preview how your website looks on a smartphone. Finally, be sure you use UPC codes to match up with a QR Code scanner.

6. Expand Your Feeds

Christmas is best time to get the most possible exposure online. You can use personalisation and product reviews as conversion aids and affiliate marketing and retargeted to enhance your advertising efforts.

Affiliate marketing and remarketing can also offer additional sources of income. Try progressive remarketing with two custom lists: one for a few days away, and one for a month or more away that offers more incentive to return and purchase. We’re seeing a similar conversion rate 60 days out compared to 1-2 days.

Product reviews are becoming increasingly important. Eighty-three percent of consumers are influenced by Product Reviews according to our Consumer Shopping Habits Survey. Reviews help people figure out if they are looking at the right product, which can in turn decrease the number of returns.

7. Get Your Webstore Ready

After all this effort to drive people to your webstore, you need to make sure that it is well-designed and easy to browse when they arrive. Get into the festive spirit with the décor! Make last-delivery deadlines very prominent and add themed categories for “gifts for kids” and “Christmas sale.” You can even up-sell by prominently displaying stocking fillers or complementary products.

The more product detail you give your shoppers on your webstore, the better. Be sure to include: FAQs, dimensions and if possible, video product reviews and customer product reviews.

8. Go Global

Global e-commerce is growing rapidly at 10 percent in the EU, 30 percent in LATAM, 15 percent in the US and 20 percent in APAC. You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity presented by the demand that exists across borders. What’s more, with eBay and Amazon present in many countries, expanding and testing the waters has never been easier.  Read our full Guide to International Expansion for the details on crossing borders.

If you are selling internationally, don’t forget to translate your PPC ads into another language. Ensure you have a plan for international delivery—break down borders by using a freight forwarder or determine how to do it yourself.

Remember that while you’re trying to get rid of old winter stock here, in the northern hemisphere they are just enjoying autumn, so take advantage of the seasonal differences there.

9. Be Prepared

Don’t let Christmas creep up on you, actively prepare a strategic plan and make sure you are aware of new requirements that could affect your campaigns. From social media planning to adjustments to paid search campaigns, understanding how you will approach this year’s Christmas sales is half of the battle. If you need help, our Countdown to Christmas Calendar highlights some of the important dates that retailers should be aware of this Christmas.

There is a lot to be accomplished in the few short months until the Christmas season swings into full gear.  This checklist should provide a guide to the key details you need to keep in mind this festive season to really succeed this Christmas.

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