Tis the season to start planning for Christmas

So it seems summer may very sadly be on its way out as we enter September. For retailers, this can only mean one thing – Christmas is well and truly on its way. Earlier in the month, Selfridges even opened their Christmas shop – making it the first retailer in the world to do so. You might not want to be purchasing your baubles just yet, but with Christmas being the busiest and most important time of the year for online retailers – it’s never too early for retailers to start planning for the festive season. Being prepared and identifying a strategy now can make or break a successful year for retailers – in other words the difference between a lump of coal or the latest gadget from Apple in your stocking!

With only 115 days until the big day, we’re already hard at work planning for Christmas with our clients. In light of this, I thought it was worth sharing a couple of tips and tactics from the Leapfrogg team to help get you started.

What do your customers want?

Rosie, Leapfrogg’s Managing Director, recommends running a survey and asking your customers what they think they will want to buy from you at Christmas. You can ask them if they are likely to shop with you for Christmas gifts this year and if so, what categories, price points and people they will be shopping for.

It may well be too late for this insight to influence your product range for Christmas, but what this will do is give you a good steer on where to spend your marketing budget. If you know that your older customers are likely to buy a certain product from you in store, then make sure you remind them via email to pop in store as Christmas approaches. If you know that your younger customers are likely to buy a particular product from you online, then ensure you promote that product to them via all online channels in the run up to Christmas. A quick survey via email with an incentive for completion is an easy way to do this.

You could even go one step further and ask your customers to help you develop a new product for Christmas. If it isn’t too late and your products are applicable, then use social media to showcase a few product ideas or ask your customers to submit ideas for voting that you will be able to put into limited edition production. A loyal fan base will be very engaged with the process and will be likely to buy the product and others when it is released.

Can you offer free delivery?

If you can, offer free delivery – your investment really will pay off and may make the difference in a customer choosing to order with you rather than one of your competitors. A customer experience design project we ran for one of our clients revealed that a major barrier to conversion was a relatively high delivery charge on a low average order value. By offering free delivery, they increased online revenue by 20% within eight weeks.

Be clear and simple

Ensure all your delivery messaging is clearly displayed on your website across all pages, as well as your last online order dates for pre-Christmas delivery to ensure there are no nasty surprises for your customers and their expectations can be met at all times.


House of Fraser Christmas

Image source: Econsultancy

In addition, ensure that your returns policy is also clearly displayed across your website– especially if you are offering extended returns over this period.


asos Christmas Delivery

Image source: ASOS

Have a look at what questions you were asked last year and ensure your FAQs are up to date with the answers to those questions. Doing this will make life easier for your customers, and remove the need for them to contact you for questions that can be easily answered.

Also spend some time making sure that your product information is as detailed as possible. It’s worth bulking these out now, so your product pages contain as much information about the products as you can, again, making life easier for your customers.

Concentrate on improving your basket and checkout pages now to ensure you have a well converting process in time for Christmas. Maybe run some user-testing to check it’s as user-friendly as possible, and if you don’t already, offer guest checkout and consider a one page checkout.


Macy's one page checkout

Image source: Econsultancy

Be mobile responsive

We all know the importance of having a mobile-optimised website by now. If you don’t have one yet, definitely make this a priority as soon as possible as mobile searches increase over the festive period as more shoppers use their phones whilst on the high street to research products. According to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, last Christmas, mobile traffic grew to 58% of all online traffic, an increase of 42% over 2012 and we can only expect this figure to rise even more this Christmas.


John Lewis mobile website

If you do already have a mobile website, take some time to ensure it provides a seamless purchasing journey for your customers.

Content planning

Ben, our senior and social media content consultant suggests preparing a content schedule that includes relevant seasonal content such as tips, videos and blog posts. Rather than just pushing products, try and tap into your customers’ needs and help solve their stressful shopping problems. This type of content will help ramp up your audience in the run up Christmas and you can link in an association of how your products can fit into Christmas preparations. Ensure that this messaging is published in a steady flow throughout the Christmas period.

Generate Christmas discounts as a special reward for your social followers, which will make them feel special and like they are getting a bargain before the New Year’s sales. This can aid revenue flow and attract any buyers that usually wait until the sale period to purchase.

Offering competitions and promotions around the 12 days of Christmas are always a winner as they encourage people to keep coming back to your website and making purchases throughout the Christmas period. The Whistles annual advent calendar is a great example of this.

Think in advance about tying in in-store services with ways to boost social following and brand loyalty. For example, offering a free gift wrapping service to customers could be tied in with a data capture exercise to capture customer email addresses and dates of birth in reward for the free gift wrap. This data can then be used to target customers through email marketing and also through custom audiences advertising on Facebook.
Create any new pages well in advance of Christmas

Our senior natural search consultant, Ben and website optimisation manager, Suze, both recommend keeping your Christmas landing pages/categories the same year to year. This ensures Google keeps them in its index and all trust associated with those pages remains. You can always hide the URLs from the customer visible sitemap, but maintain them in the XML sitemap.
If you need to create new pages or categories, ensure you create them well in advance of Christmas to allow Google to index and begin to assign trust to the new pages. Again, link in from the XML sitemap, and if you don’t have your Christmas range confirmed yet – create a holding page for them. You could always include an email signup form on this page, so keen customers can find the page and register interest before you have the range finalised.

Paid search recommendations

Our paid search analysts, Joe and Andy, have a number of recommendations for planning paid search campaigns for the festive season:

  • Have a solid marketing plan in place, so you know exactly what promotions will be running and how they will be promoted e.g. which channel, paid search feature, and site/ad language and also the budgets available for each period building up to Christmas and after Christmas.
  • Look back at which promotions have worked best in the past and test again e.g. a flash sale, free P&P or exclusive discounts.
  • Plan paid search budgets to anticipate shifts in search volume such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Take a look at your historical data for this to see which days last year were popular and plan accordingly.
  • Upload all new ad creatives well in advance of their launch to ensure they are reviewed and approved before your campaign starts – this includes text and image ads.
  • Migrate any changes made in Google across to Bing Ads to ensure consistency and more visibility for your ads.
  • Make sure product feeds are fully optimised for Google Shopping. New feed requirements are coming into effect by the 30th September, so ensure you’re ready for this change now so you don’t run into any problems in build up to Christmas. Google Shopping will be a key channel for retailers this Christmas.

So there you have it – a few tips from the Leapfrogg team on how you can start preparing for the festive season. With only 115 days to go, the time is definitely ripe to start getting into the Christmas spirit and planning ahead. By doing so now, you’ll definitely be in a better position this festive season.


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