Each year, the Christmas retail floodgates open with November’s Black Friday and December’s Cyber Monday and the festive shopping season continues with sales of epic proportions. In fact, Adobe Digital’s Online Shopping Forecast for the United States and Europe estimates that the online retail sector will make approximately $2 billion on Cyber Monday alone.
But the Christmas season is not just a time for big brand advertising — smaller merchants can also make the most of the festive retail fever. Below are some practical tips for retailers of all sizes looking to profit from the Christmas shopping rush.
Finding an original gift at Christmas can be hugely challenging, especially in an online landscape crowded with big brands offering discounts on bestsellers. However price isn’t the only consideration — originality can be a huge selling point. The old adage “it’s the thought that counts” is still true today; people want to know their loved ones have thought about what they would like to receive. Data analyst group Experian predicts that Monday December 3rd 2012 will see UK consumers spend 15 million hours shopping online. And throughout the month, time spent making e-commerce purchases will reach 375 million hours. A lot of this time browsing will not result in a purchase, as people are unsure of what to buy. The success of retailers like Notonthehightstreet.com prove the value of originality and inspiration.
With a vast content universe just a few clicks away from a retailer’s online shop front, it’s easy for shoppers to get distracted as they consider their seemingly endless purchase options. 21st century shoppers like to make an informed choice, so providing them with rich content will be critical to converting sales. Merchants should consider engagement tools such as videos to demo key products for Christmas, or interactive images that let you see how an item of clothing would look as part of an outfit.
Savvy merchants should look at Christmas from a shopper’s perspective. Most of us are faced with a raft of uninspiring Christmas lists from indecisive family members each year. What do you get your Dad apart from another pair of socks, and how can you think of an original gift for a partner you have been giving birthday, Christmas and anniversary gifts to for many years? Rather than taking a product-led approach, merchants should consider taking a demographic or price-led approach and curate Christmas collections, such as “under £10” or “for the in-laws”. This way they can engage and inspire shoppers, taking some of the legwork out of the illusive present hunt.
Shoppers will be actively hunting for promotions and interesting gifts on social platforms (and not always in their free time). VoucherCodesPro.co.uk recently found that the average Brit in full time employment spends up to 1.5 hours per day on social network sites during work hours. That equates to 7.5 hours per week. The most common times for switching on to social networks at work is between 10am–11am and 3pm–4pm. Tap into festive offer hashtags in the run up to Christmas, or run Christmas-themed competitions with the chance to win a gift bundle.
Christmas is a stressful time for shoppers, but it’s a huge opportunity for a merchant to make a favourable brand impression. This should include everything from the basics of offering good customer service and speedy delivery to added extras, such as gift wrapping, personalised notes or tailored free samples. While all these things should leave customers with a warm fuzzy feeling, retailers also want to ensure shoppers come back again and again, so you could consider providing existing customers with special offers to reward their loyalty on an ongoing basis.
Throughout the year, Monday has highest conversion rate for online retail. Data from Rakuten’s Play.com reveals Brits combat the Monday blues with an evening of online retail therapy — indeed, Play.com clocks its highest browsing and buying figures from 8pm–10pm every Monday, while mobile browsing surges on Monday morning from 7am–8am. Time your Christmas communications to hit when shoppers are more likely to make a purchase, whether this is through offers, suggesting items, or even limited edition products that will only be available for a short period of time.
Make the most of the Christmas shopping rush by extending these tactics across all your channels, from your website to social, and from email marketing to mobile communications.
Happy Christmas shopping season!
Adam Stewart is marketing director at Rakuten’s Play.com.
I’m consistently flabbergasted by how many business owners think they can throw together a website.
These are the usual scenarios:
Stop a minute.
This is your website we are talking about. This is the place your existing and potential clients will go when they want more information about you. This is the place they go to when they are tentatively putting their hand up and saying, “I may be interested in what you have to offer”.
Don’t screw this opportunity up. When people land on your website, with a problem that you can solve, make sure you’ve done everything you can to reap the benefits of this golden opportunity.
Achieve this by ensuring the person or team worthy of building your company website has the ability to:
1. Establish the goals of the business, its target audience and therefore what the website is actually meant to achieve.
2. Design the website in line with specific businesses goals, and the needs of the relevant target audience.
3. Apply the brand style of the business to the site, or make relevant improvements to make the brand memorable, consistent and exciting for the target audience.
