Andy Bojko, MD of clothing retailer Hidepark, gives three simple tips to better online retail.

As the New Year approaches, consumers are getting ready for a frenzy of online deals as the January sales hit. However, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd in the e-commerce world. 

Of course, it is important to understand your audience, focus on your unique selling point(s) and portray this through your marketing campaigns. But during 'sale seasons' users are often willing to try out products from new businesses, providing the deal is enticing enough. This is a great opportunity to create new sales and possibly new regular customers.

The biggest challenge, as ever, is to convince users to convert their interest into purchases, especially for companies that are not household names. This can be all the more difficult if those companies have only limited resources to spend on improving conversion rates.

With that in mind, here are tips on how to make the most of the festive surge in traffic and ensure that users visits on your website can be converted into sales.

1. Trusted Payment Methods

Consumers are ever-conscious of online security and protecting their personal information from being stolen. This is especially important when paying for a product or service. The payment methods you offer on your website can be a strong indicator of trust for customers. Ensuring that you have the latest secure financial technology on your website will reassure customers that their money will be safe when they handover details and also that they will receive the products they ordered.

Offering services such as PayPal and the new ‘buy now, pay later’ service from the likes of Klarna will give customers the trust signal they are looking for in order to buy. This is especially important if they are a new user and haven’t previously engaged with your brand.

Be sure to bring the customer’s awareness to the different payment methods on offer before they reach the checkout.

2. Customer Experience

The way in which you engage with your customers is crucial. Around the sales periods, you should be targeting engaged customers across all relevant channels. This may be through offering special offers through targeted email marketing, or creating a series of paid adverts aimed at customers who have previously engaged with your brand.

This sense of repetition instills loyalty and attempts to create an experience, which will hopefully lead to more sales, but make sure your website is quick, simple to navigate and can handle an influx of traffic.

It would also be wise to look at the traffic statistics from the previous year to see what products received the most interest or performed best. Using some of this data, those products (if still in stock) can be specifically brought to the attention of potential buyers through paid social media advertising or by being presented as "hero products" on the website, making it easier for customers to find the product.

3. Personal Connection

Amazon dominate during sales periods, with lightning deals taking place weeks before the event and a huge push in marketing campaigns. A key part of its success is the competitive pricing and rapid delivery services. The Amazon Prime service has changed consumer expectations for delivery speed, with next day delivery available for millions of items. It can also deliver items on Sundays, which isn’t always possible for smaller businesses.

However, smaller businesses can compete with industry giants like Amazon through personal connection. Younger generations are seeking more interpersonal connections with brands, rather than supporting what can often seem like faceless corporate giants.

If a company can prove to the user why they should support it and offer them a unique experience, they are more likely to stay loyal to that brand. For example, offering discount vouchers via email marketing campaigns, simply for being a loyal customer, is a simple way to make a customer feel special and connected to the brand.

These are simple methods that can make a big difference in a hugely crowded market and can be applied throughout the year. And if it is well managed, and with the right customer experience, what was only going to be a one-off sale can be turned into repeat custom.