| 18.7°C Dublin

How to prepare your ecommerce store for a very digital Christmas

Alan O'Neill


'The challenge for you with your online store is how to stand out in a very crowded marketplace.' (stock image)

'The challenge for you with your online store is how to stand out in a very crowded marketplace.' (stock image)

'The challenge for you with your online store is how to stand out in a very crowded marketplace.' (stock image)

Given the state of the world with Covid-19 and our own national lockdown until early December, it's going to be a digital Christmas for sure. Take note, many industry experts predict that online sales will account for 40pc of all Christmas purchases this year.

Today, I'm going to focus on those who have already invested and now want to exploit the channel to save Christmas and to maximize sales.

The challenge for you with your online store is how to stand out in a very crowded marketplace. In the world of bricks and mortar (which of course has not and never will go away, it's just temporarily interrupted due to Covid-19) your competition was more manageable and transparent.

Now, with your online shop window having to compete with massive and numerous global players with endless aisles, the game has significantly changed. Government ministers, Retail Excellence Ireland and many others are appealing to consumers to spend locally this year. But don't rely on that green-jersey battle cry. There is so much that you can and have to do yourself.


The skills that have already made you a great retailer will work here too, with some tweaking.

Whether it's website design or digital marketing, I always turn to Jeff Sheridan and his powerhouse team in Matrix Internet. He and I had a good chat this week to come up with a collection of nuggets to help you get your fair share of digital sales this Christmas.


"Know what customers you are targeting" said Sheridan. "Create about five different profiles or avatars and anticipate what their buying motives might be." A customer buying a couch next week will undoubtedly want it for Christmas - let them know you can deliver on that.

One reason why two-thirds of customers abandon online stores is due to slow delivery speeds. There is a natural impatience built in to the buying experience, so get purchases out as quickly as possible. It might also be worth checking your carriers' scheduling plans this season. They're going to be very busy, so don't let them prioritise other retailers over you.

Another reason for customer drop-offs is your returns policy. Check local and global competitors to identify your distinct advantage.


"Stand up, stand out, stand for something" said Sheridan. Matrix has conducted a digital audit of 160 members of the Irish Design and Craft Centre.

"Their most common omission was that they didn't tell their story," said Sheridan. "The big brands like Amazon are anonymous and product-led. Irish brands, however, have so much character and soul to express. So tell your story to inspire customers."

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of business.

This field is required

Avoca Handweavers, for example, tells its 300-year-old story and gets a premium price for its quality scarves and throws.

You should also aim to replicate your store experience online. "Your team may give wonderful personal experiences to your customers in store. You can do that online too with assisted selling through live webchat. Customers can type in their queries, which arrive to your mobile device, enabling you to give an immediate answer and direct them," said Sheridan.

Check out Tidio, for example, which is a live chat support app for real-time customer service. It's easy to set up and a free version is available.


Retailers already know the importance of up-selling and link-selling. Up-selling, for example, is where the sales assistant encourages a customer to buy a 70ml fragrance instead of a 50ml bottle. Link-selling on the other hand is about inspiring a customer to buy an additional item, such as scarf to go with the bag.

"All of this is possible too with online selling. Look at how Netflix and Amazon inspire us by telling us that buyers of a particular product also bought this…" said Sheridan

Another great tool to increase ATV is click-and-collect - now often called BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store).

Research shows that when customers go to a store to collect their online purchase, they buy additional items. This is one of the reasons why online-only brands like Amazon are opening stores in the US.


The old retail adage 'location, location, location' is well gone. For example, none of Cash and Carry Kitchens stores is near a main thoroughfare, yet they are the largest kitchen retailer in Ireland because of their spend on advertising.

This shows how progressive retailers can proactively connect with customers to draw them to their brand.

You too can attract domestic and indeed, international customers to your online store. This Christmas, it's not just about fighting for the local market; Customers the world over are influenced by great content and authenticity.

Alan O’Neill, author of Premium is the New Black is a keynote speaker and owner of Kara, specialists in strategy, culture and people development. Go to kara.ie to access a free ‘Supercharge your Sales’ online course.

Most Watched