Increasing numbers of consumers are rushing to buy their Christmas gifts online. According to figures from IMRG, British consumers spent £7.66 billion online in the ten-week run-up to Christmas 2006, 54 per cent more than the £5 billion spent online during the same period in 2005
However, despite the potential these figures suggest, some retailers are still missing a trick. Justin Opie, event director for E Commerce Expo highlights the top ten common mistakes that companies make in the run up to Christmas:
Forgetting to load test
Every year we hear of a site that has failed to cope with consumer demand in the build up to Christmas, resulting in customer complaint and severe financial loss. To prevent your site from crashing and consumers being lost to your competitors, choose a trusted hosting partner that will guarantee your site is operational 365/24/7 and test it prior to the Christmas rush.
Promising what you can't deliver
Some organisations still process orders that they cannot then fulfil. Failure to make sure that you have the capacity to achieve and maintain the stated delivery timescales will significantly impact on repeat business. To maximise the returns of your e commerce strategy this year ensure customer loyalty through effective and timely delivery, service and warranty management.
Failing to tune the site to customer needs
Whilst organisations routinely decorate their site to reflect the Christmas season, very few actually customise the layout of their site to display the items most likely to sell at Christmas. By making the layout user friendly and making it clear to the user which are the Christmas items, sales will increase. And, if you make sure that product pages are structured and that you have a good free-search text tool customers are less likely to abandon the purchase.
Making payment unnecessarily complex
With customers abandoning up to 80 per cent of shopping baskets on some sites before payment, there is something going wrong with the online transaction. In order to minimise the number of abandoned baskets simplify the process - keep the checkout process as quick and simple as possible and avoid asking for too many details and complicated password requirements. By making the payment process quick and robust; find the best site you would purchase from and emulate it.
Failing to theme the site
By failing to make your visitors feel like its Christmas you risk putting them in the wrong mood to spend - buy into the festive spirit and reflect this on your site and you'll be surprised at the impact it has.
Not helping the purchaser
Creating easy Christmas categories such as 'presents for dad', 'presents for mum', 'presents for grandma', 'presents under £5', 'presents under £10' and so on, streamlines the browsing process, making a purchase far more likely.
Neglecting existing customers
Failing to mail all of your existing customers to inform them of all your Christmas offers is one of the most commonly committed crimes of the festive season, and possibly the worst in terms of potential revenue generation as it undoes all of the hard work put into making them a customer originally. Once a consumer has become a customer maintaining regular dialogue through an e-newsletter and offering incentives based on previous purchases often leads to a repeat visit. In the crucial final weeks before Christmas, remind your customers about that last-minute item that you have on offer that they can purchase from you.
Failing to pay attention to customer behaviour
Failing to take the time to understand what your customers are doing on your site, where you are losing them and where you are winning them and why is a common issue, particularly for smaller organisations. However, this is possibly the most costly mistake you can make. Invest in discovering where your customers are abandoning a transaction, whether they are creating baskets solely as a price comparison exercise or if they are unimpressed by a limited number of payment options, and you will be able to respond accordingly.
Many organisations still see websites in the same black and white terms that they view a traditional bricks and mortar shop in, but your site is not a static shop front environment - you can regularly update it. It should be changed on a daily basis all the way up to Christmas day.
The most commonly made mistake of them all is failing to believe that you can change your site in time to make this Christmas a profitable one. In reality, the necessary changes can be made easily, quickly and in time for the season ahead.