Greg Zemor, Co-Founder of marketplace distribution solution Neteven, discusses how and when e-commerce companies should make preparations for Christmas
Every November consumers comment on how shops seem to put up Christmas decorations and sell festive goods earlier each year. As we all know, these shopping aisles full of Christmas-related merchandise are the product of planning that took place much earlier. However, for smaller e-commerce businesses, there can be a perception that, due to the inherent flexibility of online stores, the planning process does not need to be as long or as detailed. The truth, which many online retailers have learnt to their cost, is that you cannot be over-prepared for Christmas.
For online retailers, getting their ducks in a row for Christmas needs to go beyond simply over-stocking on existing product lines. The best approach is to see the festive season as a completely different phase in the life of an online shop. This can mean catering for different product lines, adjusting product delivery structures and, crucially, reviewing the online marketing and product distribution strategy.
After all, the online retail environment is incredibly competitive, and from November onwards, competition is ratcheted up to a whole new level. For ten months of the year, it may be appropriate for a shop to only use one marketplace to market products, for example, Amazon. However, this approach throughout November and December can be unnecessarily limiting, as it cuts off an entire section of prospective online consumers. The important factor is that festive shoppers, by and large, will visit websites on a one-off basis in search of presents and therefore, will generally visit a multitude of marketplaces. Placing a shop’s products on one marketplace, no matter how large its consumer base, is an inherently flawed strategy.
To maximise the consumer base, an online shop necessitates a multi-marketplace marketing strategy. Of course, many shop owners would baulk at the thought of the cost and time needed to distribute their goods on several marketplaces at once. However, there are now a whole host of marketing platforms that can automate this process and ensure that product lines are put in front of a new audience over the Christmas period. As the process is automated via advanced programmes, the marketing campaign can be tailored to maximise value, even if there is only a small budget available.
To get the right technology for your shop, it is crucial to start researching and speaking to marketing companies now. This will make sure that the best technology is in place well ahead of the Christmas rush and any teething problems are ironed out. Having advanced knowledge of the marketing campaign will also enable online shop owners to buy new product lines to plug gaps in their offering.
Getting in front of a new audience during Christmas is just a small part of the preparation work needed to ensure an online retailer is competitive. A surge in new customers usually requires additional infrastructure such as customer service, multiple online payment options and a flexible parcel delivery offering. Many marketplaces offer in house customer service, which is particularly useful if a shop is working on a pan-European or global basis and has to cater to customers speaking a multitude of languages. Similarly, researching and instructing parcel delivery and online payment companies well in advance of November will make it easier to secure a better deal.
Such is the number of e-commerce companies providing services to online retailers, that there is little excuse for a shop to have gaps in its offering or poor service – especially over Christmas. Generally, the more preparation that is undertaken in the run up to Christmas, the more competitive the online shop will become. A limited budget is also not an excuse, it simply requires more preparation, research and negotiation with vendors to get the right services in place.