Online Retailers Holiday Season Checklist and Advice 2013


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The holiday season is when we all take it easy that is except for retailers. Often it is a flurry of activity that starts in October and ends in January. If you are an online retailer it gets interesting with the many sales and promotional activities. But unlike bricks & mortar where consumers will carry their gifts away the online retailer has to make sure the package arrives on time.

So plan for your holiday season sales and promotions and make sure that your online store is ready.

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  • The holiday season is when we all take it easy that is except for retailers. Often it is a flurry of activity that starts in October and ends in January. If you are an online retailer it gets interesting with the many sales and promotional activities. But unlike bricks & mortar where consumers will carry their gifts away the online retailer has to make sure the package arrives on time.
  • Pre-Christmas retail spending in Australia is predicted to reach $42.1 billion this year, up 3.3% on the 2012 figure of $40.7 billion, according to new research.The figures from the Australian Retailers Association and Roy Morgan Research cover the period from November 14 until Christmas Day, December 25.ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said he expected the bulk of the sales to occur in the week leading up to Christmas Day as shoppers make last-minute purchases.“The ARA is pushing for an interest rate cut in December as retailers are counting on the lead up to Christmas as an opportunity to catch up on past slower retail sales and get back on track financially,” he said.In good news for embattled fashion retailers, sales for apparel are predicted to rise 6.2% to $3.225 billion. Festive eating and drinking will see food sales up 3.2% to $17.334 billion, and household goods up 2.8% to $7.017 billion.“With 6.2% predicted growth, apparel sales indicate an increase in consumer confidence for the Christmas period,” Zimmerman said.“Much like 2012, food and hospitality are expected to account for a significant percent of the overall projected figure, while other categories such as department stores and clothing, footwear and personal accessories may rely on last minute Christmas sales and promotions for any significant growth in sales.”State by state, the Northern Territory is expected to have growth of 5.2%, South Australia is tipped to have a sales rise of 4%, NSW 3.9%, Queensland 3.7% and Victoria 3.4%.RetailOasis director Stephen Kulmar told SmartCompany he agreed that the rise of 3.3% was likely, but says the picture was “not as black and white”.He says focusing on the pre-Christmas period doesn’t show the true value of Christmas spending on the economy.Kulmar says that the trend towards buying gift cards in recent years has seen pre-Christmas spending appear to grow at a lower rate, but post-Christmas sales spending boost.This is due to the fact that a gift card sale is not counted towards sales figures when purchased, but rather when the recipient uses it, and the trend is to use the cards post-Christmas when shoppers can get more goods for the dollar value of the card.Kulmar also points to the “substantial and continual explosion of e-commerce” both domestically and internationally, and predicts a huge boom in international online spending on “Cyber Monday”.Cyber Monday is held on December 2 in the US, the day after Thanksgiving, and is traditionally a day where retailers put significant sales reductions on their products.Kulmar says on this day e-commerce sales in the US can reach around $40 billion, around the same amount as Australia’s pre-Christmas spend prediction.As a flow-on effect of Cyber Monday, he thinks that Australia could have a solid e-commerce spending boost on the same day.
  • The holiday sales represent the most profitable times for some retailers. There are specialty retailers who only operate at Christmas and it represents 100% of their business profit. But overall it is an important time for any business. There was a analysis of 2012 done by IBM which you should review to understand the influence of the season for retailers.
  • In order to be prepared build a plan for the period. To get started there are some simple questions that you can answer to help you build your own knowledge base.
  • Part of the plan is understanding what to expect. The big influencers for online retail will be the growth of couch commerce and mobile. We will expand on this later. Australian buyers are pretty savvy when it comes to getting the right deal. So you need to be prepared to offer focused deals to attract buyers.
  • There are also many technical and technology issues that you need to consider to ensure that you can offer a good user experience.
  • Have you collected your Christmas and holiday keywords and used them in your marketing campaigns and in your landing page content.
  • Have you collected your Christmas and holiday keywords and used them in your marketing campaigns and in your landing page content.
  • Is your online store ready for Christmas? Now is the most important time and it is not too late to get into the swing of the season.
  • Now I mentioned earlier couch commerce and mobile. Couch commerce is a name that has been given to a rapidly growing trend of using multiple devices to browse and buy in the quite times like watching TV or just taking it easy. We have seen a growing trend year over year of online sales coming from mobile. This trend is accelerating. So it means that your online store needs to support the ability to browse and buy on a mobile. Many online stores do not support mobile very well either showing the classic view of the site or a poor mobile experience.
