The 2009 Christmas holiday season is likely to be one of the most challenging shopping seasons online retailers have ever faced. The economic recession has turned even the most generous spenders into cost-conscious consumers.

So, how are you preparing for this Christmas season? Are you and your website ready to captialise on the shopping rush?

Here are a few questions to think about, as you prepare for the final six months of the year:

1. Do you know your online customers?

By ‘know’ I mean really know them well. Do you know how often they shop with you? What’s their average spend? What are their likes and dislikes? Do you know anything about their family unit? What about their age, sex or other demographic information? Is your knowledge restricted to the last known action on your website?

If you are using a session-based reporting package like Google Analytics or similar, then you probably know what the visitors have done in each session but it is unlikely that you know much about the customer and their activity across their multiple visits to your site. If so, then you don’t really know your online customers, you just know what they are doing in discrete visits… there is a huge difference.

2. Are your special offers personalised, relevant and timely?

How do you decide which products to recommend as up-sell or cross-sell opportunities? When do you make the up-sell or cross-sell recommendation? Who do you recommend the up-sell to? Does someone in the marketing or merchandising team decide that “this goes with that, so here is our cross-sell offer and ship it to everyone on the mailing list”? Or do you dive deeply into what your customers are telling you based on the products they look at together or buy together and then make specific targeted offers to individuals based on what you know about them?

A leading online retailer from Europe recently put it this way:

“By segmenting visitors based on behaviour and tailoring email content accordingly, we are able to deliver highly personalised messages that generate much higher open rates, conversion rates, and revenue per email. We’re also better able to accommodate secondary offers that are available in our boutiques. Instead of trying to second-guess our customers, we can present them with offers that we know will interest them.”

By making personalised, relevant and timely offers in a recent email campaign, this company saw a conversion rate 17 times higher and the revenue per email 25 times higher than their earlier approaches.

3. Do you know which campaigns really work?

How are you measuring your online campaigns? Did you know that it generally takes between four and eight interactions with your site before someone actually converts to becoming a customer? What is the average number of visits on your site for each customer before they convert?

If a customer gets an email from you, then uses your site for a shopping comparison, clicks a banner ad and then comes back a week later through an organic search (couldn’t remember the web address but found you again through Google), where do you attribute the value of the marketing campaign? If you’re in the same boat as many online marketers in Australia, you’ll use a ‘last click’ approach.

The problem with this is you’re not giving due relevance to the email campaign, the comparison and the banner ad – that is, you don’t really have a clue about which marketing campaigns are actually working or not.

If you don’t really know how each of your campaigns are working and how they interact with each other to bring customers to the site and help them convert, how can you replicate those that are working best?


These are three very simple and easy sets of questions to think about, and they’re going to arm you with knowledge that will make a big difference to your 2009 Christmas.

Know your customers, know the product relationships and know which campaigns work – then replicate what works and dump what’s not working.