by Stratton Craig

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There are 54 days to Christmas.
Shoppers, that’s just eight Saturdays left to brave the crowds.
However, if you’re anything like me, you may prefer to find the best bargains online. According to consumer analysts Mintel, one in five people (20%) plan to shop online for gifts, with the top three reasons given last year:
1. to get cheaper prices (55%);
2. to avoid the crowds (49%); and
3. to shop when it suited them (49%).
What does Christmas mean for brands?
With more and more people heading online in the run-up to the festive period (and let’s face it, the supermarkets seem to think this started in August!), brands need to ensure they provide the best online experience. In simple terms, this means making sure sites are easy to navigate and make purchasing quick and easy.
Which? polled 10,000 of their readers to find the best, and worst, online shops and we think there are five key lessons to learn from the results. A little known cosmetics site, Allbeauty.com came top due to its deals, selection of products and fast delivery. Whereas telecoms company EE sits bottom of the table for the second year running due to a hard-to-navigate website and poor deliveries.
Five ways to improve your website
So here are our top five tips for ensuring your website is at the top of the Christmas wish list for consumers.
1. Everyone knows that at Christmas it’s the shop windows with the most sparkle that entice the customer in. You just have to walk down Oxford Street, London, to see the fantastic displays from the likes of Selfridges, John Lewis and House of Fraser to know there’s big competition. So why shouldn’t your online shop window be just the same. Be clear about who you are, what you’re selling and why you’re different to everyone else. The design needs to be good and the content even better.
2. We all hate the way you have to walk through the whole IKEA store to find your one item but nine times out of ten you’ll pick up something else along the way. And that’s exactly why they do it. The same goes for your website. It needs to be easy to navigate. Make any diversions subtle yet interesting and powerful, and make getting back on the purchasing track incredibly easy with as few steps as possible.
3. The likes of John Lewis always top the leader boards for overall customer satisfaction and one of the reasons is because their staff know the products. A great way to do this online is through blogs and other social media platforms. Pick out some quirky details about your products, their origin or guides on how to use them. Anything that shows you know, and care, about the products you’re selling. If your site becomes a go-to for knowledge then your site visits and time spent there are going to soar and that in turn should mean an increase in sales.
4. Fall in love with Google. Google is like your tourist information board, the man dressed as a lobster holding the sign for the local tanning salon, the road map, the policeman giving directions. It will lead your customers straight to your top product if you want it to and you give it reason to. Get to grips with Google, its various tools and how you can use them to get the very best customers. Google’s not going away anytime soon so embrace it and you’ll find it could lead to a serious increase in sales.
5. Every shopper loves a bargain. One of the main reasons Allbeauty was voted top was its deals on products. A website can only do so much. In the end you need to understand what your unique proposition is, whether that’s the best price, the best customer service, the quirkiest products or the quickest delivery.
Happy Christmas.com!

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