By Daniel Hunter

Each year, the Christmas retail floodgates open with November’s Black Friday and continues through December with Cyber Monday and beyond. Brands herald the festive shopping season of late November and early December with sales of epic proportions.

In fact, Adobe’s Digital's Online Shopping Forecast for the United States and Europe estimated that the online retail sector will make approximately $2 billion on Cyber Monday alone. While the Christmas season is a time for big brand advertising and sale campaigns, 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:

Originality First

As a shopper, 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 while 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 such as prove the value of originality and inspiration.

Shoppers Want Details

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 ‘unboxing with Santa 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.

Curate ‘Stocking Filler’ Collections

Savvy merchants should look at Christmas from a shoppers’ 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 virtual legwork out of the illusive present hunt.

Ride the Festive Social Buzz

Shoppers will be actively hunting for promotions and interesting gifts on social platforms (and not always in their free time). 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 during the working week in the run up to Christmas, or run Christmas-themed competitions offering eager participants a chance to win a gift bundle that will meet all the festive needs.

Make a Lasting Impression

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 that will set a retailer’s service apart, 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 could consider providing existing customers with special offers to reward shoppers’ loyalty through the year.

Festive Timing

Throughout the year, Monday has highest conversion rate for online retail. Data from Rakuten’s reveal Brits combat the Monday blues with an evening of online retail therapy, with clocking 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 the customer might want, 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.

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