Christmas Checklist: Is Your Business Ready for the Sales Season?

Christmas time is here! Although the holiday season tends to sneak up on us, it's important for shop owners to be prepared way before anyone else. And with good reason: one of the biggest shopping seasons across the world, Christmas, requires preparation.

To help you prepare, we've made this downloadable guide for you:

Is your online shop ready for the Christmas sales season?  Prepare for the busiest shopping season of the year Download whitepaper & checklist

For this blog article, here is a table of contents:

Part 1: Christmas statistics 2023
Part 2: General Christmas preparation tips
Part 3: Makin' a checklist, checkin' it twice
Part 4: Sales, coupons, and discounts
Part 5: Getting last-minute Christmas shoppers
Part 6: Dealing with returns after Christmas

Let's begin by taking a look at some Christmas statistics for 2023:

Christmas statistics 2023

Although the COVID situation has improved from where it was, 2023 has brought its own challenges with it. Inflation has gone up. There is more political instability around the world. For most of us, the biggest challenge has been the increased cost of living.

In June, UK consumers were asked about how much money they planned to spend on Christmas shopping in 2022:

Chart: Christmas spending plans among consumers in the UK in 2022

Source: Statista

However, it's very important to note that since this survey was taken, Boris Johnson announced and completed his resignation, Liz Truss came and went, the British pound took a historic tumble, and more wars have broken out internationally to disrupt supply chains. It would be safe to say that people may be a bit more money-conscious in 2023 than last year's survey implies.

Is your online shop prepared for Black Friday?  It's never too early to start! Download checklist

Despite these lower expectations for 2022 (and 2023), it's also noteworthy that the UK is still a big spender for Christmas compared to its European neighbours. Here are some estimates regarding Christmas spending from 2022 across Europe. These numbers may or may not go down this year, but the proportions may very well remain the same:

chart: christmas total retail spending in europe 2022

Source: Statista

If we look back at 2022, we can see what UK shoppers prioritised during their Christmas shopping. It is also safe to assume that 2023 will look very similar:

Chart: UK consumers priorities for buying Christmas gifts in 2022

Source:Statista

As you can see, good value for money takes the number one slot. With this being the case, you can count on UK consumers to be on the lookout for Christmas sales. That includes not only Black Friday, but also Singles' Day (more on that later).

Finally, let's bring it back to the topic of preparation. UK consumers also shared their intentions of when they would do their Christmas shopping in 2022. The survey results revealed that more than half (54%) of UK shoppers began their Christmas shopping before December.

chart: when will you start Christmas Shopping (UK, 2022)

Source: Statista

With that in mind, you as a shop owner need to be prepared before anyone else. That brings us to our next section about preparing your online shop:

General Christmas preparation tips

Ready for some Christmas preparation tips? Let’s have a look at some general advice to help you get ready for the Christmas sales season:

Perfect timing

The right moment to start preparing for doing business next Christmas is on December 27th. Your next best option is today. This point is short and sweet, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s never too early to be prepared.

European Sales Holidays Calendar  Different countries = different holidays. Download calendar

Last year’s data

The data you collected last year is invaluable. You’ll be able to get orders out and down the chimney if you know:

  • what products were particularly popular among customers,
  • what marketing strategies led to the most sales,
  • which customer group(s) bought the most products last year.

Focus on last year’s best-selling products and most effective strategies. After all, what’s the point of following the strategies that didn’t work last year?

You should bank on what proved effective last year and invest more in the winners.

Competitor analysis

It’s always worth keeping tabs on your competitors to know what marketing strategies they are putting into practice and what products they are promoting.

Indeed, it’s precisely at Christmas time that the competition gets fiercer in e-commerce and even the most loyal customers can quickly turn to your competitors if they find a better offer.

That’s why you need to monitor what your competitors are offering closely and if necessary, react quickly with a counter-offer to avoid losing customers.

Keeping your customers up to date

Though gifts are best bought in advance, every year plenty of people seem to buy them at the very last minute (more on that later). All in all, this is not a tragedy for e-commerce owners. The real problem is when a customer places an order at your shop and it is delivered after Christmas.