4. Consider the pros and cons of various hierarchy, navigation and call to action options, and then apply the right ones for the unique demands of the website.
5. Write content to the right standard, and in the right tone for the particular audience the website needs to appeal to.
6. Source and place the right imagery so it brings the content to life and resonates with the website audience.
7. Plan, integrate and roll out the right level of social media activity to suit the needs of the target audience.
8 Apply all the dos and don’ts of search engine optimisation (SEO).
9. Review, measure and adapt all things website-related to ensure goals are being met.
10. Stand back and review developments from the customers’ point of view.
So if you, or your friend, IT geek, administrator or work experience bod of the month does not have the above skills then they really should not be creating your company website.
Of course you will have to pay a proper website designer more than you would pay your friend, IT geek, administrator, work experience bod of the month or yourself.
But it would be well worth the investment if your website could:
Expanding your business abroad is no mere afterthought despite the ease of reaching people in different languages and markets across the world thanks to the internet.
Rarely is it necessary these days to set up local offices or physical branches on the high street to sell your wares or services. People simply search for your product and buy from you even if your business isn’t based in their country — most customers will trust worldwide shipping to make purchases online.
So how do we take advantage of this phenomenon? How do we reach audiences in the same language but a different country like Australia or the USA? How do we reach audiences in a different language and a different country altogether? How do we avoid embarrassing mistakes to keep our credibility intact when people do eventually find us?
The key issue that most business forget in the rush to maximise the opportunity is not to get lost in translation.
Acting local with content
The first thing you need is web content. Whether you’re an ecommerce site selling your unique brand of clothes or a firm selling professional services or an online product such as a video game — you need copy that is written in the customer’s language.
But before you log onto Google translate, remember that people are not that forgiving of businesses with poorly written copy. So it makes sense to hire a professional writer that has native level language skills in the country of choice — even Australian English for instance.
A professional writer will not only write using the idioms and wordplay, they will also understand the culture of how people buy into what it is you do. This will also help prevent costly branding mistakes such as the time Opel named their car Nova for the Spanish market which means “no-go”.
They will write web copy for your product or service that sounds right and thus will make your business appear more persuasive and trustworthy.
Beyond the website
The professional writer will not only write copy for your website, but equally important, will write unique content for other websites discussing the issues that your business’ products or services resolve.
This not only allows you to reach out to new audiences in France but also helps build your reputation in Google France. This happens in a number of ways:
If the budget stretches, you may wish to consider getting coverage in the target country. This will require a public relations (PR) specialist with the right media contacts in the countries you’re marketing to.
The PR will help you build your profile with the media and create news hooks that will help your press releases get picked up by the press your customers read. These news hooks could be original research or surveys or whitepapers that will help your brand get noticed and stand out from all other local and global competitors vying for your customers’ money.
Although Rome wasn’t built in a day, just imagine what the Romans would have given to have the technology we have to reach millions of people across the world — all powered by search.
As Clay Shirky once observed: “There is no such thing as information overload, just filter failure”. He made this the theme of his excellent presentation at Web 2.0 Expo NY back in 2008.
Clay makes the point that information overload is not new and that it has been around since the arrival of Guttenberg’s printing press. And in the print era a publisher had to filter what to publish — otherwise it wouldn’t sell.
It can be said that information overload is (and always has been) a symptom of our inability to focus on what’s truly important or relevant to who we are as individuals, professionals and as human beings. The internet era has certainly changed the dynamics and it’s now possible to publish anything for free … so the filter has gone — or has it?
There are a multitude of freely available filtering “tools” marketers can use.
Here are just three that I would recommend.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds are incredibly powerful in filtering information from regularly changing web content. Personally, I set aside specific time each day to look through the articles in my selected reader and organise each feed into relevant folders (for example by industry sector).
RSS Feeds can also be used to manage Google Alerts — updates of the latest relevant Google results filtered by your search term queries. Google Alerts make it easy to keep tabs on mentions about your own company, competitors and even individual people.
By 2014, Gartner predicts that social networking services will replace email as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communication for 20% of business users. This thought is slightly daunting, and whilst RSS feeds have certainly reduced the load in my email inbox, a simple tool such as NutshellMail allows me to receive a single summary (from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) at the times of my choice.
