The Christmas season comes but once a year, and for nearly three quarters of UK retailers, Christmas accounts for at least 20% of annual sales ((“Online Retail Survey 2015 – Marketing Land.” 2015. 1 Aug. 2016 )). When a single shopping period can make or break a business’ entire fiscal year, it goes without saying that it’s important to get it right.

Planning ahead is only effective if your plans are in line with actual consumer behaviour. For example, it’s en vogue to emphasise the rise of eCommerce spending during the Christmas season, and certainly this trend shouldn’t be overlooked. However, according to the 2016 MasterCard Omnishopper guide, while online sales are rising year over year, eCommerce as a percentage of total retail sales has yet to break 10% globally ((“The Retail CMO’s Guide to the Omnishopper – MasterCard WorldWide…” 2015. 12 Jul. 2016)). With this is mind, it makes more sense for brick-and-mortar businesses to devote their Christmas resources to optimising for the 90% of sales they can expect to conduct in person.

But strategising to attract customers to your physical locations does not mean ignoring your online channels. Far from it. In fact, maintaining a consistent and up-todate online presence can make all the difference when it comes to footfall traffic, particularly during the Christmas season.

According to Google, 76% of consumers who use their smartphones to perform a near-me search will visit a related business within 24 hours, and 28% convert into a purchase ((“How Mobile Search Connects Consumers to Stores – Think with Google.” 2016. 12 Jul. 2016)).

Businesses need to take advantage of this opportunity to optimise their local search results — influencing high-intent consumers right when they are in decision-making mode, and driving them through their front doors. These are just a few steps that you can take straight away.

Update Your Christmas Hours

Depending on your industry (and your personal Christmas schedule) chances are your store hours will be altered in some way during the Christmas season. Whether you are extending your hours, cutting them back — or not changing them at all — it’s imperative that you confirm your listed hours of operation for every upcoming holiday.

Updating your special hours is more important than ever because Google now alerts searchers to whether holiday hours are confirmed or not ((“Tis the season: Google brings holiday hours to … – Google Maps Blog.” 2016. 12 Jul. 2016. )).

Make Sure Your Location Information Is Consistent Everywhere

60% of smartphone owners plan to use their devices to find store locations during the Christmas season ((“Deloitte’s 2015 holiday survey.” 2015. 12 Jul. 2016)). Location has become essential to the mobile experience and to many of the most popular mobile apps.

With consumers’ increasing reliance on ride-sharing services like Uber to get where they need to go, it’s more important than ever to have your location data accurate online. It’s important for each piece of the shopper’s journey — from using your store locator to checking-in — to be seamless.

Make Your Locations Stand Out

You invest in Christmas advertising and in cultivating the right in-store experience. Customer-facing location data on your website, directory listings, and social pages is the connection point between the two — so you’ve got to make sure those results look good, have clear calls to action, and entice consumers to convert searches into visits. According to Google, three in four shoppers who find helpful information in search results are more likely to visit a store ((“New Research Shows How Digital Connects Shoppers to Local Stores …” 2014. 12 Jul. 2016)).

Cater To Omnichannel Shoppers

A recent Google study found that 82% of shoppers say they consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in a store ((“5 Ways Consumers Connect to Stores With Mobile Shopping – Think …” 2016. 12 Jul. 2016)). Your digital channels and physical locations are not in competition with each other. Smartphones are now an important part of the in-store experience. Just as you should harness your online presence to facilitate offline sales, you should also use your stores as an opportunity to increase customer engagement online. Last year, “Click and Collect” was a major trend. This year, look for your customers to follow every possible path to purchase.

Respond To Reviews & Give Customers Confidence

During the gift-giving season, people tend to venture outside their comfort zones, with more than half of all shoppers saying they are open to buying from a new retailer ((“5 Holiday Shopping Trends to Watch in 2015 – Think with Google.” 2015. 12 Jul. 2016 )).

By publicly engaging with customer feedback across review sites, search engines, and social media, you’ll fill new customers with confidence — in both the services and products you offer, and in your attentiveness to customer satisfaction.

Target Last-Minute Shoppers

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday get a lot of attention, according to RetailMeNot’s 2015 Shoppers Trend Report11, nearly one in three consumers wait until the week of Christmas to do most of their Christmas shopping. Last minute shoppers behave differently than their counterparts who plan ahead. They are less likely to comparison shop and even more reliant on their smartphones compared to early shoppers who may do research at home on their desktops. These shoppers look to get the information they need quickly and don’t have time to spend searching around.

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