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Well it is going to be a big weekend isn't it? Last year across Black Friday and Cyber Monday we saw a spike in sales giving us an increase of 20% against 2012, this year with the addition of Sofa Sunday we are expecting an even bigger hike - especially with the deals we have planned.
Back in August we launched a brand new responsive site, with a larger portion of our traffic coming from mobile and tablet devices it was imperative that our site gave a good user experience whatever device customers visited us on. Traffic to our new site has now increased by 76%, with Christmas being our peak time the addition of these mega sale days with the potential of over 20% increase in sales we are foreseeing us all turning into elves!
In order to cope with our peak time at Christmas we more than triple in staff numbers, increasing from 40 members of staff to 150, with temporary staff going into the Warehouse, customer service and merchandising. We are continuing to employ seasonal staff now; with our sales continuing to increase and the new site's transactions an unknown quantity for Christmas, we need to make sure we are prepared.
The decision for how many seasonal staff are needed usually comes for last year's performance as a company combined with last year's sales and therefore the forecasts and budgets we then need to meet. This year with the lead up and hype behind Black Friday, Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday dramatically increased, combined with the new site and Christmas we still need more seasonal staff.
We always try and employ within the local area for seasonal staff, in order to support employment in our community, we get a good number of return staff members and referral through word of mouth, and we are now having to spread our net further afield in order to reach demand.
Are consumers loyal at Christmas? Do they stick with brands and companies they know are they more likely to switch?
Brands need to be careful, they spend so much time and money in shouting about themselves in the run up to Christmas; the potential of forgetting to focus on customer loyalty is high. Customers are loyal at Christmas, as they are not impulse shopping they have a list and a plan so will return to brands that they trust; that delivered when they said they would and provided them with top-notch customer service along the way. Price points aren't the main selling point at Christmas, it's about the customer getting what they want, when they need it. At Find me A Gift we see a great deal of return customers at Christmas, and not necessarily ones that have ordered with us throughout the year, but they trust us at Christmas and therefore become loyal to our brand.
What are the key tactics brands use to ensure loyalty at Christmas? How can loyalty be lost - customer service; lack of rewards; delivery failure etc?
We don't believe that lack of rewards can reduce customer loyalty over Christmas, we find customers will be kept on our site as we have a large product range, which crosses out a lot of their shopping list; we get return customers with high value orders full of products - at competitive prices as it has taken a chunk if not all of their shopping list away. Find Me A Gift then strive to follow through with customer service and delivery as we believe these are what hold customers' loyalty.
This Christmas at Find Me A Gift we plan to make available an app linked with our couriers to customers that enables them to track their deliveries, we feel this visibility will increase our customer service value and therefore strengthen our customer loyalty. We also work very closely with our courier prior to Christmas and build a strategy ensuring our delivery service is affordable, efficient and now visible.
At the end of the day a reward and reduced price doesn't matter if the order isn't delivered and the customer service isn't satisfactory; this is what they will remember.
How do marketing strategies for encouraging loyalty differ between online and offline? How do multichannel retailers ensure loyalty across the channels?
It is vital that in order to retain loyalty a message of trust must be built and delivered across all channels. Find Me A Gift use several different channels but unfortunately with these come regulations due to which we cannot market our message, however they still go through our same customer service and delivery so we ensure that our message of care and trust is delivered through these stages by continuing our same high level of service and punctuality. Loyalty can be lost within offline messages, customers may have a loyalty but could be swayed to stray by rewards and money off through offline channels, whereas online it is more important to win and retain this loyalty through service and personalisation. For example the John Lewis adverts, they send a message of trust, it is familiar so customers are likely to shop there at Christmas as they feel emotionally tied to their cleverly orchestrated adverts, however if a pair of socks is on the shopping list and Next have an amazing offer on socks in their high street window, loyalty will be tested. Therefore online strategies needs to plant the seed of the message and the offline strategy should be to retain and strengthen that message in order to not loose customers to other brands.
How important will personalisation of offers be this year at Christmas given that online sales are set to rise again? How are retailers and brands using big data to ensure that the post Christmas purchases are made with them and not competitors?
