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How to have yourself a merry e-Christmas

How to have yourself a merry e-Christmas

Frank Lord, EMEA MD of e-commerce specialists, ATG offers 12 top tips for retailers keen to make the most of online sales this Christmas.

Christmas 2008 looks set to be a challenging time for retailers as UK consumers cut back spending on non-essential items such as household goods and clothing.  According to recent ONS figures, although British sales have fallen less than expected, the underlining trend is a slowdown as living costs soar and credit conditions tighten. 

This is causing widespread concern on the high street in the build-up to the typically busy holiday period, especially as many shoppers are expected to hold off spending in anticipation of heavy discounting the week before Christmas. 

Despite this, it’s not all doom and gloom with industry commentators expecting online sales to withstand a slowing economy.  Making the most of every online sales opportunity must therefore become a top priority for all retailers. 

According to a recent Forrester report, if retailers are to do this, they need to ensure that their e-commerce sites are well executed.  Gene Alvarez, research vice-president at Gartner, agrees, and suggests that, when properly designed, sites can greatly assist customers during pre-conversation processes such as product location, evaluation and visualisation. 

With this in mind, it’s important that retailers ensure their sites deliver excellent customer service over the Christmas period.  Here are 12 e-commerce Christmas top tips worth following to get your site ready for the holiday period:  

1. Merchandise – treat your website like a shop window by ensuring shoppers are presented with items and special offers most relevant to them.  Shoppers will quickly go elsewhere if they don’t think a site can meet their needs.  

2. Strengthen the architecture of your site – with the number of online shoppers expected to rise over Christmas, it’s important that e-commerce platforms are able to cope with high peaks of traffic.

3. Invest in search – online shoppers are an impatient breed so make sure your site has an intelligent search function that allows visitors to easily find the merchandise they want.  

4. Embrace interactivity – improving the interactive aspects of a retail website will do wonders for improving levels of customer service.  Price comparison tools are particularly useful in helping customers decide what to buy. 

5. Improve customer understanding – with more shoppers choosing to shop online than ever before it’s essential that tools are in place to report and monitor shopping habits so that your site constantly offers the highest level of customer service.

6. Blend online with offline – consumers are more comfortable than ever before purchasing from online sites but there are times when human contact is required. 

Deploying innovative solutions such as click to call technology will ensure consumers are able to connect with call centre agents when they have queries that they would like to discuss offline.

7. Reduce shopping cart abandonment – understand exactly what drives shoppers to make their choices and use these insights to ensure that sales are closed. 

8. Cross-sell – once you have a shopper browsing your site don’t miss out on opportunities to sell additional products by failing to personalise content and offers for individual customers.

9. Be upfront – in these price conscious times it’s important to be upfront with shoppers by making them aware of additional charges such as shipping costs right from the start of their purchasing journey. 

10. Design – use seasonal designs at Christmas to offer customers a different shopping experience to that which they normally encounter. 

11. Multimedia – use video content and audio clips to bring your site to life.  By offering customers a shopping experience that differs from competitors you can keep shoppers browsing on your site for longer. 

12. Measure success – take the time to survey customers about your site to ensure you are constantly able to meet their online shopping needs. 

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