From Halloween, through to Christmas and New Year, navigating the numerous shopping peaks the busy final quarter of the year presents can be tough for any retailer.
But, for those in the home and garden sector, the festive season is about so much more than baubles and fairy lights. Whether consumers are preparing to hold Christmas parties or host families, it’s an opportune moment to make those last-minute fix-ups, so their homes are ready for the celebrations.
With 22 million active monthly users across the country browsing and buying on the site, Ebay has unparalleled insight into how the UK shops. And, by analysing our shopper data, we found that, ahead of Christmas, searches in the Home, Furniture & DIY category on the site spike as early as October and remain elevated until December. Last year, the week of November 11 signalled the “peak week” for sellers in the sector, with searches reaching a seasonal high.
Understanding shopper behaviour and the triggers behind waves of consumer excitement are critical considerations for retailers when it comes to planning and stocking inventory ahead of peak season. And this busy period can mean make or break for businesses vying for their share of shopper spend in an ever more crowded landscape.
Here are three top tips to cut through the noise this Christmas.
1. Use online retail to reach a wide, and sometimes last-minute, audience
The real beauty of having an online store is the ability to take your business well beyond the confines of a physical showroom, reaching customers across the country, or even around the world. With shopping increasingly transitioning from the high-street to online, having a digital presence can grow your potential customer base almost exponentially.
But it’s certainly not all about geography. Customers often shop online for its flexibility; they want the option to shop wherever they are, and whenever they can – which is often on the move, and right at the last minute. With shoppers buying their furniture right up until the eleventh hour, any retailer looking to come out on top this peak season needs to have an easy to navigate (and fully mobile optimised) online platform and adequately stocked inventory.
2. Make your listings stand out from the crowd
When faced with fierce competition during peak season, consider how to make your online store and its products grab shoppers’ attention.
Begin by using high resolution, well-lit, photographs of your inventory to demonstrate to customers that your products are high quality. And ensure you provide plenty of details about the products listed – not only will this serve to reassure shoppers of your authenticity, but it will also help search engines locate your listings.
On Ebay.co.uk, the most popular search term in the Garden & Patio category in the run up to Christmas last year was “shed”, with “hot tub” coming in third and accumulating more than 23,000 searches in the first two weeks of December. With a flurry of shoppers preparing to buy big ticket items to make their – or their loved ones’ – Christmas wishes come true, retailers simply can’t afford to miss out, and the listings with appealing photos and informative descriptions are much more alluring.
3. Factor in affordable delivery and easy returns
It’s not always easy to do, but increasingly customers are coming to expect a generous delivery and returns process, and they’re selecting the retailers they shop with based on their offer. For consumers, one of the greatest risks with online shopping is not being happy with a purchase and having to tackle the burden of a cumbersome returns process. Convenience is one of the most important factors for today’s time-poor online shoppers and, by offering a simple policy, with easy and fast returns that helps make their lives easier, you’ll reap the rewards of a loyal base of returning customers.
However, with the extra pressure peak season places on both your business and delivery networks, communication is key to avoid disappointing customers. Whether it’s amending estimated delivery and dispatch times, temporarily changing your returns policy, or informing customers of limited holiday opening times, make sure your shoppers are kept aware of any changes in service, well in advance.