Personalisation, especially in the run up to Christmas is vital; for this you need to know your customers. Using people, faces and family within advertising can add that personal touch which again strengthens that trust and loyalty with your customers. At Find Me A Gift we have just started working with a company who can analyse customer's usage on our site and tell us what is important to them: money off options, fast delivery, customer service etc. this will allow us to program money off codes, delivery offers or the 'Chat now' box to pop up when they are shopping with us. We also target our mailing list of which there are 750k, with what they like and are interested in, we also design our message of trust with what is important to them - it is then vital that we follow through with this.
What role will loyalty cards have during the festive period? How are retailers using them to boost sales?
For us loyalty points will be more valuable to offer over Christmas for use in the New Year and we imagine this is the same for the bigger brands. We want to try and retain as many Christmas customers as possible therefore, we allow them to spend money off vouchers and use promotional codes after Christmas. Loyalty cards and the benefit for customers is more appropriate offline as the physical presence of a loyalty card and voucher will encourage them to spend it, whereas we find that a number of customers won't use their loyalty points and offers online. We are currently looking into redesigning our loyalty scheme so that it can be truly beneficial for customers to stay loyal with us and will allow us to gain even more returning customers each Christmas.
Find Me a Gift, which offers over 7,000 gifts, specialising in a wide range of gadgets, experiences, toys, novelty, personalised and home gifts. Was recently selected to join the Google certified Shops program. To help shoppers identify inline merchants that offer a great shopping experience, the Google Certified Shops badge is awarded to e-commerce sites that demonstrate a track record of on-time shipping and excellent customer service. When visiting the Find Me A Gift website, shoppers will see a Google Certified Shops badge and can click on it for more information."I'm absolutely over the moon that Google has approved Find Me A Gift as a certified shop, it is recognition of the contribution that every member of our amazing team has made to build the best gift website in the UK and having Google's approval will give our customers additional reassurance that they can trust the Find Me A Gift team."
Adam Gore, Managing Director ar Find Me A Gift
As an added benefit, when a shopper makes a purchase at a Google Certified Shops, they have the option to select free purchase protection from Google. Then in the unlikely event of an issue with their purchase, they can request Google's help, and Google will work with Find Me A Gift and the customer to address the issue. As part of this, Google offers up to $1,000 lifetime purchase protection for eligible purchases.
Google Certified Shops is entirely free, both for shoppers and for online stores. The program helps online stores Find Me A Gift attract new customers, increase sales and differentiate themselves by showing off their excellent service via the badge on their websites.
Find Me A Gift was created 14 years ago in a single room office by Adam Gore, after three office moves we now have 40 permanent staff members and grow to 150 over Christmas. The Find Me A Gift culture has not changed over the years, each staff member brings their own little bit of magic into our close net team. We endeavour to pass on this magic to our customers by looking after them throughout their experience with us and still being here for them afterwards. Our product range is ever evolving and growing, in order to bring our customers exactly what they need and when they need it, we truly believe we have something for everybody on our site. With a brand new responsive site and now a Google Certified Shop badge the only way in up for us all at Find Me A Gift.
We have seen a huge change over the last two years in how people are accessing the Find Me A Gift website, with increasing numbers of visitors using mobile and tablets, we anticipate that by the end of 2014 our mobile traffic will overtake desktop. The desktop version of our site was looking tired and whilst we had a mobile site in place, we felt it no longer provided our mobile visitors with a good enough user experience. Another consideration was our brand, we wanted a total refresh, from the logo and colours right through to our core values. With this in mind and mobile and tablet traffic ever increasing, creating a responsive site was imperative in order to provide a seamless experience for all our visitors, in terms of marketing and SEO moving to a responsive design could provide us with many improvements. Having a single responsive site means there is then only one possible URL that someone can link to or to share on social media. It also helps to keep the website search engine friendly, allowing easier crawling and indexing, as well as preventing duplicate content issues.The Build...
