Last year, consumers turned to the Internet in increasing numbers to do their Christmas shopping. Anyone who has fought the bag-carrying hordes on Oxford Street in December can see the appeal of a faster, more convenient and cheaper alternative. However, websites need to be prepared if they are to secure sales and capitalise on the increased traffic during the coming Christmas season.
Increased traffic gives sites the opportunity to increase brand awareness, as long as visitors’ experiences are positive. During an online shopping session the brand becomes tangible. It manifests itself in the time pages take to download, the simplicity of the navigation, the completeness of the catalogue, payment procedures and in the delivery options and promptness. Websites must take care of these “hygiene” factors first.
Brand awareness itself can be achieved not only through logo, colours and typography, but also through messages woven into the copy. After a 15-minute visit consumers should not only have enjoyed their shopping experience but should also leave the site with key brand messages in mind. These might include “rational” messages such as “The largest collection of products” and “Hassle free product-return policy”, and emotional messages such as “All you will ever need for your home”.
Christmas traffic also offers an opportunity to capture consumer data, perhaps through a Christmas gift list and delivery service. However, the real potential lies in what happens when the festivities are over. The retailer’s long-term objectives must be to convert seasonal visitors into regular customers. One way to nurture these relationships beyond a short-lived Christmas shopping spree is to look at the marketing strategies used by offline retailers, such as store cards, seasonal catalogues and exclusive offers.
Ultimately, the success of shopping sites this Christmas will depend upon human qualities – honesty, courtesy and empathy. Sites must not over-promise and under-deliver. If the feel of the homepage suggests a lifestyle magazine, the site cannot deliver a dry, industrial catalogue. If there are postage charges, the site must say so. Finally, not only must delivery arrangements take account of the fact that consumers work all day, but if the website promises 48-hour delivery, it must not deliver Christmas gifts in February.
Yannis Marcou is creative vice-president of I-traffic London