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4 key points to examine to optimise year-end sales

Expert Advice
For Ecommerce Success
Our team of Ecommerce experts outline effective strategies for increasing and optimising your sales!
The start of the school year is an unavoidable spending period for most households. It’s one of the busiest sales periods of the year with an average spend of £240 per child in 2014, according to research undertaken by Opinium Research for Santander Credit Cards. Clothes, books and stationary being the obvious buys but computing/high tech equipment and even furniture are also part of the B2S (back to school) catalogue! Other sectors can also benefit from this period as consumers dedicate even bigger budgets to the start of the academic year. As well as being ready for the B2S sales, this is a great time to calmly prepare for the year-end rush.

As the summer draws to an end, preparing your online store for the end of year holiday season, is the best way to increase your chances of a successful and profitable year-end!
Our Actinic experts provide 4 key points for you to examine on your site so that you can make the most of B2S sales AND be ready for a high performing year-end!
1. The end of the summer season is the time to update your site, its product and info pages, in anticipation of the end of year sales events.
2. The winter holiday season is often synonymous with stress and panic buying, so offer your visitors an opportunity to save time and money and they’ll be more than satisfied!
3. Give your visitors a pleasurable buying experience, dull the pain of the end of summer and the long wait until Christmas! Use competitions, exclusive deals and loyalty schemes to keep your customers and visitors engaged, there are plenty of ideas you can implement.
4. Create a countdown schedule with your key aims and goals for the end of 2015. Organisation and planning are the keys to success: don’t leave anything to chance and use the right tactics to improve your performance.

4 key points to examine to optimise year-end sales

01 Be confident in your ecommerce site and its content
What will consumers be searching for from now until the end of the year? Whatever it may be, you want to guarantee that your site and products appear in the highest rankings for popular queries. To make this happen, start putting into practice the following tips:
> Review all your product pages: are all your images optimised? Are your descriptions relevant and long enough? Are all downloadable files you offer available? Remember to reread all the information pages on your ecommerce site: company history/introduction, general conditions, legal information, shipping information, payment methods, returns and reimbursement policies ... The main aim is to be certain that all your trust elements, that instill confidence in your visitors, are in place and clearly displayed. Now's the time to update, any outdated information and to ensure your conditions are clear. You won’t have the time to update everything during the peak of the holiday orders!

> Also, make sure your site conforms to any recent legal changes. The HMRC VAT grace period, for businesses selling digital services, such as e-books, online courses, or downloads, to other European countries, officially ended on the 30th of June 2015, are you up to date? The Consumer Contracts Regulations came into effect 13th of June 2014 – make sure your site info and policies have been updated. Be aware that if your site isn’t up to date then consumer rights to return goods can be extended, in some cases for up to 12 months! Here’s a little reminder as to some of the various elements you should be displaying on your site: company ID (contact information, status ...), service guarantees, accepted payment methods, delivery costs, methods and restrictions, no premium rate phone lines, automatic opt-ins and pre-ticked boxes (marketing permissions, newsletters or express delivery for example) are banned, total order cost (products or service plus delivery costs) must be made clear at the point-of sale, customer returns rights have extended to 14 days and downloadable forms for consumers to cancel contracts or initiate returns must be clearly available before confirming the sale and before delivery, refunds must be made within 14 days, all terms and conditions must be clearly displayed ...

> Finally, as your catalogue may evolve throughout the year, check your estore’s structure and lay out: it should always be "logical" for the consumer to navigate your site. To make sure that your products are well organised, you could consider a shakeup of certain categories, remember, nothing is set in stone - or code! There’s nothing better than a thorough site check-up to leave you in good standing and on steady foundations for the ecommerce sales rush at the end of year.
02 Save your customers time and unnecessary effort
With all the end of year goings-on, consumers often find themselves with little time to make all their purchases. They want everything to be well prepared and in double time, so that the holidays can pass without a hitch. Here are some of our ideas for what you can do to help them.
> First, it’s obviously the moment to highlight any of your holiday products, ‘Christmas,’ ‘table decorations,’ ‘gifts,’ etc. so that when the search increase begins you’ll be ready to catch those queries! Gently does it, it’s still early days and the return to school lunches, suits and offices is already hard enough for some!
Bet on the bundles! Your site visitors won’t have to track down all the products they need to decorate the table, for example, if you can provide a neat little product bundle with everything they should need. If you are going to offer a variety of holiday bundles or exclusive offers then think about creating a specific landing page to host them. It could serve as a useful URL reference for your marketing campaigns; Google AdWords adverts, newsletters and emails, social media, etc.

