For some people, Christmas shopping is a chore.  The time, the crowds and difficulty of finding that perfect present. UK online spending at Christmas rose by 12% in 2015 to £24bn. (Internet Retailing, Jan 2016)

With this mind, e-commerce stores need to be prepared and ready for the customer onslaught. Missing an opportunity with poor customer experience is a big fail, so how do you ensure that the brand experience is right – and subtly different for the festive period, when the buyer isn’t necessarily buying for themselves.

Here are our rules when it comes to recommendations and personalisation:

Balance your personalisation

Personalisation is tricky – taking you back to what you love is less likely to help when you’re buying for an uncle and aunt. Therefore, as an e-commerce manager you may choose to wind back a little on this, particularly on home pages where inspiration can be seeded.

When personalising, it’s best to suggest ‘popular’ items rather than personalised items on the basis that you don’t know if the item being browsed is for the shopper or if it’s a gift.  Therefore, ensure you allow space for popular or trending items during the Christmas period.

Whilst algorithms won’t know you have five cousins they can look at short timeframes of behavioural activity to discover what people within your cluster are buying – this is a great source of inspiration. This is ‘relatedness’ and offers a different set of recommendations than ‘popular’ in that it refines the choice to fit with how your behaviour relates to other shopper behaviour. This approach goes hand-in-hand with popular.

Content rules

It’s too late now, of course, but start early and build a loyal customer base that knows and understands your brand because you’ve engaged with them throughout the year with great content and help them find the products they’ll love.

During the festive period, content should be varied and mixed, but the key is which presenting the content that converts most. If an item of stock is performing well, it could be pushed further with content messages.

Likewise, you can push buyers to the checkout with promotional offers that ensure the basket is not abandoned.

Customer first

At Christmas, lists are extremely important.  Shoppers use them to organise, share and state preferences – it also makes shopping easier for friends and family.

With wish lists, recommendations could be made that complement the items in the list such as accessories or items that are essential as part of the purchase.  A classic here might be batteries to accompany children’s electronic gifts.

Some gifts reoccur every year, so what was purchased last year could be up for a repeat purchase.  It’s possible to use data from past Christmas purchases to make recommendations for this year.  This is particularly useful in grocery shopping or with smaller items such as stocking fillers.

A sensible way to prevent your recommendation algorithm being wrecked is to ask shoppers if the item they’re purchasing is a gift.  If so, it makes sense to leave it out of the shopper’s taste profile.

Ready to buy

With behavioural data, there are clear indicators when someone is ready to buy.  At this stage, there’s an opportunity to upsell.

Most people set a budget for each gift, even if subconsciously. If the budget is £30 and they’ve found something for £25, shoppers will very often be open to a low-price, add-on to top the gift up to an ‘acceptable’ amount of money. Focus your up-selling rules on low-cost items and accessories which are easy added to the basket.

With these considerations in mind, it’s worth carefully planning your business rules around key seasonal fluctuations.  Whilst we’ve focused on Christmas here, there’s still peak times such as January and summer sales to plan for.

And, if you’d like to see how The Filter works, then book a demo.