Our old site was four years old although looking back now it looked much older, the navigation was updated in 2013 which sparked initial thoughts of a new design, after the Christmas rush the planning begun. The key points we needed to keep at the forefront of the project were brand, consistency and user experience across all devices. Both design and functionality are incredibly important and rely on each other for their success. Therefore we used our Google Analytics data to analyse the behaviour of visitors on Find Me A Gift, and these insights fed into the design process. By mapping out shopper behaviour and purchase journeys, we were able to focus the new site build and functionality on enabling our users to achieve their goals quickly and intuitively.
Our aim was to get the site launched in August 2014 so that we had plenty of time before the Christmas peak to resolve any unexpected problems. We also wanted to be able to analyse the performance of the new site without Christmas seasonality affecting the data, Christmas shopping affects people's normal shopping habits and we needed an accurate judgement on the new site's performance.
The main challenge we found were the checkout pages; as each of these have a great deal of functionality that users can interact with, fitting it all onto a mobile screen was particularly challenging. The solution was a mobile-first approach to the design of these pages. This meant that we could make the mobile version of the site work and look great, before scaling it up to desktop and adding in new functionality where necessary.
We introduced new tools and technologies to improve the performance of the site such as web fonts for icons rather than images, which increased page load speed. Our development team introduced SASS into their workflow for the new site, SASS is the new more efficient way of writing CSS and it makes their processes more efficient and reduces the amount of the CSS on the new site; improving site performance.And Now...
This is only stage one, so watch this space! There is still so much more we can improve on in order to enhance user experience. We are continually A/B testing parts of the site to find new ways of refining user experience and maximise conversions. We removed some parts of the old site which we felt at this stage didn't fit into the new design, we plan to re-introduce these along with some new features that are under discussion - not letting them out the bag though!
Throughout the project we kept in mind how we wanted visitors to experience us and what they will leave us with; confidence, trust, a full shopping bag with amazing gifts and a new site bookmarked in their favourites. We do believe a stronger brand has been created for Find Me A Gift, one that builds trust and encourages customers to come and shop with us again.
Our new site allows us to punch above our weight - we have fewer resources and are smaller than most of our immediate competitors, but with such an engaging stylish website and a team with huge amounts of drive and passion we will (and are) winning more customers. The quality of our products is clear now and we instantly saw a significant improvement in how visitors are engaging with the site, which stands us in great stead for the future.Where Do We Go From Here?
We continue to move forward making sure we live up to the modern design. In terms of how we look after customers we don't need to adapt as we already have great products, fantastic customer service, fast dispatch and good delivery timescales. The new site will allow us more chances to provide this service. However, we cannot be complacent, we need to be aware of the constant changes in trends and technology and make sure we adapt the website accordingly.We're Proud...
This whole project was completed in house; from design, re-branding, development testing and launch, which gives us a great sense of pride and achievement. The immediate impact of the new site, is amazing and better than we could have expected. We're seeing a marked increase in engagement across all devices with lower bounce rates and high conversion rates. The change is even more noticeable on mobiles which is exactly what we wanted and why we started this project. We are now all proud to show people the site, it brought the whole team even closer and we all beam a smile when we think about this achievement.
Here's to a great Christmas and an even better New Year!
A large retailer asked us this question, we had already started planning our changes to delivery for Christmas 2014 to make sure we were offering the best service possible. We therefore, were only too happy to respond and below is our response.
At Find Me A Gift we have seen and witnessed the change in market to customers requiring more delivery options. Looking at it in a broad spectrum we believe that home delivery will still steal the lion's share as it is convenient for customers, they want to shop around for the best deal, they don't want products that are stocked in large retailers and they are searching for that 'something different'. We also forget those people that live outside of cities and towns where Click & Collect is not an option.
However, in order to respond to the changing environment where consumers are responding to Click & Collect, we plan to be ready for this Christmas with several extensions to our delivery options. We also need to stay ahead of our competitors yet maintain our fantastic level of friendly and convenient service. Below are our current plans, none of which our competitors are doing and we plan to stay ahead of the battle:
We are looking at offering a long term Click & Collect service for all customers in line with a larger retailer, however this requires some work to ensure that our level of service does not falter. Although we feel the need to expand our delivery options in order to be flexible, increase customer choice, respond to the environment and gain more customers and market share - we do not want to lose our personal family edge.
