A Merry Christmas for online retailers.


Christmas is well and truly over. The presents have been opened (and some returned), mince pies are all gone and the tree is back in the loft. That’s the home scenario, but was it a happy Christmas for online business?

Shoppers in the UK used their mobiles to hit the 2014 Christmas sales from the comfort of their own settees. According to its Christmas trading figures, John Lewis saw clearance sales on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day up 19% over last year, peaking at 9.00pm on Christmas Day as people shopped from smartphones and tablets while “watching Downton Abbey,” the retailer reported.

John Lewis also saw a boom in click and collect, with 56% of online orders being collected in shops, overtaking home delivery this Christmas. John Lewis has proven itself to be at the forefront of digital strategy, and Dan Wagner, CEO of Powa Technologies, said that “…the rest of the high street would do well to take note. The fact that [John Lewis] is planning new stores despite an incredible 19% jump in online sales demonstrates that a strong omni-channel approach is key to success today, as does click-and-collect overtaking home deliveries.

“Shoppers still enjoy the traditional browsing experience, but they have now taken control of their journey and demand the ability to complete and receive purchases on their own terms. Those retailers who have ignored this sweeping change over the last year are in for a very gloomy start to 2015,” commented Wagner.

However, a YouGov report has found almost one in three of the UK’s online shoppers (31%) had problems with their Internet orders this Christmas. Carried out at the end of December, the survey found that 47% of the 2,398 people questioned did at least half of their shopping online. Of those who did Christmas shopping online, 18% did more than they had originally planned over the Internet. Of the 31% who said they had experienced problems, 49% had missed deliveries and 45% had experienced late deliveries or the non-arrival of goods.

“The growth of online retail in the UK shows no sign of slowing down. At the same time, customers’ service expectations are greater than ever, meaning they will simply shop elsewhere if retailers fail to meet them,” said Jason Shorrock, retail strategy director at JDA. According to Shorrock, “The Christmas shopping experience can often dictate a person’s shopping habits for the next 12 months and beyond. At a time when margins remain squeezed, retailers need to ensure they are delivering a great experience both online and in store. Those that don’t will not have much to celebrate next Christmas.”

Going forward, Nick Fletcher, of Rakuten Marketing Europe believes that the 2014 Christmas ‘mobile mop up of bargains’ heralded the beginning of retailers looking at tying together online, mobile and in-store like never before – starting with marketing. “It’s been a challenging period for the high street as customers have turned from the tills to the Internet. The high street has struggled to compete with the convenience and speed of online shopping, and with tablets on top of the gift list this year, many people enjoyed purchasing on them,” he said.

“After a competitive Christmas, it can be a struggle for retailers to get shoppers spending again in January, so offering great customer experience and targeting customers effectively through marketing is key,” said Fletcher. “For example, by implementing a re-targeting campaign, brands can reach customers based on what they have already purchased. If a shopper bought flights as a Christmas present, a retailer could follow up with hotel offers for that destination. Using data, retailers can make better decisions about how to target customers in January, and in turn drive sales by rewarding returning, loyal customers.”

It’s called the lead-up to Christmas 2015.

Here’s a couple of tips to consider for your Christmas digital marketing campaign this year. Google Analytics show that in 2014 there were 30 million searches for the abbreviation ‘Xmas’ so it’s worth optimising your product descriptions for Christmas-related search terms both ways. For exact product searches your product page’s Meta descriptions are the cheapest marketing tool around. You can optimize your product descriptions for Christmas terms and increase engagement and clicks.

Also, remember to re-brand your products as ‘gifts’ – no longer do you sell books, DVDs, clothing, handbags etc – you now sell gifts. If you have smaller products, they’re now ‘stocking fillers.’ If not, they become “the perfect Christmas gift for (insert target audience).” Then on Boxing Day you can go back to selling whatever it is that you actually sell.