Five (Apprentice contestant-free) Christmas tips

This time last year, I sat on a panel at the ECMOD conference. The theme? Tips for a successful Christmas.

The whole affair was somewhat surreal in that a former Apprentice contestant was pulled in at the last minute to sit on the panel. I am assuming that the good people at ECMOD saw him wondering around and thought “Hey, he was on The Apprentice, he’ll have something useful to share.”

For his sake I won’t mention him by name. However, to say he missed the point of the panel would be an understatement of gigantic proportions. Interspersed between the quick-fire tips from those panellists that had understood the brief, was a series of grandiose ramblings containing just about every cheesy business cliché you are ever likely to hear. Christmas tips they were not.

Slipping away quietly and slightly embarrassed by the whole affair, I had completely forgotten that my well-intentioned tips were left sitting on my iPad. As Christmas is almost upon us, a time when many retailers generate as much as 50% of their annual revenue, I thought I should put the ghost to rest and publish the tips on the Froggblog. No cheesy business speak, I promise.

So, here goes…

1) Paid search

Competition – and therefore click costs, are very likely to increase over the festive period for most retailers. If you are not careful, your cost-per-acquisition will do the same.

Very few retailers have an unlimited media budget. Therefore, making it work harder and smarter over the festive period is critical to driving a positive ROI. With this in mind:

  • Pick your battles – focus on categories and products where you have an advantage over the competition. For example, if you offer the lowest price, free delivery, free returns or a discount on the next order. Ensure these messages are prominent in advert copy.
  • In turn, ensure budgets are allocated to the highest performing products and keywords to avoid wasting budget. This means watching campaign performance like a hawk. The world of retail moves fast. At Christmas it’s even faster. There is no place for setting up a campaign in October and simply leaving it to run.
  • Be prepared to boost your bids whilst demand and competition is at its highest (whilst ensuring that the click cost and cost per acquisition remain within acceptable boundaries).
  • Consider the longer term value of a new customer in your bidding strategy. This allows you to work out how much you are prepared to spend to acquire a new customer. Reflect this in your bidding strategy (more on this below).

2) Look beyond the first sale

Consider the following scenario. I am looking for a particular beauty product that my wife has subtly dropped a hint she would like for Christmas. I do my research and make a purchase through a site I have never bought from before (and am unlikely ever to again).

From the retailer’s point of view they have got the initial sale (win!) but sending me their catalogue or signing me up to their newsletter is a complete waste of time. I’m just not their target audience. In short, people like me, making one-time gifting purchases, offer very little long term value to the retailer.

Therefore, the retailer, making an educated guess that I am purchasing a gift, should be looking at ways they can ‘get to Mrs Potter’ (for want of a better phrase).

At the checkout, you could ask if the item being purchased is a gift. You could ask who it is for. You could ask if the gift recipient would like to receive special offers and promotions in the future (after Christmas of course – you don’t want them to spoil the surprise!)

Alternatively, you could insert a card in the packaging with a promo code to be used in the New Year.

In short, consider how you can build a longer-term relationship with the customer even if that person isn’t the one who actually made the purchase.

3) Offer free returns, even if this is only a temporary change of policy

Research carried out last year by found that 60% of UK consumers will not even consider making a purchase unless free returns are offered.

A free returns policy at Christmas is even more important to allay any fears that a gift recipient may not like a present or it may not fit, for example.

Whatever you decide to do where returns are concerned, ensure that the policy is prominent on the website and in ad messaging to counter any potential barriers to conversion.4

4) Deliver on your promises

When it comes to delivery for example, most people don’t mind waiting a few days for an item to arrive, as long as it drops through the letterbox when promised by the retailer.

However, when this fails to happen, especially in the week leading up to the big day, customer dissatisfaction will be amplified ten fold. It’s a pretty stressful time of year for many. The last thing someone needs is a mad dash to the shops on Christmas Eve to hunt down a gift they had assumed would arrive days ago.

This is just one example of where you must ensure (as far as is humanly possible) that you can fulfil those promises you shout so proudly about in ad messaging and web copy. Failing to do so means a disgruntled customer who will a) probably not buy from you again and b) moan. Not just to their mates down the pub but across their social media channels, amplifying your failures to hundreds, maybe thousands of people.

5) Review success and failures in January

Finally, ensure you make time to review what worked and what didn’t immediately after Christmas (well, you can at least let the Christmas pudding settle in your belly, but you know what I mean).

Start preparing for next Christmas whilst things are fresh in your mind.

Hurrah! Tips shared without an Apprentice contestant in sight.

Have a very prosperous Christmas one and all.


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