> In order to save your visitors time, consider making your checkout funnel quicker and easier. To do this, don’t ask for too much information when consumers are going to order: you can re-contact them later to find out more about them and promote customer loyalty with personalised offers and deals. Similarly, consider indicating the customer’s progress throughout the checkout funnel with a breadcrumb trail that evolves progressively throughout the buying stages (an example of an Actinic site that does this is Brolliesgalore):
The average length of the checkout process, for most estores, is 5.08 steps (Baymard Institute) to take an ebuyer through to order confirmation. That takes some time, which, unfortunately, gives a consumer plenty of time to change their mind. 11% of Internet users abandon their shopping cart because the checkout process is either too long or too complex (Blog LK Council, 2014). Don’t try and lock them into their choices but do make sure that visitors can go back easily if needed. This will work in your favour as another trust element that will instill confidence in your site.
> Last but not least, offer a wide choice of payment and delivery methods. 56% of eshoppers said they wouldn’t abandon their cart if there was a better selection of payment methods (Econsultancy) and 40% of consumers said they would be willing to pay extra if they could say when and where their parcel should be delivered (Honeywell Survey). Ensure that you offer a variety of delivery methods from next day to click and collect and everything in between!
03 Offer an exclusive and extraordinary shopping experience
Attracting traffic to your site is great, but offering an extraordinary shopping experience that will keep your customers coming back, is quite something else! So it’s vital to offer deals that your customer’s won’t find anywhere else.

Offer a broad range of products: choice is a purchase trigger for consumers. The more you highlight the scope of your catalogue, the more your visitors will be able to easily find the product that meets their criteria. Making it more likely that they’ll stick to your site rather than going to your competitors.

Competitions are another great way of keeping customers coming back to your site and a good tactic for building loyalty. Keeping a fun element to your marketing is always a good way to catch visitors’ attention. The end of the year is often a tricky time, budget wise, for many households, recovering from the summer spending, saving for presents, events and gatherings, but this doesn’t mean you should only focus on low prices. Finding bargains without wasting time trawling through the internet is the main aim for many consumers. If you can offer them this and a little more than the average customer experience, you are putting yourself in good stead to boost sales and differentiate yourself from your competition.
Customer experience is a key retention element. Consumers want to have a positive and enjoyable shopping experience, surprise and delight them with a little extra! According to a study by Invesp, ‘a customer is 4 times more likely to buy from a competitor after experiencing a service-related issue, as opposed to a price or product-related issue.’ What’s more, 55% of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience! Hone your customer service skills, optimise response times, ensure that employees have the skills and resources they need to meet customers’ expectations and provide rich and relevant information (detailed descriptions, customer reviews, photos, videos, etc.). In regards to an omni-channel experience, you’ll offer a better customer experience if all your channels are integrated and it’s easy to smoothly transition between points of contact.
04 Determine your year-end targets and prepare a countdown schedule
The back to school period is the perfect opportunity to acquire new loyal customers ahead of the holiday season. Use this period to put the odds in your favor so that your site will be a profitable success in the fourth quarter 2015! Regularly analyse your traffic sources and their conversion rates so that you can set realistic targets. Use Google Analytics to get a good understanding of your different marketing tools. You can then adjust and optimise any future investments whilst you calmly prepare for the end of the year. Smart investments for planned marketing or acquisition targets will improve your site’s performance and help you gain new customers at a lower cost in this last quarter.

Once you’ve determined your specific targets, create a countdown schedule where you identify the tasks to be performed by each employee in your company. For example, note when you should start preparing for some of the key winter dates; Halloween (October 31st), Black Friday (November 27th), Cyber Monday (November 30th) Christmas (December 25th), and any others that may be key to your sector. Determine what date you should be sending out event specific newsletters, what your landing page will be, when you’ll launch any competitions or deals and when your logistics team needs to be at the ready for sending orders, etc. Organisation is everything! If all of your actions are planned in advance the more time you’ll have to focus on acquisition, retention, and the many other aspects of your ecommerce business.

Over to you dear etailers, turn the end of year shopping experience into a gift of its own!