In the lead-up to Christmas, retail stores and shopping centres might look a little different this year. Instead of the crowds we are used to seeing, many people may continue to shop from home. Research shows that consumers want to support local businesses when shopping online, but many feel that small businesses have a limited online presence. Here, we look at five ways your business can prepare to trade online this festive season.
Make sure your website is up to scratch
Your website is essential for helping new customers find you. Think of it as your online showroom – just as you might spruce up your window display or the stock on your floor for Christmas shoppers, you should review your website in preparation for more visitors. Check that product or service descriptions are clear and easy to understand, especially for new customers who might not be familiar with your business and its offering. It’s worth checking that all links and buttons are working and that the site is easy to navigate. It’s important that customers can find what they are looking for and make a quick purchase if they want to.
Create a customer service plan
As shoppers compare offers and search for gifts, it’s likely that the volume of customer enquiries will increase during the busy Christmas period. Many consumers prefer to engage with small and medium businesses online, so there could be ways to simplify this process so you’re not replying to emails in your downtime. Adding a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to your website could help provide answers to common enquiries, and you could use social media to keep customers updated with special deals or information about how you will be trading over the holidays.
Define your delivery options
With delivery volumes expected to surge this Christmas, Australia Post is warning shoppers to place orders early to make sure their packages will arrive on time. To give customers the best experience of your business, it’s worth considering how you will be sending parcels, how you will be providing status updates on deliveries, and whether you will be offering the option to click and collect. There are many delivery options available – it’s just a matter of choosing one that suits your business. You could even consider outsourcing it to a third-party shipping provider.
Use the opportunity to capture more customer data
The lead up to Christmas is often the busiest time of year, so thinking about capturing data from customers now can have great benefits in the future. In fact, most consumers don’t mind sharing their data - as long as businesses use it to deliver better products, services or experiences. Data collection might sound daunting, but there are low-cost Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software options available and simple strategies that can help turn new customers into loyal ones. By capturing email addresses, you can grow your database for online marketing campaigns – like post-Christmas sales. And by capturing a person’s date of birth, you can send them an annual birthday offer to encourage them to shop with you again. If you do choose to collect data to help with customer loyalty, it’s vital that you understand and implement measures to store it securely.
Keep up your cyber security
At this time of year, there is a high volume of data being exchanged online – including credit card payments, email sign-ups and personal information captured through sales. Cyber criminals are often looking to take advantage of these information exchanges if they aren’t managed securely. Be wary of online scams and common types of threats – like phishing emails that prompt you to enter your personal information – which can expose you and your business to an attack. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is a great resource to help you understand common threats. If you’re unsure of how cyber-secure your business is, it might be worth hiring an expert to advise you on how you can improve.
Despite the challenges that the pandemic has brought for many small and medium businesses, now is the time to make the most of eCommerce and use digital tools to help you succeed. These five areas can help prepare you for the Christmas rush and help you optimise how you trade online in the long run.