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Preparing your online shop for ‘smaller’ holidays

It’s 2015 and the anarchy of Cyber Monday and Black Friday are, for the most part, a distant memory. As Christmas is the make or break period for many online retailers, it’s only natural that the bulk of preparatory work and effort centres on the lead up to December. Many online retailers would be forgiven for using January to relax and take stock of the year ahead. However, Christmas is not the be all and end all of holiday periods that can boost sales. Valentine’s Day and Easter are fast approaching and each brings a huge opportunity for online retailers as well.

For online retailers selling lingerie, Valentine’s Day is clearly a day they should well prepare. However, simply having products for sale on its website is not enough. The online retail sector is an increasingly competitive place and users are getting savvier at targeting the best online offerings. Therefore, in addition to an inbound marketing approach, it is relevant to deploy many of the tactics used during Christmas for ‘smaller’ holidays.

Unless thousands of pounds are spent on SEO, it’s difficult for an online retailer to drive visitors directly to its website. Therefore, one of the keys to success is getting products distributed far and wide so that as many consumers see them as possible. One of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to do this is via online international marketplaces. Unlike at Christmas when it makes sense to adopt a complete multi-marketplace distribution strategy, for specific days like Valentine’s Day, it can be more efficient to focus on ‘specialist’ marketplaces that concentrate on lingerie and fashion, for example, in France, La Redoute, Brand Alley, Galeries Lafayette, or Zalando in Germany. However, the important factor to consider is that many buyers looking for gifts during a holiday like Valentine’s Day or, to a lesser extent, Easter and Halloween, will visit websites on a one-off basis and will generally visit a number of marketplaces. Selling products on only one marketplace, no matter how large its consumer base, is a flawed strategy.

Of course, many online retailers are put off 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 marketplace management platforms that can centralise and automate this process, and ensure that product lines are put in front of new and qualified audiences. As the process is automated via advanced programmes, the marketing campaign can be tailored to maximise value.

If you don’t have technology in place, it’s essential to start researching and speaking to experts in the area as soon as possible. This will ensure that the best technology is in place well ahead of key dates like Valentine’s Day and any teething problems are ironed out. Having advanced knowledge of the marketing campaign will also enable you to buy new product lines to close any gaps in your offering.

The most successful multi-channel retailers choose an assortment of their product catalogue to distribute across a range of specialist and general marketplaces. By carefully controlling the price and promotions and shipping, the most attractive offerings can be tailored to each marketplace. In addition, by choosing renowned marketplaces which offer additional services such as customer service and delivery, online retailers can make substantial savings on infrastructure costs and enable much more efficient delivery of products to customers. This is particularly important for short-tail holidays where consumers tend to only buy presents a few days in advance. Although the product volumes are much lower than Christmas there can be a much bigger strain on an online retailer’s infrastructure. Leveraging the organisation and a capacity of a marketplace will help to ensure that purchases make it to their destination on time. After all, a late gift, particularly for Valentine’s Day, is a recipe for trouble.

For retailers seeking to distribute their products across Europe, a useful tool is European Article Number (EAN) matching. This means that merchants do not need to translate their product data into different languages. They input one data set with an EAN and the marketplace does the rest. Many marketplaces such as PriceMinister, Cdiscount, Rakuten, FNAC and Rue du Commerce offer EAN matching.

Being adequately prepared for every holiday will not only provide a short-term boost in sales it should also have the halo effect of reaching millions of potential new customers and encouraging them to return to your store continuously. Therefore, making sure your customers have the best possible purchase experience is crucial. Doing the basics of ensuring that products on your site are still in stock, that delivery and customer service are speedy and efficient, and that product information and offers are localised is fundamental to avoid being blacklisted by marketplaces. Targeting the wider European consumer base and ensuring your products are seen far and wide via online marketplaces is the edge that will make every holiday feel like Christmas for your business.