This article is a guest post from the fabulous Fiona of HoneyHoney: "an online hive of design sweetness with tasty pieces of new, retro and vintage fashion and accessories from across the globe", and a great example of online retail that gets it right. Use Fiona’s tips to get a leg up on your competition this Christmas, and get your sales jumping.

It’s just ten weeks until Christmas and, while you might not be thinking about it yet, rest assured that your clients and your competitors are! Here are five tips to help you come out on top.

1. Create a compelling product offering

The Festive Season is a time when consumers open up their wallets. They are not only buying gifts for family, friends, colleagues and clients, but they are also hosting or attending parties. Many are buying pick-me-ups for themselves at this end of the year, too.

At this time of year people are looking for everything from that new ice-making fridge (because they’re hosting a party) to a shiny, bright nail polish (they’re going to a party!).

Be clear on what products you’re offering and to whom so you can plan your marketing activities with precision. You should also make sure that your visible products are up to scratch. This is vital online. Make sure that you have up-to-date product images and information, and compelling and relevant product descriptions.

2. Have a sales & marketing plan

Being clear on what your sales targets are helps you to focus your marketing efforts. As well as email, you could add online advertising, but think about your efforts off-line too. Direct snail mail (such as brochures or flyers) and print media advertising can be very effective.

And don’t underestimate the impact of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. In these networks, people share party and holiday snaps that can help your viral promotions.

It’s also wise to have a unique promotional or product packaging offer. Customers are looking to maximise the value from their spend, but they are also after new-season stock. It’s why bundled pricing and ‘two-for-one’ offers work very well at this time of the year.

3. Stay on brand

The silly season is just that: a time when everyone’s running at a cracking pace, and the retail environment is cluttered with competing marketing messages. This is no time to introduce a new branding initiative! You need to maximise every part of your marketing plan, and being instantly recognised is a key part of that. With everything you do – be it online or print – make it easy for your clients and prospects to hear your voice above your competitors’ rabble.

4. Be responsive

While I’ve emphasised the importance of having a plan, I also think it’s sensible to be responsive to your customers. If you notice that a product is performing above or below expectation, then take the opportunity to enhance your communications to further improve your sales results.

5. Go on sale

Yes, it’s tried and true, but it isn’t trite. What’s more, customers now entirely expect to see ‘Boxing Day’ sales in full force – these days often starting up to a week before Christmas! But a quick word of caution: Be wary of what you put on sale and when. Nobody likes to purchase something at full price, only to find that it’s on sale the next day.

As an online retailer, it’s really important to make a bit of noise around Christmas. All those ‘bricks & mortar’ retailers ramp up their promotional activities around this time – and it’s a good lesson for e-retailers. The pre-Christmas promotional run can work for you too. All it takes is some thought, a conscientious eye, and a little more attention.