Christmas retail: gearing up for Cyber Monday (part 1- research and planning)

Back in January, Logan Tod‘s Annual Online Shopping Index predicted that online sales will hit £1.26 billion during the Christmas 2010 shopping season, with UK consumers intending to do 23% more shopping online than they did in 2009.

If you’ve not yet put plans in place to take full advantage of Christmas 2010, you’re not too late…just. Although we’d usually recommend retailers start planning for Christmas during the height of the summer, there’s still enough time to execute tactics to make this Christmas your most successful yet.

Every day this week, we’ll be publishing a post looking at a different area of your online strategy, covering website optimisation, paid search, editorial link building and social media. If you’re in the early stages of your Christmas planning, we recommend you follow suit by dedicating a day to each of your main online marketing channels for brainstorming, planning and execution…but do it quickly…the clock is ticking!

The culmination of your efforts should be aimed at maximising sales on Cyber Monday, recognised as the biggest Internet shopping day of the year. It is the first Monday in December, this year falling on the 6th.

With that target in mind, we start by looking at research and planning.

So, down tools, take some time out and let’s get started:

Day 1: Research and planning

To maximise sales over the Christmas period you need a solid plan in place. Before looking at specific channels, such as paid search, we recommend focusing some thought on five key areas; products, target audience, key messages, marketing channels, and ensuring your business is prepared for the uplift in sales you can expect by executing your tactical plan.

By taking some time out to consider these five areas it will provide much needed focus for your Christmas marketing efforts, ensuring you are selling the right products, to the right audience, at a profit.


Think about the products that are most commercially viable to push over the Christmas period. There is a lot to consider here; first and foremost, are you price competitive, especially compared to major players such as Amazon? If you don’t consider Amazon a competitor, think again; they sell products crossing virtually every market from consumer electronics to clothing…and they do so at very competitive prices. This highlights how you might need to re-think your competitive landscape; run searches across Google for your key product lines to see who is present and their price points.

Also, think about your margins as these are likely to be squeezed as marketing costs, such as those for paid search advertising, increase over the ultra-competitive Christmas period. Once you factor in these costs, you may find that the products you thought you wanted to push may not be the ones that make commercial sense to do so.

In summary, consider products that are unique to you, where you can compete on price or where you offer such a compelling reason to shop with you that price is of secondary importance. Based on this analysis, select your ‘hero’ or ‘champion’ products; those that have the potential to perform best for you, and focus your Christmas marketing efforts around them. And then consider other products that compliment your ‘hero’s’, using cross selling techniques on your website; dynamic merchandising for example, to increase basket values. We’ll look at this further on day 2.

Target audience

Once you have established your ‘hero’ products, consider who you are trying to sell these products to; appreciate that your target audience may be different at Christmas to other times of the year; adjust your web content and marketing messages accordingly to appeal to this new audience. For example, if you sell ladies clothing, your audience will typically be female. But in the build up to Christmas, your site is likely to attract a male audience searching for that perfect gift. Think about the motivating factors for this audience. Unlike your typical female shopper, who may be happier to spend time browsing, men will typically be looking for ease and immediacy. Consider how you can tweak your messaging to account for this. Also, begin to consider additional content you can create to aid the target audience, in this instance helpful advice or buyers guides you can offer to men. Again, we develop this further on Day 2.

Key messages

Talking of key messages, what is it that will make you stand out on Cyber Monday and over the Christmas shopping period as a whole? Are you offering the cheapest prices, the widest selection of products or no quibble returns? Competition is fierce over the Christmas period – establish these key messages as they will be integral to your web content, paid search ad copy, press releases and so on.


Consumers expect the ability to connect with your brand across a number of channels…seamlessly. You must therefore ensure that if running promotions around Cyber Monday, for example, that they are timed to hit all channels, and therefore customers, simultaneously whether they are on your website, following you on social networks, using your mobile app or of course, in-store.

Ensure your channels are well established before dedicating too much time and resource to them. I would argue now is not the time to be moving into mobile marketing, for example, unless planned well in advance. Focus on those channels you are familiar with and that you have already demonstrated provide the business with a return.

Be prepared to deliver on your promises

For consumers, Christmas is a stressful time. Many view shopping online as means of avoiding the high street, instead enjoying pain free shopping from the comfort of their armchair.

Use this to your advantage by ensuring information concerning delivery and returns policies are highly visible across the website. But, be absolutely sure you deliver on these promises. Failure to do so at any other time of year might be forgivable – but let down a customer in the build up to Christmas and they are unlikely to show you much in the way of festive goodwill. Any future relationship you hoped to build will be destroyed in an instant, not to mention the likelihood of their anger being vented across social networks, thereby spreading this negative experience to a wider audience.

Therefore, ensure the business is prepared for the uplift in sales you can expect. Are you well stocked with the items available on your website (especially those ‘hero’ products), do you have appropriate staffing levels in place and can your fulfilment channels cope with a sudden increase in demand?

With time dedicated to thinking around each of the above areas, you should feel ready to move onto day 2; getting your website ready…

Until then, happy planning…

Leave a reply

What do you think? Please leave a comment below

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *