12/11/2010

By Thomas Vollrath, CEO, 123-Reg

Online shoppers in the UK are expected to spend £162 billion per year on products via the internet by the end of 2020(1). This burgeoning market is one that small businesses should not ignore.

With the festive season fast approaching, setting up an online shop now can enable a business to take advantage of the 85 per cent of UK consumers planning to spend money online this Christmas(2).

While many people shop online today, customers still have concerns about being caught out by fake websites and counterfeit goods. This concern is heightened even further at Christmas as people make larger, multiple purchases.

Therefore, a business must plan carefully to allay customers’ concerns by providing an online shop that embodies security, trust, reliability and good service: values that are central to online shoppers. A businesses online reputation is just as important as a real world one; a lack of the values above can result in a lost sale or leave a bad impression of a business’ brand.

The reverse is true, and businesses that that provide reliable, secure sites can expect to gain trust and long-term loyalty from festive shoppers. Because of this, it's essential businesses that are thinking of setting up an online shop are aware of the need to install credibility to their site to make the most out of the Christmas season.

Here are some top tips, when selling online at Christmas:

1. Businesses selling online need to build trust with users by displaying contact numbers throughout their site. This shows there is somebody to talk to should a customer encounter a problem. Businesses can expect to receive more enquires during the festive season, so they must be aptly prepared to deal with this. It’s also important to encourage feedback, as this makes customers feel valued and can add to a business’ services.

2. Festive shoppers are likely to make larger multiple purchases, so need to be reassured that confidential information given online is safe. This can be done by displaying security accreditations, such as an SSL certificate which verifies that the site is legitimate and hosted on a secure server. Businesses should also offer money-back guarantees if possible, and terms and conditions should be written in plain English and be visible on the site.

3. Christmas purchases are often done with someone else in mind, so the buyer may be somewhat unsure of the product they are ordering. Because of this, businesses must be really transparent when it comes to their goods, with photos of the products being sold included, alongside detailed descriptions and clear pricing.

4. Customers are more likely to buy from a site if they can relate to the person behind the webpage, and this is even more so during the festive season when shoppers must make choices between a number of etailers. Adding pictures, videos and a blog to a website will give customers an insight into a business and help to build rapport, which can turn into custom.

5. With so much for customers to think about at Christmas, businesses should utilise a reliable domain provider which promises a secure site and offers a solid ecommerce package tying in with the quality of service the company wishes to provide. This will afford customers with the peace of mind that their payment details, data, and personal information are in safe hands. Businesses that help to deliver their customers a smooth Christmas, can often expect return orders.

Businesses should look to embrace any channel that grants access to potential new customers, this includes online shops. With people already beginning their Christmas shopping, now is the ideal time for a business to be pro-active and get online.

Businesses which remember the best practice tips above could find that an online shop adds to their business by extending their ability to achieve awareness, lasting customer loyalty and increased sales, during the festive season and beyond.

(1) Centre for Economics and Business Research
(2) Burst Media - Survey Reveals Consumer Spending to Be Flat This Holiday Season — But More Online


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