Christmas eCommerce checklist: 5 ways to get beyond the basics

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Christmas is the biggest shopping event of the year, with the consumers spending over £2 billion on presents for each other and festive food for family meals.

The convenience of skipping long queues and of searching the internet for a specific gift has made online shopping an important part of Christmas for modern families. UK online shoppers spend on average of almost £300 each purchasing goods at Christmas.

According to research commissioned by Royal Mail, the majority of this online shopping takes place between 15th November to 13th December. To capitalise on this shopping frenzy,  brands invest an incredible amount of money designing and producing special Christmas products, packaging and advertising campaigns. However, if they are not on the first page of search or taxonomy then they are unlikely to be bought online. Peak sales in just one month is a short time to generate ROI for all the special Christmas campaigns. Execution has to be perfect first time.

However, it is not just special Christmas products and gift-packs that see spikes in sales due to the season. Core SKUs such as washing up liquid also see increases in sales due to the surge in people shopping, so brands need to ensure they are set up online to maximise this. Online shoppers are not walking the aisles so the opportunities to ad hoc adds to basket are fewer than in-store.  

To really succeed online during the peak season, your brand needs to stand out from the crowd. This means going beyond the basics. By following these 5 recommendations you can take your products to the next level.

1. How to ensure gift packs are added to baskets

Christmas gift-packs are a tremendous opportunity as they drive revenue by selling additional complimentary products alongside the best sellers and create an ongoing demand for repeat purchases of your wider range of SKUs.

i. Differentiate the shopper from the consumer

Shoppers buying gifts for loved ones at Christmas is a big driver of sales. This shopper journey creates a challenge for brands, as when describing their products and positioning them in the market, brands always focus on their consumer. If the product is being purchased by someone else, then all the effort that goes into targeting the consumer is misplaced. The effort that goes into encouraging the shopper journey can have a confusing effect if encountered by a different demographic to the intended audience.

An opportunity can grow here for smart marketers. A product like perfume is an example of a good Christmas gift that is often purchased by a different person from that which you might think. Often men who are oblivious to the marketing and branding of a perfume would buy the gift for their: mothers, or sisters, or daughters, or girlfriends, or wives. There is an opportunity to target in-store or on-site promotions and advertising to men buying gifts for women. Especially if the shopper is not as much of an expert in the category as the consumer, seeing a simple answer to their confusion can be a very effective driver of conversion.  E.g. using words like “Best Seller” can give confused shoppers confidence.

2. How to increase new product visibility

Christmas gift-packs struggle to achieve visibility online on the first page. Many retailer algorithms rank based on sales rates, so a newly launched gift-pack with zero sales will find it hard to get on the first page of search among the regular SKUs in the category.    

i. Tag your Gift-packs to as many shelves as possible

Work with your online retailer team to ensure your seasonal product is tagged not only to the usual category but also to the inspirational Christmas pages, to gifting pages, and in other areas they may be relevant to.

ii. Include all the keywords

As well as ensuring you have included the copy for a really compelling reason to sell the benefits of buying the product, make sure that your product marketing includes as many Christmas specific key words as possible (Christmas, Xmas, Kids, Gifts, gifts-for-her, etc) this will give you much more chance of winning in search. A plan for contextual keywords is just as important to capture the wider traffic coming through to the website.

3. How to encourage adds to basket

i. “You make also like”

Two of the most prevalent shopper journeys over the Christmas period are gift buying and food shopping. When shoppers are building a basket for their large family dinners, they will be buying groceries they are not used to (such as Brussel Sprouts) and so will be open to relevant suggestions. Similarly when shoppers are buying gifts for loved ones, they like the option to build their own gift-sets by purchasing several smaller gifts that compliment each other. The retailer website will be set up to encourage these cross-sells with product specific and Christmas related tags. Ensure that your products are linked to complementary products to take advantage of the retailer encouraging cross-sells.

ii. Digital Advertising at multiple stages of the online shopper’s journey

The exposure for promoted products on retailers sites over the Christmas period will be vastly increased due to the huge surge in traffic. We know that 49% of online shopper journeys start with a keyword search in Amazon. Competing for keyword search terms over the Christmas gift buying period will exponentially increase eyes on your products.

However advertising just in Amazon’s product search engine would miss out on the other half of the online shopping audience. Due to the increasing amount of people shopping through their mobile phone, Google has become the start of 36% of shopper journeys.  Covering keywords for your brand and products on both Google and Amazon will cast a wide net over the online shopping ecosystem.

A lot of the shopper journeys starting with a Google search will be shoppers researching product information and reviews for items they are unfamiliar with but are planning to buy as a gift for someone else.


To ensure your brand is front of mind and highly visible when shoppers are making decisions, promote your products at multiple touch-points from:

- The research stage on search engines

- Keyword searches in online marketplaces

- Content and product description on product pages

- The recommendation section during checkout

4. How to extend the Christmas shopping peak season

Every year Christmas boosts profits and revenues, why not make this shopping cycle last beyond this window of opportunity?

You can facilitate the shopping behaviours of both early and late shoppers by making their lives easier, here’s how to target both ends of the spectrum.

i. Early Shoppers

The delivery slots for major retailers are available 12 weeks in advance.

If you make your Christmas products and your core SKUs available 3 months before Christmas, then the products can be added to baskets and favourites lists months before purchase. This keeps your products front of mind as well as preventing competitors from getting the shoppers attention first.

ii. Last Minute Shoppers

There will always be people who leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. Before the proliferation of online shopping this would have involved panicked driving around all night leading to disappointment. Now that Amazon has made next-day and even same-day delivery ubiquitous, shoppers have come to expect this level of rapid service from all online retailers. As a result of this, more people are leaving it until just a few days before Christmas to buy gifts for their loved ones, and decorations, and festive food for the occasion. This kind of last minute shopping can only be reliably achieved online, so it is possible for brands to target these shoppers with deals and recommendations to extend the Christmas shopping sales surges for longer.


If you sell products on Amazon, make sure your products are Prime Eligible to enable next-day and same-day delivery. To achieve this even if your own logistics network usually takes care of deliveries, send at least some of your inventory to the Fulfilled By Amazon warehouses. This will make your products eligible for the FBA program and take full advantage of Amazon’s rapid delivery infrastructure.

5. How to Create Accurate and Ambitious Seasonal Sales Forecasting

i. Collaborate with the retailers

A lot of brands will get caught out with having too few products in their available inventory. Make sure you don’t fall into this trap. Sales volume can be multitudes higher during Christmas than normal for some categories. Losing sales due to low inventory is just a waste of the marketing budget that made the shopper look for your products.

ii. Click for substitutes

Check that your product will be substituted correctly with another from your own range in Favourites lists so you don’t lose your regular shoppers if a product or a variation runs out of stock.  There is also potential for your products to be substituted in place of your competitors if their SKU runs out of stock due to inaccurate forecasting. Collaboration between the retailer buyers and your online team can set up your brands as the replacements for competitors and even steal sales from the brand leaders.

Get your whole eCommerce strategy beyond the basics

Make sure that you follow these 5 recommendations to ensure your brand will be in a great position to benefit from the Christmas shopping festival. With smart tools you can derive action from data to take your eCommerce strategy beyond fixing the basics. A sign of significant growth is when you’re disrupting and expanding your category which doesn’t require a data expert, but instead just the right capabilities that can quickly and easily upskill your teams. Do you have the tool and insights to help you do this?

Bring your 2019 category strategy alive

Find out how the E Fundamentals platform brings together actionable insights to drive your category expansion online. Talk to Charlotte Varney today.


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Charlotte Varney