Preparation Is Key To Festive Ecommerce Success

Festive Ecommerce Success

Just like any high street store, ecommerce sites need to take significant steps to prepare for a rise in product demand and consumer traffic over the Christmas period. With recent figures revealing that 72% of UK adults buy their goods online, it’s vital to consider how to make the most out of your sites during the busiest shopping period of the year.

It may only be the first half of November, but as high street stores have rolled out the Christmas decorations, so too online retailers need to start thinking about how to cope with the likely rise in online traffic leading up to the festive period.

Understanding how and what consumers purchase is essential to the survival both prior and during the festive period.

Look at past order histories and attempt to understand how consumers are purchasing on your site and then optimise your site to fit in with these behaviours. This will ensure your site can technically cope with a rise in demand around certain products or promotions.

Logistically, retailers need to ensure they have a strong online infrastructure to allow the platform to scale horizontally to maintain speed, and to prevent the worst possible scenario, downtime on the infrastructure. This is achieved through strong relationships with your hosting provider and IT management team.

Make sure everyone understands where and when your peak demand is expected, as well as any changes in online consumer purchase behaviour throughout the festive period. All of this information can inform how you evolve and develop your site, maximising the potential for revenue.

Today’s consumers expect Christmas and New Year promotional activities and online retailers will begin to see a steady rise in visits. Extreme peaks will occur from late December to the end of January, depending on the type of discounts being offered.

However, despite price reductions and offers often being defined as a quick source of income it is essential that you adopt discounts and promotions that relate to the stock available. Offering heavily discounted products will result in an unpredictable amount of traffic and a probable website crash; a tarnished reputation and a disgruntled consumer are also unenviable outcomes.

Key dates to prepare for in the run up to Christmas include 2nd December, dubbed as Cyber Monday, the busiest online shopping day in the UK where, according to experts, over £500 million will be spent. It is vital that all adaptations are ready before this date, with Boxing Day and New Year also being big festive earners.

High street shoppers will not visit a store where they receive slow service, and the same goes for online consumers. Maintaining a fast website and quick loading times, together with a strong infrastructure, ensures fulfilled purchases and a smaller amount of abandoned shopping carts.

If you have a multi-screen strategy in place, ensure the content being delivered is created uniquely for each screen; as mobile users purchase differently from those who do so on tablets. I have seen examples of content not being published correctly on iPads where you switch from portrait to landscape, affecting the “buy it now” button causing major issues to conversions.

Your content should be interesting, innovative and relevant, while it’s also important to monitor what consumers are browsing and purchasing. Then sort your website accordingly – place the most popular product on the homepage.

One minute of downtime online can result in hundreds (if not thousands) of lost orders and irreparable damage to your reputation. These factors are the most important influencers to retail success over the Christmas period and therefore ensure your retail site is working and performing to the highest standard and capabilities possible.

Dominic Monkhouse

Dominic Monkhouse is the UK MD of managed hosting provider PEER 1. He has spent 14 years working in sales, marketing and business management within the IT sector. Prior to PEER 1, he held senior positions with Rackspace and IT support company IT Lab. Dominic is regularly interviewed by and quoted in business and technology publications including the Financial Times, Data Centre Dynamics, and Computer Business Review. Dominic has a BSc in Agricultural and Food Marketing from Newcastle and a MBA from Sheffield Business School.