You can avoid this by informing customers of longer delivery times and by placing a countdown in your online shop or informing them in another way:

Order within the next 3 days to make sure your package is delivered before Christmas.

woman in christmas hat happy on her smarphone

Source: Shutterstock.com/fizkes

However, providing information for last-minute gifts is not the only sales driver you can opt for. From now on, you may also want to regularly inform your customers about Christmas offers via e-mails and social media updates.

Indeed, no matter how good your offers are, if nobody knows you are making special offers, how can you expect anybody to take advantage of them? Let your customers know that Christmas is around the corner and that they can already buy gifts from your shop.

Segmenting your customers

As already mentioned, the data you’ve collected about your customers is invaluable. Use this data to send them customised e-mails or launch advertising campaigns that are perfectly designed to target your different customer groups.

Highly targeted advertising is one of the biggest benefits of social media advertising. It has already led to a considerable increase in sales for many online retailers that do it right.

Recommended Reading:
How to Use Micro-targeting in E-commerce

Abandoned shopping cart reminder

We’ve all been there. We've spent a considerable amount of time looking for gifts online, added some things to the shopping basket, and then suddenly we get interrupted by a phone call, a Facebook notification, a cute cat video – and that’s it: we simply forget about the shopping cart.

If you've got permission from your potential Christmas shoppers, you should remind customers of the products they’ve already added to their shopping baskets. You can do so by e-mail, Google retargeting, or the Facebook Pixel.

This simple strategy could prove to be very effective.

Trusted Tips: If you lose customers during the checkout, download our  whitepaper on checkout optimisation

Start collecting (and displaying) reviews

example-solarplexius-serps-w640h1208Online customer reviews are basically a must these days. Simply collecting a few isn't enough. When it comes to online reviews, the more the merrier.

Speaking of merry, Christmas shoppers still want to shop safely, despite their desire to find amazing deals. They will still go through the normal motions of online shopping behaviour. And that includes researching shop reviews as well as product reviews.

Make sure you work with a Google-certified reviews provider (like Trusted Shops) so that you can display your star ratings throughout Google; often where shops make their first impression with potential customers.

In the following example, Solarplexius has customer reviews showing in their Google Ads at the top of the search results while also showing their rating in the organic results below.

Read more about Solarplexius and how they found success with Trusted Shops.

Upselling and cross-selling

Who wouldn’t be happy to get two gifts instead of one?

Christmas time is upselling and cross-selling time.

Here are two of the best-known examples of this sales strategy:

  1. “Would you like fries with that?”
  2. Placing candy strategically at the supermarket checkout.

However, online shops, too, can use upselling to their benefit.

Upselling should always support the customer experience, not interrupt it. Show your users a slightly more expensive product (e.g. this year's model).

When it comes to cross-selling, you can achieve this by offering a product associated with the ones the customer has already selected.

  • If a customer adds a new digital camera to their shopping cart, you may want to offer them additional batteries at the checkout.
  • If a customer is buying a television, you may want to offer them an HDMI cable.
  • Is your customer interested in buying flowerpots? Then they will most certainly need potting compost, too.

Upselling on a camera product page

Source: Bold Upsell

According to a Hubspot survey of salespeople, 72% of those who upsell and 74% who cross-sell say that it drives up to 30% of their revenue.

Important advice: Don’t be greedy! Suggest products within a realistic price range. A customer buying a pen for £30 may well be interested in buying ink cartridges or a nice calendar, too, but probably not a fountain pen for £495. A good rule of thumb is that an upsell should not increase the basket value by more than 25%.

Don’t forget that upselling doesn’t have to be limited to products. Providing your customers with services like express delivery, extended warranties, or the option of having their gifts wrapped may also lead to an increase in sales.

Upselling doesn't only occur while a potential customer is browsing your shop. Think about your previous customers. Just because they've completed an order, it doesn’t mean that it was their last purchase from your shop for this Christmas.

With e-mail campaigns promoting the product category from which they purchased the last time, you can invite customers to buy from your shop once again.