  • Couch commerce trends are supported by the growth of tablet devices for easy user experience. OK so no we all understand the importance to the time of year and we know how consumers will be browsing and buying. So what have you done to get your share?
  • Getting visitors to your online store or even bricks & mortar store over the buying season means that you have to consider your marketing plan for the period and targeting your marketing spend. Traditional off line marketing is still important using print, radio and TV (if you can afford it) but of course that is often only possible for large retailers. Print can be a simple and easy way to get results but remember to promote your online store URL and use QR codes to make print mobile friendly. Setup new Adword campaigns that target Christmas keywords and ads with unique landing pages. If you use Adwords then ensure that you setup mobile ads so that you can reach searches from mobile devices. Newsletters to your customers can get great results but don’t go crazy and think of the timing for best effect. Don’t forget the price comparison systems and Google Shopping. Click Frenzy (November 19th) will drive a lot of activity and you need to be prepared. Getting traffic can be easy but what do you offer them to get their attention and dollars?
  • The products and deals that you offer really are up to you and your business. But consider giving a holiday appeal with special landing pages and promotional banners to grab attention. Adding new navigation to your site like “gifts for kids” or “gifts less than $20” can help your visitors become buyers. Of course you need to offer the ability to send a gift so provide gift wrapping and gift cards as well as the ability to deliver to a separate address without including an invoice. You run a online store but also remember that your customers will be looking on eBay, Google Shopping, Getprice and other marketplaces. So consider running your promotions across multiple channels to increase the opportunity for success.
  • Multi-channel online retail will increase the revenue that you can get from your online channels and you need to have consistent promotions and messages across all the channels. If you are a traditional and online retailer then consider the issues around omni-channel that is make the customer experience consistent and build your customer loyalty.The time to delivery is critical.
  • Depending on what you sell and where your customers are the cut off dates for Christmas deliveries will vary. Check with your shipping or 3PL company to determine the critical dates and make sure that you keep those in mind and communicate them to your customers. Although free shipping is the dream of many consumers in reality a buyer will often pay more to get the delivery on time. So offer choice and don’t think that “free” is a must have. It can be a great way to attract visitors but a visitor won’t become a buyer unless you are selling what they want. So shipping is a competitive advantage when used as a differentiator.Also add New Year gift coupons to every package or you can also use services like Parcel Push. A gift coupon might bring back a new customer who receives the gift from a friend or family. Because someone they know bought from your stores and they have a coupon to use then it is an incentive to come buy from you. This will also help you lead into any New Years sales and promotions.Don’t forget social media.
  • Social Media suggestions and advice drives gift buying. Ensure that your online store is social media friendly. Use social media to communicate and not to hard sell. If you don’t have a social media presence now it is probably too late for this year but consider getting a social media campaign and strategy. You should also have the social media plugins for your online store. Most eCommerce systems make this easy but there are services like which are free and very easy to implement.So are you ready?
  • If you have a high traffic site and you are running promotions or involved with Click Frenzy then my advice is test it! You need to discuss the traffic profile with your service provider or data centre.You need to be able to look at what you site traffic profile is like and that with require that you use some form of analytics. You can also enable a CDN cheap and easy like CloudFlare or professional and robust but not cheap like Akamai. The CDN will handle the traffic before it gets to your website buffering it from high volumes.But in all cases you can test it using services like or similar.So you have done the work, done the promotions, done the marketing, prepared the site. Now the hard work starts send all those packages to your customers. But remember that business does not stop at Christmas day.
  • Working out how much bandwidth you use should be easy. Most web hosting companies will provide you with a bandwidth utilisation report. If you don’t get one now go and ask. If they can’t provide one go find another hosting company. You can get the number of visitors and page impressions (Pis) from your analytics system like Google Analytics. So a little simple maths will give if some ideas. If you are on a hosting plan many will come with some restrictions or limitations and some may be shaped (or slowed) once you reach the limit so your website will slow down. Some hosting plans are not based on data capacity per month but rather the bandwidth in megabits per second (Mbps). So you might have a bandwidth of 10 Mbps. The above example website would be capable of running in less than 1 Mbps and perform well. The bandwidth in Mbps will be relevant for large companies that have 1,000’s of concurrent visitors on their website.
  • There are lots of sales to be made on Boxing Day while consumers are playing on their new iPad’s and Samsung's or just taking it easy on the couch looking for bargains.
