Quick tips to boost online holiday sales

There’s no time like the present for thinking about holiday presents…and your Web presence during the holidays. That was the underlying theme of a panel discussion entitled “Last-Minute Site Enhancements to Create Small Wins for Your Busy Season” at the August eTail 2006 show in Philadelphia.

Felix Danziger, vice president, direct and business-to-business for personal-care products cataloger/retailer L’Occitane, emphasized the importance of ensuring an optimal customer experience, especially because during the holiday season orders touch not only the customer but also the gift recipient. For that reason, he advised carefully proofreading all gift messages included with orders, even those typed in by Web customers themselves. Two years ago, he said, L’Occitane received complaints about missing words and incomplete messages, a situation the company has corrected by being more diligent.

Jay Shaffer, vice president of marketing for furnishings merchant DirectlyHome.com, added that you should remind gift-givers — online as well as via your contact center order-takers — to include their name on the gift message. Customers generally assume that their name will be included on the message or elsewhere in the package, but unless they specify it on the gift card, it generally isn’t.

Other tips from the panel:

  • Keep an extra close eye on your paid search efforts during your busy season, suggested Brad Wolansky, director, e-commerce for outdoor gear and apparel cataloger/retailer The Orvis Co. With inventory status changing so quickly during the holidays, your search feeds and programs could end up bidding on terms for products that you no longer have in stock — something that he admitted occasionally happened at Orvis.

  • “Make sure your marketing plan is day by day, rather than week by week or month by month,” Danziger said. This way you can spot and react to any problems much more quickly.

  • If you offer gift-wrapping, show what it looks like on your site and in your catalog.

  • “Think about what marketing messages you have out there year-round and whether you should back off on them” during your peak season, Shaffer said. For instance, if you normally offer a lowest-price guarantee, you might be wise to drop it during the holidays, when price isn’t as significant a driver. As Danziger noted, as the holidays get closer, “price is less important than ensuring that the present will get there and that it’s the right present.”

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