Makin’ a (check)list, checkin' it twice

We’ve also created a task list for you to know what you should be doing for the lead-up to Christmas:

IT Related Issues

  • Prepare your servers and IT infrastructure to manage extra website traffic
  • Prepare your internal communication to smoothly process and dispatch orders
  • Upgrade your phone lines to ensure all customer calls and queries are handled
  • Make sure your website is not going through any major upgrades in the next 2 months

Website Preparation

  • Add a nice Christmas design on your website to attract shoppers
  • Create discount codes for the Christmas periods to provide users more incentives to shop on your store
  • Try to collect as many reviews as possible and showcase them to your customers (You can use the Trusted Shops review collector for this)

Young man with a christmas hat on working hard

Source: Shutterstock.com/carballo

  • Check if the website has easy to use navigation and your checkout is not too complicated
  • Highlight any certifications that will show you in a good light. (The Trusted Shops Trustmark can help you build trust with new visitors)

Recommended reading:
How to Create a Gift Guide That Will Inspire Your Customers

Logistics Preparation

  • Make sure you have proper contracts with your logistics providers to handle the surge in business
  • Make sure you stock up on all your hot sellers in advance to prepare for the sales season, distributors might run out of best sellers due to high demand, so plan ahead
  • Look at your return policy and how you can handle returns

Marketing Preparation

  • If you plan on doing buying any major ad space, do it right now to get a better price. Advertising costs peak starting November and last minute deals are hard to get.
  • Make sure your Google Stars are showing on all you Google Ads. Try getting 100 reviews as quickly as possible to start showing your ratings on Google.
  • Get your deals with email marketing providers and prepare a nice Christmas HTML email to remind your customers of your ongoing sale.

The holidays don't end with Christmas...
Check out our articles for the upcoming holidays:

10 February 2024: Chinese New Year
14 February 2024: Valentine's Day
10 March 2024: Mother's Day (UK)

European Sales Holidays Calendar  Different countries = different holidays. Download calendar

General Advice

Is your online shop ready for the Christmas sales season?  Prepare for the busiest shopping season of the year Download whitepaper & checklist

Sales, coupons, and discounts

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all the pre-Christmas sales

Every year it seems people complain about Christmas decorations being put up earlier and earlier. With the popularity of Black Friday exploding in the last few years (especially in Europe), it seemed that the sales were keeping up with the decorations.

However, if the past few Christmases have taught us anything, it’s that November is the official Christmas shopping month. Remember that stat we shared earlier? More than half (54%) of British shoppers plan to do their Christmas shopping before December.

As shoppers continue to shift from the high street to online shops, e-commerce sites are competing with each other now more than ever before. Since Black Friday sales have become the norm at this point, many companies are holding “pre-black Friday” (aka Black November, Cyber Month) sales these days to stay one step ahead of the competition.

We should see this trend continue. It's definitely something to think about when preparing for next Christmas! No matter what you decide to do, having a solid plan laid out a few weeks ahead of time can never hurt!

Have you heard about Singles' Day? Globally speaking, it's actually bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined! Read about it in the link below:

Recommended Reading:
Singles' Day Marketing Ideas for the Biggest Shopping Day of the Year

Offer discount vouchers during the Christmas season

Offering discount vouchers is a typical customer acquisition strategy. During the Christmas season, consumers are particularly receptive to great offers. Vouchers can provide undecided shoppers with an additional incentive to shop (with you!). However, a few points need to be considered to make sure that buyers and sellers alike benefit from discount vouchers.

What are the benefits of vouchers?

The success of discount vouchers can easily be measured because you can see how often a discount code has been entered in the ordering process. Vouchers can also be used flexibly, depending on the season or sales campaign. Moreover, the best-case scenario is a win-win situation: Your customers save money and you boost sales for your online shop.

What kind of voucher should I create?

When creating a voucher, you can choose from three discount options: a fixed amount (e.g. 5 pounds), a percentage discount (e.g. 10%), or free additional items or services (e.g. two items for the price of one, free shipping, gift wrapping, freebies, etc.).

You can also:

  • limit the validity period of the vouchers to create artificial time pressure
  • set a minimum order value as a prerequisite for using the voucher
  • allow or exclude multiple uses
  • restrict the validity of the discount code to specific items.

Woman on a Christmas sled

Source: Shutterstock.com/Roman Samborskyi

How much of a discount should I give?

When it comes to the amount of the discount, it is important to strike the right balance between miserliness and underselling. A 1%-discount won't lure anyone; a 60%-discount looks like a sell-off. Discounts of 5 to 20% are common.

To whom should I offer vouchers?