If information overload is keeping you awake at night, spend some time setting your filters, take control of the wealth of information available and don't allow that to be your failure.
The vision you create for your business is one of the most powerful drivers of growth. Having a vision of what you want to achieve, and where you want to get to, is infectiously compelling — to your consumers, to your team and to any potential investors.
As a company founder or MD, your greatest challenge is not just defining your vision in a way that reflects your brand, but in ensuring that everyone on your team buys into it. Your team — be it managers, contractors or even the student who works part-time in-store — needs to have a passionate appreciation of what you are trying to achieve and how you are trying to achieve it.
Here are four ideas to help you define your vision and motivate your team:
1. Keep it simple and make it powerful
Making a vision easily understood is one thing but making it resonate with your audience is more complicated. The key is to avoid jargon and use words and phrases that anyone in your business can associate with. Perhaps the most famous example of this was back in the 1960s when Nike’s vision simply said “Crush Adidas”.
The tone of that statement draws on the competitive nature of sport and the target audience. Its clarity of purpose couldn’t be mistaken by anyone. Nike’s vision was simple, do anything it takes to be bigger and better than its main rival.
2. Be ambitious, paint the future
The most customer-centric businesses will share their vision from the perspective of their customer, and there is no more compelling a way to do this than painting a picture of an ambitious future you want to create for your customers.
Henry Ford used this method — creating a vision that would have been impossible for any person to misinterpret — “I will build a motor car for the great multitude... When I’m through, everybody will be able to afford one, and everyone will have one. The horse will have disappeared from our highways, the automobile will be taken for granted.”
3. Convey the passion
The way those at the top convey the business vision has a direct impact on how customers and staff respond to it. It’s not surprising that many of the world's most successful companies have been led by founders who lived and breathed their business.
Steve Jobs once asked the chairman of Pepsi, “Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?". Apple's own vision was certainly ambitious — “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advances humankind.”
4. Make it relevant
Bold and ambitious visions inspire teams but only when they understand the relevance to them. You must involve the team in order to encourage engagement with the business vision. Co-creation is one of the most powerful ways to do this.
A compelling brand vision, that is understood and believed by your team, is a competitive advantage. It becomes a growth driver for a business and it can make the vision self-fulfilling.
Attracting quality press attention for your start up business can be an uphill struggle. Here are our top tips for gaining media coverage.
Make it personal
Each and every approach must be personalised. Let’s face it — nobody likes to be nameless. Avoid sending bulk emails with hundreds of recipients under the BCC tag. Most servers are auto-configured to junk incoming emails when the BCC is active with multiple emails.
Spend the extra time researching every recipient. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it will deliver results. Your conversion in terms of responses will definitely increase.
Target specific media
If you’re not clear about your target audience, then how can you execute an effective public relations campaign?
First of all, focus on the niche publications — these are your heavy hitters. Think of them as little gold mines, waiting to be found and crying out for your news. Who views them? A high majority are people solely interested in that specific topic. They are also used as research hubs for journalists from national newspapers.
By contrast, the national media titles tend to cover a broad range of topics and finding the most relevant point of contact is often laborious. Use the website search function to find relevant articles similar to your news and check the author profile.
Another great media opportunity is niche blogs. Land of the free speech, make sure they are floating high on your research list.
Make a list of all the journalists you want to target and consider making a smaller list of the key journalists that you would like to build relationships with. Keep them in the loop, invite them to your events, schmooze them! Focus your main efforts on this select group of journalists every time you have a story to convey.
The way that journalists get their hands on news has changed dramatically over the past decade. Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms are real-time news hubs. Stories can go viral before they are even picked up by media sources.
The days of Ivy Lee, who created the first modern press release, have all but gone. Fax machines and snail mail are still a viable delivery method but they just aren’t used that often.
So why not use this to your advantage and go old school? Fax your press release and avoid the cluttered mailbox of a journalist. Traditional mail is another good option — you can use fancy paper, a nice envelope or even send a gift.
When you're pitching to the media, make sure you have all the assets a journalist might need, ready to send off at a moments notice. But don’t send these first time — send them to those that request them.
• A photo to go with your story;
• A screenshot of your product/website in multiple formats and sizes;
• Your company logo in multiple formats and sizes;
• What makes you different that your competitors;
• Additional quotes from relevant persons;
• A document with facts/figures about your business.
Matthew Lobas is account manager at Pressat.