By Matt Rogers, head of search at toxicfox.co.uk

For the average consumer, the advent of Christmas is heralded by Saturday nights watching X Factor, ubiquitous Coca-Cola and John Lewis adverts during each break, the consumption of many a mince pie and the dressing of the home with garlands galore. However, for businesses and in particular, retailers, the festive season starts well in advance of the traditional Yuletide period, with many preparing for the big day during the summer months. Feeling behind already?

Worry not, help is at hand for businesses looking to get ahead. Here are ten top tips which make planning a successful season of selling simple, ensuring the New Year balance sheet is tipped in your favour:

1. Fill those stockings

Pile your stockroom with standout stocking fillers and secret Santa must haves well in advance of Christmas Day to ensure you stand out from the competition and have enough stock to cope with demand.

2. Carefully plan launch times

Make sure new products launch well ahead of the Christmas period to ensure they make it onto people’s wish lists. An item which has ultra-desirable potential could be a disappointing flop if launched too late for guaranteed delivery or after the time when Christmas lists are sent to Santa.

3. Update your website

The positioning of major products for Christmas on a website is important, so it’s vital to plan this well in advance. At toxicfox.co.uk, we consider items which have performed well all year and presents that were favourites last Christmas and use this information to inform our decision as to what makes it onto the site’s landing page. It’s always important to remain flexible however, as there may be popular products that you not have predicted!

4. Create packages

Use suggested items and bundles to cross-sell additional products to your customers. This technique is especially effective for shoppers looking to grab a few last minute stocking fillers.

5. Test your infrastructure

The festive seasons see an upturn in traffic and it’s important to prepare for this influx. Checking now that your servers can handle sudden spikes in demand and usage is key to ensuring customers have a quick and reliable experience. Test, test and test the systems and ensure you have taken steps to monitor and improve on your conversion funnel as small changes here can make big impacts to the bottom line.

6. Engaging e-marketing

The use of e-marketing material has been around for years, but the quality and quantity has become increasingly important. Using these mediums to showcase festive favourites and offer inspiration through image-based and video gift guides can add value to the customer experience. However, remember that you don’t want to antagonise customers by issuing too much correspondence, so strategically plan the timing of this communication to ensure maximum impact.

7. Prepare for seasonal peaks

Planning has such an important role to play in getting the best out of your campaign, so ensure you set adequate time aside for this. Highlight the key seasonal hot dates, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday or last delivery dates; with Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast becoming essential days in many retail calendars, it’s vital to make the right provisions for them, so you’re not left behind.

8. Customer service is king

Our cousins across the pond excel at customer service and with so many review sites and ways to proof a company on social media; it’s becoming increasingly important in the UK. Ensuring that your customer service team meet the highest demands and help customers to receive the service and journey they desire, will largely benefit your business. Prepare for the increase in volume and spikes in activity; ensuring there is adequate cover and training during this hectic period.

9. Get social

With so many companies all fighting for the same pound, it’s critical that your offering resonates with your audience and delivers a valuable message. At toxicfox.co.uk we talk to our customers on social media and view this as an integral part of our online strategy, especially at Christmas. Planning the release of specialist content, along with offering a friendly and social atmosphere can help build brand loyalty, customer retention and aid finding new customers.

10. Always be prepared

Remember that for retailers, it’s Christmas Day every day. It’s important to stay on top of festive planning; particularly now as the season of goodwill and gift giving is well on its way.