  • Who are eCorner? We specialise in eCommerce and technology for multi-channel online retail. We have done that now for over 10 years.
  • Just think about the critical issues and dates, plan your marketing and promotions and make sure that your online site can handle all your sales.Merry Christmas.Questions..
  • Online Retailers Holiday Season Checklist and Advice 2013

    1. 1. Retailers Christmas Checklist 2013 John Debrincat CEO eCorner
    2. 2. Critical issues Promote Market Prepare actions Critical dates Service Customers Actively monitor After Christmas
    3. 3. Pre-Christmas Spending 2013 (14 Nov – 25 Dec) Predicted $42.1B UP 3.3% Northern Territory 5.2% Fashion South Australia 4% UP 6.5% NSW 3.9% Food Queensland 3.7% UP 3.2% Victoria 3.4% Household goods Source: ARA and Roy Morgan Research UP 2.8% 13th November 2013
    4. 4. Is Holiday Shopping Important To Retail? 20% - 40% of total annual sales 80% - 100% of profit for some retailers Specialty retailers operate at Christmas Support consumer habits Online and mobile rapid growth Source:
    5. 5. Your Business Needs Plan for Christmas Ask yourself some basic questions How long does it take you to pick, pack and ship? What is the peak number of orders that you can handle? How much stock will you need on hand? What content changes do you need for your web store? Do you have photos and new stock information from suppliers? What about pre-Christmas promotions and sales? What about Christmas gift cards and gift wrapping materials? What about social media? Can your site handle promotions and high traffic?
    6. 6. What can you expect this year? Expect to see more activity from mobile devices You will see QR codes in printed media Gift buyers will look for novelties and quality Comparison shopping will focus on unique selling propositions and great deals Effect from Click Frenzy – 19th November Buyers will look for added value and special offers Shipping and delivery will be a key value proposition Social media - Facebook, Pinterest, Google + and others Late Christmas rush
    7. 7. What do you need to prepare? Content, Pricing & inventory - fresh and up to date Logistics - shipping as a differentiator Service & support - be available longer hours leading up to Christmas Payment & refund/returns - be proactive and offer after Christmas support Marketing - look at your Adwords campaigns and budgets Social media – monitor, manage and be active Check security for payments – anti-fraud Create QR codes in printed media
    8. 8. This will go to a unique Christmas themed landing page
    9. 9. Is your online store ready?
    10. 10. Ready for mobile & couch commerce? Source: July 2013
    11. 11. Mobile vs Tablet Source: Adobe Digital Index March 2013
    12. 12. Did you think about marketing? Traditional marketing QR Codes mobile SEM - Adwords / PPC + Mobile EDMs – Mondays 8AM Search Engine Optimisation Shopping portals Feeds – Google Shopping – Bing Shopping Price Comparison Event driven (November 19th)
    13. 13. Did you think about promotions? Offer Christmas specials Add Christmas Keywords Find products by price range Offer gift ideas “Gifts for mum” “Gifts for a friend” Gift wrapping and gift cards
    15. 15. Did you think shipping & delivery? Multiple shipping addresses Shipping as a promotion – “Free shipping” Gift wrapping and gift cards Offer choice for delivery Gift coupons in packages (valid after 25th) After Christmas promotions Cut off date for shipping Parcel Push -
    16. 16. Have you connected to friends? Post gift ideas and examples Post special offers Post important information Post advice for Christmas Social media on your site - Talk to your service provider - Free stuff e.g.
    17. 17. Manage and Monitor Activity Analytics and reporting Data centre hours and availability Expected visitor volume Impact of events (e.g. Click Frenzy) Key staff availability Load testing and Stress Testing - DIY – Content delivery network (CDN)
    18. 18. Example site bandwidth 2,700 visitors = 3.6 GB 6,000 PI = 3.6 GB SO IF WE EXPECT 10,000 VISITORS WE CAN EXPECT…. 10,000 = 13.3 GB Check bandwidth limitations
    19. 19. Post Christmas Sales and Support Keep selling after Christmas Remember New Year’s sales are big After Christmas is a great time for specials people on vacation like to shop around for bargains Boxing Day and New Year’s specials campaigns Don't think everything stops on December 25th - smart store operators will be ready.
    20. 20. Australian owned & operated est. 2004 eCommerce specialist 10 years of eCommerce eCorner ®
    21. 21. 2,000+ Online Stores
    22. 22. Summary & Questions Critical Issues Critical Dates Marketing Actions Service Monitor The after party