More competition in the delivery sector is driving couriers to achieve high guaranteed service levels, providing a better service for the customer. Prices are competitive which is why there is increased attraction for retailers to put more delivery options in place.
Hermes provided us with a quote regarding our plans: "As a purely online retailer operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace, it was crucial for Find Me A Gift to provide their customers with a comprehensive multi-channel offering. With the growth of Click & Collect it was important for Hermes to offer a solution that allows Find Me A Gift to satisfy customer demand whilst also delivering exceptional levels of service. In order to provide a wide range of options to their customers, Hermes is working with Find Me A Gift to set up a myHermes ParcelShop Delivery and Returns process, along with a Sunday delivery service".
Find Me A Gift have their Battle plan ready and we are covering all corners!
In total our warehouse last year hired around 105 temporary staff over 10 weeks, 40% of the pickers and packers are hired from the last week of November right through to mid-December, customer services hired around 26. Christmas is our busiest time of year, as a gift company this is somewhat expected. How we perform over Christmas is really important to us and we like to make sure we have the best possible seasonal team to help us through this vital holiday. With this in mind we interviewed the two managers who take on the seasonal staff so that we could share our seasonal hiring process with local press and recruitment agencies, in order to target that fantastic team we are looking to build for Christmas 2014.
How long ahead do you need to be preparing for hiring seasonal staff?
Christmas is such a busy and vital time for Find Me A Gift, we literally start thinking about next Christmas after one has just finished, looking at how the company performed, whether the recruitment was right and worked well for our requirements. We may decide to change the numbers we hire for next Christmas or when they start, how we stagger the total number we recruit etc.
The main hiring process is kick started late August - early September to give us plenty of time to find employees, fully train them and prepare the rest of our team for a busy few months!
How do you know how many people you're going to need?
We look at a few different things to make this decision, as I said we look at last year's performance, as a company what do we need to achieve this season? Also we look at sales from last year and forecasts for this year, will what we need to achieve be achievable if we hire the same amount of seasonal staff this year? We look at calls and emails from last year and our average response time, along with average amounts of orders that were picked and packed in the warehouse per hour. A challenge however is recruiting the amount of staff that is needed but not to end up over staffed or over budget.
Where do you look to make sure you get the right people?
We use recruitment agencies as the closer we get to Christmas the busier the whole company gets and it is hard to put the time that is needed into recruiting the right people. We also advertise in local papers and with boards outside HQ in order to target local people, we do often get people applying through word of mouth or that have worked a season with us before.
We speak to candidates on the phone first having really studied CVs, this allows us to gauge how good their communication skills are along with how enthusiastic they are. We then conduct face to face interviews, we find their body language often gives you a truer answer to your questions than the actual answers. We are such a friendly and family orientated company - we like to make sure that even the seasonal staff get on board with us and enjoy working with us.
How do you make sure you're not going to get caught out with the market being stretched - the Commonwealth games and various festivals being a case in point.
We never seem to struggle hiring the quantity of seasonal staff we require, and the reason we start as early as we do is to make sure we have plenty of time to find that number and the right candidates.
What other things do you need to keep in mind when hiring seasonal staff?
Staff turnover is usually higher as the contracts are obviously short, so the loyalty to the company may not be there - having said that we do get people returning to us and even one of our full time Customer Service staff worked 3 Christmas's as a temporary member of staff and she was such a great team member that she joined us full time. Following this we do now keep a temp on permanently after each Christmas as we spend so long getting the right seasonal team together, Christmas then ends up being a trail period over our busiest time!
We also look at alternative/shorter shifts in order to utilize school hours, as we like to help younger employees gain experience within good opportunities.
Can you give specific examples of hiring seasonal staff and how you have managed this process?
We do it every Christmas! We always take what we can from the Christmas before and make sure that each Christmas for the company and all our staff including the seasonal ones is better than the last!
Warehouse Manager: Nicola
Customer Services Manager: Sarah