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Make Christmas a cracker

As customers draw up their festive shopping lists, etailers must be equally prepared to cope with their demands.

Christmas is fast approaching and although the threat of more postal strikes has receded, the pressure is still on etailers to deliver on time, so preparation is key.

Stephen Pratley, managing director of web design agency Shine Marketing, believes the way to cope with an increase in online orders is to be ready for when the spike is likely to come; unlike high street shoppers, online customers are most likely to buy on a Monday.

He also advises that communication with all aspects of your business, from fulfilment partners to internet service providers to customer service departments, will smooth the path to a successful and profitable Christmas. “Talk to your web hosting company about the level of traffic your site can cope with and plan your promotional activity around this,” he says.

He recommends displaying last day delivery dates and any special Christmas offers like a gift-wrapping service prominently on the site, and all promotional activity in a clear and concise way. He adds that etailers must consider that for customers seeking requested gifts for friends and family it may be the first time they have visited your site. “Make the process as simple as possible and give lots of detail on product, including images. They need to be confident they are buying the correct item,” says Pratley.

He also advises etailers to take Boxing Day into account, as this is an extremely busy shopping day that can often be overlooked. Post-Christmas Sales and promotions must grab the attention of potential customers.

Ecommerce consultancy Biglight agrees with these recommendations. Founder Steve Borges says retailers should not only have a plan for the peak ordering time but they must also be prepared for all levels of traffic. All processes should be reactive to traffic figures and altered accordingly.

Return policies must also be adapted. The usual 28-day return period option may discourage customers from buying if they are looking for a gift now that will not be given until Christmas and therefore probably not returned until the new year. A 90-day return period will give customers confidence that products can be returned without any problems.

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