17 November 2023 | Published by Jodie Wilkinson
The festive season is creeping up on us – it’ll be here before we know it. As well as being an important commercial event and a cultural holiday, Christmas requires plenty of preparation. For many businesses, performance over the festive season can determine whether they make a profit that year.
As the retail landscape grows more competitive, it’s crucial to get it right and plan your festive strategy sooner rather than later.
To help you count down to the 25th December and make the most of all the days in between, we’ve pulled together our top tips for how businesses can prepare for the Christmas shopping rush. We’re also sharing our data-led insights from last year to help give you an edge on Christmas 2023, along with expert advice from Jodie Wilkinson, Head of Strategic Partnerships, here at takepayments.
The key to success during the Christmas shopping season is ensuring your business is well-prepared for the influx of customers. Research from SaleCycle shows that November and December are the busiest two months of the year in terms of sales volumes, thanks to a number of events like Single’s Day, Black Friday, Christmas, and Boxing Day, all encouraging consumers to shop.
And each year, sales continue to rise. Our takepayments data found that Brits are buying more each year, with the number of purchases in December growing by 7% in 2022 compared to 2021.
“This period is about handling the rush and capitalising on the opportunity it presents. December is undoubtedly a peak time of year in retail, so businesses can use this knowledge to their advantage and put measures in place ahead of time,” says Jodie.
To better understand the specific dates to be wary of in the Christmas rush, we reviewed the number of sales in the week leading up to the big day. Our data found that in 2022, the busiest date of the week with the most transactions was the 23rd – suggesting that the consumer behaviour of last-minute shopping is still a worthy consideration for retailers.
“Two days before Christmas is one for businesses to mark in the calendar, as a substantial portion of weekly transactions occur on this single day,” explains Jodie. “We saw one-fifth of all sales in the week of Christmas being carried out on the 23rd December. With the sales phenomenon of Black Friday and Cyber Week encouraging Christmas gift shopping to begin in November, we can see that there is still a large rush of last-minute purchasing activity in the days just before the 25th.”
Industries selling electrical and household goods, cosmetics, clothing, toy shops, and jewellery stores received the most transactions on the 23rd December. As well as the most sales in the week of Christmas, hairdressing salons had the highest number of transactions out of the whole month of December on the 23rd.
However, there were a few notable exceptions: grocery and department stores had the most sales on Christmas Eve, suggesting that consumers are picking up last-minute gifts and fresh produce right up until the big day.
For more industry-specific advice, take a look at our Christmas tips for pubs and restaurants, retail stores, and the hospitality sector.
Christmas is rarely ‘business as usual’, and some items sell out more quickly. That’s why the next thing you need to do is take stock to make sure you have enough inventory to last the festive season. This is particularly crucial, considering we found that customers made over 17 million purchases in December 2022, with 3.9 million in the week of Christmas.
“You can’t sell what you don’t have, and the last thing you want is for your lack of preparation to cost you sales. This is why inventory is critical,” says Jodie. “Clever stock preparation doesn’t mean just filling your shelves, but also being smart by doing so in a way that aligns with consumer demands and trends. A sold-out sign, especially during a peak season, can be a significant missed opportunity.”
“Businesses can look at their sales data from previous years to spot which products are most in demand or sought after at this time of year. Gifting is obviously a huge sector for many brands, but it’s also worth looking at higher-priced items as shoppers may look to splurge on loved ones,” suggests Jodie. “Use historical usage to forecast your required stock levels and build up a supply in good time.”
Don’t forget that suppliers are under pressure too, and are likely receiving a large number of orders from other customers who are also preparing for the festive season. They may also have deadlines that need to be factored in so they’re able to send orders out in time for the big day.
And if you overstock, have a strategy to manage excess inventory. This could include post-Christmas sales or special deals to clear out remaining stock.
Promotions are still one of the best ways to get shoppers excited about buying from you. Not only that, research conducted by the National Retail Federation reveals that 61% of customers said that sales and promotions are more important when buying Christmas gifts than in previous years.
“Consumers want to be thoughtful-gift givers, but the cost of living crisis has made shoppers more cost-conscious than ever before,” comments Jodie. “Promotions and sales can be an excellent way to give businesses an advantage over their competitors. Just think: if people can get the same item from two different stores, but one is being sold at a discounted price, consumers will choose the cheaper option. Customers are getting more and more savvy by shopping around for the best deals, with research proving that 36% of consumers are buying increasing amounts of promotional or discounted items.”
“Even a small discount can provide undecided shoppers with an added incentive. However, it’s important to strike the right balance. Discounts of 10-20% are typical – lower, and it may not be compelling enough, or higher, and you might end up sacrificing your profit margin. The goal is to create win-win scenarios that benefit both the customer and the business.”
A few ideas for offers to run are:
And if you are running a promotional offer this year, don’t forget to let people know. Use your email lists, social platforms, and other advertising forms to get shoppers through the door or onto your website.
The latest research from Adobe Analytics shared that online spending via mobile devices in October 2023 reached record highs and is up 46.7% year on year (YoY), and this is predicted to continue through to the end of the year. With brands improving their mobile shopping experiences through apps and mobile-friendly sites, it’s never been easier for consumers to shop online on the go.
For businesses, this means optimising your website – particularly your mobile offering – to give users a smooth and hassle-free experience.
“A website is essentially a digital storefront, so upgrading and optimising your website supports the increased traffic and enhances the customer experience. A fast, secure, and user-friendly website can be the difference between a sale and a lost opportunity,” comments Jodie.
“Refreshing the content on your website, integrating customer support features, and conducting load testing is best to be done ahead of the peak period to ensure your site is up to the task of handling the Christmas rush.”
Here are a few core features to consider for your website:
Last year, we saw that 3.9 million purchases were made through our card systems in the week of Christmas, generating a predicted spend of around £1.7 billion (based on Finder’s research that found that Brits spent an average of £429 each on Christmas gifts in 2022).
That’s why businesses should be able to handle such high sales at this time of year; you can drive your customers to convert, but you can still fall at the last hurdle if you can’t accept their payment option of choice. And we know from our previous research on consumers’ most preferred ways to pay that contactless is by far the most popular method, followed by mobile payments and then cash.
“The Christmas shopping season is a testament to the evolving landscape of consumer payment preferences. Offering a variety of payment methods is no longer just a convenience; it’s a competitive advantage. Businesses that adapt to these changing preferences are more likely to capture a wider audience, improve the checkout experience, and consequently, see an increase in sales and customer satisfaction,” explains Jodie.
Small retailers could be missing out in a big way if they cannot offer card or contactless payments. If you already have a card machine, make sure it accommodates all of the latest payment options like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and contactless.
“For e-commerce businesses, many consider Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) financing a must-have option for today’s customers. One-third of all UK shoppers have used BNPL as of 2023, and with the last quarter of the year being so sales-focused, we expect that many customers will be looking for financing options to help them cover the cost of Christmas shopping,” predicts Jodie.
You can also read up on all the different types of payment methods here.
With these practical tips, your business will soon be prepared for the coming festive season.
Want to update your payment services this Christmas? Contact our experts today at 0808 274 2017.