7 Ways to Prepare for Christmas: The Online Retailer’s Guide

Have you prepared your business for Christmas? It might feel like you’ve still got plenty of time, but with the festive season being the most competitive on the business calendar, it’s important that you get your stock, your staff, and your services ready long before the orders start flooding in.


From as early as September, consumers have their wallets out looking for the right opportunities to spend their hard-earned cash on gifts, decorations, food, and more. A great deal of time and effort is required in order for you to reap the rewards of the festive rush, so we’ve compiled a list of top tips to help you prepare your business for commercial success.

1. Forecasting Against Last Christmas

Online Christmas sales went up by 19% in 2016 compared to the previous year, and that figure is only expected to keep rising. To take advantage of this and ensure your business has a profitable Christmas this year, you’ll need to review and analyse sales data from last year. Revisiting this data will give you a good idea of when the busiest periods are likely to be, which products may be popular during these periods, and, likewise, which products may underperform.

Being able to predict stock movements will allow you to accurately adjust your stock levels, so you won’t run out of top sellers or undersell on less popular products.

You should also check your web traffic for the months of November and December from the previous year. This will highlight any increases in volume, showing what online users were searching for, what worked (and what didn’t), and what other areas you should probably target this year. Since this is going to be the busiest period of the year, it’s also worth testing out your site and your hosting package in order to make sure that it’ll be able to cope with the spike in traffic.


2. Stocking Up on Bestsellers & Popular Products

If demand outstrips supply at any point over the festive period, you could lose out on a large amount of sales – potentially thousands of pounds’ worth. Worse yet, you could risk leaving negative impressions on customers who come to your site to find that what they want to order is out of stock, thereby turning them off using your site for future purchases. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to order too much stock, which can also have a detrimental impact when you need to pay for excess warehouse space or tie up too much capital in slow-moving products.

Here are a few considerations you need to make to prepare adequate Christmas stock levels:

  • Pay close attention to your Christmas-time bestsellers and slowest-selling products from the previous year
  • Assume that sales will increase this year and order extra to meet a growing demand
  • Predict key sellers for this Christmas based on upcoming trends and market reports
  • Keep in regular contact with suppliers to nip any problem at the source
  • Clarify lead times with suppliers to make sure they will be able to fulfil extra orders at short notice if you find yourself running low on stock
  • Have a backup supplier on hand in case of emergency
  • Consider drop shipping suppliers, who will free up your own warehouse space by holding your stock to send directly to customers

You will also need to make sure that you have enough storage space to hold extra stock, otherwise arrangements will need to be made for temporary storage.


3. Planning Staffing

Staffing is one of the key challenges for many smaller ecommerce business owners over the yuletide period. Although it can be difficult to predict your online footfall, it will be reasonable to assume that you will receive more orders and more customer enquiries in the run-up to Christmas, which means you’ll need more staff to answer calls, emails, and track orders to ease the process.

Understandably, your existing staff will want to take some time off throughout December in addition to the Christmas holiday itself, which presents important considerations like rota management. On top of that, you’re also likely to be stretched even further by increased traffic and business – which may require additional staff on a temporary basis. To combat the absent staff and the rising footfall, you should consider getting in touch with temping agencies for a few extra hands.


4. Introducing Christmas Promotions

Christmas competition can be fierce, therefore you should think about running promotions in order to attract online shoppers. Your promotion tactics will depend largely on business-specific factors like the spread of products and their markup, but you may want to consider undercutting competitors on items that are (hopefully) going to be popular.

Since you’re likely to see an increased amount of first-time buyers shopping on your site over the festive season, it’s important that your strategy will encourage repeat custom in the future – whatever your Christmas promotion may be.


5. Adding a Sense of Urgency

The best marketing moves are those rooted deep within human psychology – so you want to create a strong sense of urgency on your site to spur online shoppers to do what you want them to do on your page. In this case, you want them to convert, and quickly.

There are several ways you can add a sense of urgency to your promotions, which will compel shoppers to take action right away:

  • Make use of ‘scarcity’ to make shoppers think your product is running out, in order to make them more eager to buy it on the spot.
  • Incorporate time-related words like ‘now’, ‘fast’, and ‘quick’ in your copy.
  • Reiterate the last shipping dates to add urgency to purchasers so that they can have their gifts delivered and ready with time to spare.
  • Threaten to pull away the offer – people are more likely to react in a hurry.

Urgency is something people struggle to respond to rationally, let alone cautiously – so whichever way you choose to implement it, the urgency principle is a surefire way to guarantee you results.


6. Creating a Christmas Marketing Plan

Considering that shoppers usually begin browsing online for gift ideas from September onwards, you should put your marketing plan in place around this time so that you have plenty of time to tweak it if necessary.

A standard Christmas marketing plan should include...

  • Black Friday (UK online sales increased by 25% in 2016), Cyber Monday, Christmas week, and January post-Christmas sales
  • Social media planners
  • Channels to drive traffic to your website, including email marketing and social media marketing
  • PPC and SEO strategies

Remember to schedule in as much marketing activity as you can in advance, so that when your products start flying off the shelves, you can take care of business and let the marketing take care of itself.


7. Offering Gift-Wrapping Services

Speaking of wrapping your products, a gift-wrapping service is definitely something that you should offer – either for free or for a small fee – especially if you sell items that are likely to be bought and given as gifts during the Christmas period.

Most people dread having to wrap all their gifts, and in most cases, these people are more than happy to pay the seller a little extra to avoid the embarrassment of badly wrapped presents or to save time – so this service will make your customers’ lives much easier and encourage them to buy from you over your competition. However, you do need to make sure that you have the resources and infrastructure to support this service, as well as a way to add the offer to the basket.


More Christmas Preparation Tips

It’s absolutely paramount that you don’t leave your Christmas prep until the last minute. Taking early action will make sure you maximise the benefits of Christmas trade and put you in a very competitive position for the year ahead.

If you need more guidance on how to prepare your business for Christmas, or perhaps you need advice about forecasting, stock control or preparing your staff and warehouse, get in touch with us today.

by Gemma Tomlinson on 22/10/2017