When offering discounts, a distinction is often made between existing and new customers. This can lead to loyal customers feeling discriminated against compared to new ones. To avoid this unpleasant situation, you should organise your offers in a reasonable way.

You may either address both groups in the same way or use different discount offers in a targeted way, for example in letters, social media posts, or newsletters that are only addressed to one or the other customer group. Again, customer segmentation is important!

Getting last-minute Christmas shoppers to your online shop

Christmas and last-minute shoppers go together like fish and chips. It’s inevitable that some shoppers out there have a handful (or all) of their gifts to buy in the last few weeks (or days) before the holidays.

Santa Claus running late

Source: Shutterstock.com/Stokkete

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), only 10% of Americans had finished their Christmas shopping by mid-December. As much as 40% of the holiday sales happen in the 10 days before Christmas. The numbers are probably quite similar in the UK.

The point is that there are shoppers out there in December looking to buy gifts for friends and family. Naturally, you don’t want to miss out on this sales opportunity. Let's look at some strategies you can use in order to make sure you get those shoppers to buy from your online shop.

Promote it on your website

Once you've decided on the promotion you want to offer, the next thing to do is promote the sale on your website.

You’ll want to have a special landing page dedicated to last-minute shoppers. Draw visitors to the page by placing a banner that stands out with contrasting colours (perhaps a nice Christmas red) and label it something helpful like “Last-minute gift ideas – 20% off”. Place it at the top of your homepage, or better yet, fix it to your navigation bar temporarily.

Another tip to inform shoppers and to add a little urgency is to make important delivery deadlines and options available for everyone to see. If customers know the costs and deadlines of shipping options, it should motivate them to make their purchases “on time”.

Promote it around the web

Now that you have prepared your page, you’ll want to promote it around the web. Start with free advertising on social media. Head to your social media page, create some beautiful images with all the relevant information in it and publish it. Encourage people to share it and to tag their friends in the comments section.

After that, you’ll want to create some paid ads and promote your products. Google Ads and Facebook ads are great options, as well as Instagram. Make sure to include relevant information in the ads as well (like sale duration, free shipping, etc.).

Promote to previous customers

If you read this blog often, then you know the value of remarketing. After all, every business owner knows that their best customer is a repeat customer. You can target these past customers and visitors with Google and Facebook ads.

However, also worth considering is a good email campaign. It might seem old fashioned, but email marketing campaigns are consistently one of the best tools to gain traffic and increase conversions from an R.O.I. perspective.

Dealing with returns after Christmas

Christmas sales are booming – especially online. When it comes to online gift shopping, UK shops are at the forefront in comparison with the rest of Europe.

However, the faster Christmas comes, the faster it will be over, and that’s when the time for returns begins. After all, we’ve all had gifts that weren’t exactly our cup of tea. Fortunately for shoppers, many online shops offer a longer right to return around Christmas.

Dr Carsten Föhlisch, legal expert at Trusted Shops, explains what you need to keep in mind when it comes to returns, especially when dealing with EU countries.

Dr. Carsten Foehlisch“A 14-day right to cancel after delivery applies in Europe. However, customers can’t just return the goods without any comment. On the other hand, they must provide a clear explanation, for instance in writing, via e-mail or by enclosing a note in the package in which they state clearly that they want a full refund of their money. Returning goods without any comment could mean that the customer would like the goods to be replaced or repaired. It wouldn’t be clear. The reason for the cancellation doesn’t need to be explained.” says Dr. Carsten Föhlisch, legal expert at Trusted Shops.

Recommended reading:
Reducing the Return Rate in the Online Fashion Industry

Conclusion

There you have it. The ultimate e-commerce Christmas guide. Between learning from the past, planning marketing efforts, keeping lists, holding Black Friday sales, offering coupons, enticing last minute shoppers, and being prepared for returns, you should have enough information to plan out a great Christmas for your online shop and ring in the new year with a happy profit.

Bonus download: Check out our free Christmas checklist to get your business ready for the holiday sales season below- 44 TO-DO'S FOR ONLINE RETAILERS BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Is your online shop ready for the Christmas sales season?  Prepare for the busiest shopping season of the year Download whitepaper & checklist

18/10/23

Alon Eisenberg

Alon Eisenberg has been the Content Manager UK at Trusted Shops since 2017. He graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor's degree in Communications in 2004.

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