Unwrap the Secrets to Online Retail at Christmas

Unwrap the Secrets to Online Retail at Christmas

Prezzybox opens up about its secrets to a very merry shopping season

By Elma Glasgow

Are you dying to see your brother's reaction when he unwraps his retro hot dog toaster on Christmas Day? Perhaps you're looking for fun Christmas business gifts that won't get you fired? Maybe you've always fancied trying chocolate pizza (go on, add it to your Christmas wish list). You can indulge in festive joy while stuffing your Santa stockings silly with a wide variety of funky gifts at Prezzybox.

Inside Prezzybox

The online retailer not only survived the burst of the dot com bubble, but it's also grown “phenomenally” since its launch in 2000. The gift retailer started life in a small, Leicestershire industrial unit, with the whole family getting it up and running. Founder, Zak Edwards, remembers selling just 1 item a day when he started up. But 15 years on, he expects a turnover of £5.5 million.

As one of the UK's smaller online retailers, Prezzybox can quickly respond to changes in consumer behaviour, which is a huge benefit since businesses need to keep up with fast-evolving trends. This year 4 out of 10 people plan to use mobile to do their Christmas shopping, and spend 10 hours browsing and buying products online. So with the constant progress of ecommerce, is Prezzybox really ready for this year's Christmas rush?

The secrets of success

Fleximize talked to Zak to find out what goes on behind the scenes, as Prezzybox gears up for the retail's busiest shopping season. He discusses marketing content created to engage customers, he advises smaller online retailers to "stick at it" and "utilize social media", he mentions potential plans for expansion and reckons Prezzybox is "fortunate" compared to bigger brands.

What time of year do you start planning for the Christmas period?

On Boxing Day! We do 50% of our business in the 6-week run up to Christmas, so we really do start planning for that period as soon as it's finished. It's like painting the Forth Bridge.

What changes do you make to the website to improve the seasonal user experience?

We're constantly testing things on the site in a view to improving our conversion rate – be it introducing a faceted navigation on the category pages, testing a huge search facility on the homepage, or any other initiative that we think will help make it easier for customers to shop. We also continue to update our gift wizard, which enables people to search for gifts by age, gender, interests, etc. We eventually want every aspect of our site to be personalized to the unique user.

How do you cater for people buying on mobile?

We're conscious that the mobile shopper is a different 'animal' to customers who shop via desktop / tablet, with a different set of expectations and requirements. We therefore need to provide a different shopping experience to cater for their needs.

We've launched a fully responsive website that mirrors the desktop version of the site, but optimized it for mobile. Think Prezzybox 'lite' featuring all the best bits of the site, which we feel are most relevant to the mobile user. It's worked so well, it’s improved the conversion rate by 30%.

Zak Edwards
Zak Edwards:

Personalization is the key to bringing customers back after the Christmas rush.

When do you launch the Christmas website content?

The Christmas categories stay on the site all year round, but are added to the navigation at the end of October. This year we've included trending searches such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

What portion of your marketing budget is dedicated to Christmas?

This is tricky to answer as we actually pride ourselves on NOT spending a great deal of money on marketing. For example, I can't remember the last time we paid for an advert. Instead we focus on being smart and leveraging our skillset to ensure we maintain a presence in the space. We therefore spend continual time and resource on what we refer to as 'free marketing': SEO, PR and social, as well as video and content production. As well as our YouTube channel, we also have an articles section, which hosts a range of extra-interesting content, much of which has featured in major publications – our Christmas Song Royalties Calculator proved popular.

How do you select Christmas products?

Our buying team tend to look at current trends both externally and internally, across our site, and then featured products, such as smart tech. Knowing what's new with suppliers is always a way of keeping up to date with current product trends. We tend to search for the most funky and quirky gifts, as well as versions of items that are cheaper for our customers. Something we pride ourselves in is finding the best price for our users, while making sure things are practical and high quality.

How are you competing against ecommerce giants like Amazon and Tesco?

Like most challenger brands we have to accept that we're never going to have the resource of behemoths in the space. Rather than bemoaning our lot, we actually see this as a massive advantage. We can act really nimbly and 'get stuff done' really quickly.

If we want to build a new feature, we discuss it, spec it out and start work on it within a couple of days. It's an advantage not to have many layers of hierarchy. We also like to 'fail quickly'. If it doesn't work, we move on to the next thing. We can also be a little less risk-averse in our marketing as our brand equity isn't as closely scrutinized as bigger brands. To be honest, we're in a really fortunate position.

Wookie Cookie anyone?
Wookie Cookie anyone?:

Prezzybox is an alternative to big online retailers for fun Christmas gifts.

How do you retain new customers once Christmas is over?

One word: personalization. Or more precisely, offering a more personalized experience, which compels the customer to return through better use of data. Most companies don't do this very well, even those which do it better than everybody else! For example, if I go to Amazon (who are undoubtedly better than most) and buy a pair of trainers, they’ll continue to show me trainers when I visit their site for the next month, even though I've fulfilled my need to buy trainers.

A better use of marketing collateral would be to promote products that complement the trainers I've just purchased, for example. The supermarkets have this type of marketing nailed, and next year we hope to take inspiration from the supermarkets and provide a more personalized experience for every customer who visits the site.

What advice would you give to smaller retailers for the festive shopping season?

Always be optimistic and stick at it, things won't happen overnight. Be passionate and attend networking events and make friends within the industry. Externally, the more people that know about you and your business, the easier it’ll be to distribute content. Keep on top of trends and utilize every medium you can, be it social media or email marketing. But most importantly, know your brand and have a fun working environment.

What plans does Prezzybox have for 2016?

We're growing at a rate of knots at the moment (over 30% year-on-year) and we hope to continue that trend into 2016 and beyond. To aid this expansion, we're not against an acquisition of a brand in the same space to grow our market share. Other than that it will very much be business as usual – buying and selling great gifts and marketing them through our existing channels.