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Exploiting extra website traffic at Christmas

The Christmas season is fundamental for retailers of practically every kind, because it represents such a huge source of income – it keeps some businesses afloat for the other 11-or-so months of the year.

More and more of us are doing our Christmas shopping online, forgoing packed car parks and overcrowded pavements. Getting your website right, and maximising conversion rates, is therefore vital.

Christmas shopping is all about buying for others – so many of us go off-piste and shop at retailers we’d never usually visit for ourselves. For online retailers, this means many website visitors are browsing your pages for the first time. Influencing how they behave on your site is easier when you understand the psychology of shopping.

As any of us can attest, shopping – whether at Christmas or not – tends to go one way or the other: it’s either a chore that’s completed against your will, or something to be savoured and enjoyed. Researchers into shopper behaviour identify shoppers as either utilitarian (shopping to complete a task) or hedonistic – shopping for the fun of it.

Hedonistic shoppers, when browsing online, are those most likely to engage with your site for an extended period, coming back time and again to enjoy your content just as much as your products. Any research you’ve carried out between January and November will tell you all about how to maximise their basket spend – and any research you’ve done in December won’t tell you about your average shopper.

That’s because far more of us have our utilitarian shopping heads on when it comes to Christmas. There are all sorts of reasons, but a lack of time (between nativity plays, Christmas parties and the odd hangover or two) is one of the bigger factors.

It also means the best ways to maximise spend can, at first glance, contradict everything we think we know about shopper behaviour – reducing the amount of time shoppers spend on your site by streamlining your checkout process, for instance. Ideally, your whole site would benefit from being redesigned for utilitarian shoppers – during December, at least.

Creating a special seasonal site could prove prohibitively expensive for many smaller retailers, but there are still lessons to be learned about meeting utilitarian shoppers’ needs, and making sure no basket is abandoned.

For example, shoppers will bolt if they can’t find what they want quickly and conveniently. By forcing customers to battle with unnecessary sign-in screens and counterintuitive search facilities, or drowning product in a sea of content, you’re putting barriers in front of their cash.

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