The holiday shopping season is finally upon us. If you run an eCommerce, you need no reminder of how important this period can be for your business. For starters, it's a chance to cash in big from the holiday customer spending.
Despite the slowdown in the economy this year, holiday sales are expected to grow exponentially. According to Deloitte's annual eCommerce report, holiday retail sales are expected to increase by 4% to 6%. To stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of this period, it's imperative that eCommerce brands prep themselves ahead of time.
So, how prepared are you for the influx of customer traffic to your website, a spike in sales, and increased risks of cyber security threats? How do you ensure you will fulfill all your customer's expectations, avoid downtime, and deal with emergencies without hurting your business? This article will share five steps eCommerce brands can take to prepare for the holiday shopping season.
Here’s an overview of the contents of this article:
- 5 Steps To Prepare For The Holiday Shopping Season
- Drive Up Your Sales During The Holiday Shopping Season
- Prepare For Post-holiday Sales Slumps
- You Are Now Geared Up For The Holiday Shopping Season
You can directly jump to a section of your choice or keep scrolling.
5 Steps To Prepare For The Holiday Shopping Season
Before we explore ways you can prepare as an eCommerce business, you need to identify your weaknesses and know your expectations. Where are your strengths, and where do you need to improve? Use the data you collected from previous holiday seasons and trends you've observed the whole year to create a viable plan.
Once you have your plan ready, take these five steps to prepare your business.
Bonus content: The Ultimate Guide To Social Media SWOT Analysis [+Template]
1. Optimize Your Store
Your store is the backbone of your eCommerce and that’s where all the gameplay happens. When a customer visits your site to learn more about your products or to make a purchase, it is vital that you don’t give them a reason to leave. Something as simple as an outdated UX that makes it harder to navigate your site can deter them from completing a purchase.
To avoid simple pitfalls that can turn away potential customers, you must ensure you are offering a smooth shopping experience by:
Prepare For A Traffic Boost
eCommerce stores experience high traffic during the holiday shopping season as many people are shopping for gifts and other holiday necessities. Your website will only handle it if you’re adequately prepared for the influx.
Here are 5 key things you can do to prepare for the holiday traffic influx:
Flexible hosting plan: Your web hosting has a direct impact on the performance of your website. To ensure that the performance is optimal this holiday season, you should upgrade the key site resources.
Optimize your loading speeds: Everybody hates slow websites. Research shows that a one to three seconds increase in load speed can increase your bounce rate (user abandoning your site) by at least 32%. Test your site's loading speed and keep it below three seconds. You ensure this by using robust hosting solutions, reducing your redirects, enabling browser caching, and leveraging speed-optimized eCommerce widgets and plugins.
Optimize your website functionalities: Even with a top-tier hosting plan and super-fast speeds, your website can only satisfy your visitors if it delivers a superb user experience. Typically, good customer experience equals great conversions. So ensure that your website plugins, themes, images, links and everything else important work in harmony to create a great customer experience.
Prepare for downtimes: If your website goes down, so will your holiday sales. You will not only lose traffic and potential customers, it will also affect your SEO. So you should be prepared for the hiccups and have the necessary tools at hand to deal with the situations when they arise.
Streamline your checkout process: To prevent customers from abandoning their carts, you must offer a frictionless checkout experience. This includes offering guest purchases and multiple payment methods. Additionally, review how secure your payment infrastructure is to protect yourself from fraud and the financial data your customers entrust you with.
Show customers that your site is secure. Buy SSL certificates that will display a security lock next to your URL, and invest in trust badges like secure payment icons and other appropriate badges that can entice customers to complete a purchase.
Cybercriminals will likely take advantage of the busy holiday to exploit your systems' weaknesses. Therefore, you should often run a website check to detect security issues, update all your plugins and APIs, and ensure PCI compliance, among other security standards. This will protect your business from losses and reputation damage while keeping your client's data safe.
Highlight Existing Products With Promotions
Holidays present an excellent opportunity to highlight and get customers' attention to your brand and products. During holidays, especially with the current economic conditions, your customers are looking forward to sales, coupons, and other similar deals to help them save a few dollars on their holiday shopping.
This might be because more and more Americans are looking for ways to save more money. As of April 2022, Americans' average personal saving rate was at 5.2%, an increase of about 0.8% from 2014.
An excellent way to drive more to your website and make them spend money is by highlighting promotional products everywhere on your social media and website.
You should make it the first thing they see when visiting your site. This will not only attract new visitors, but it will also encourage your existing customers to keep coming back for more and probably refer more people to visit.
2. Optimize Your Mobile Site
Shopping through a mobile device (popularly known as mCommerce)has significantly grown in the last few years. According to a recent report, retail eCommerce sales on mobile devices hit almost $360 billion in 2021, an increase of 15.2% over 2020. mCommerce is expected to account for 44.2% of retail eCommerce by 2025.
With these numbers in mind, you cannot afford to ignore your mobile site. Ahead of the holiday season, work with your developers to test your mobile site to ensure it's fully optimized. Some things to look out for include the following:
Optimize your mobile storefront: Ensure that your store mobile view is as simplified and as efficient as possible. It can be a simplified version of your desktop site and features all the branding your customers associate with your business. Additionally, design checkout processes and use payment options unique to mobile commerce. Customers should be able to add items to their cart and jump to checkout quickly.
Simplify navigation: Make it easy for customers to find what they need and navigate your store. Display your search bar and menu promptly so that customers can see them. Additionally, magnify your call to action buttons and clearly state their action. This includes the "Add to Cart" or "Sign Up" CTAs.
Have a friendly user experience: Implement responsive and adaptive designs to make the mobile site load fast and keep the customer engaged. Such practices can have far-reaching benefits, including helping you rank higher on search engines that can draw organic traffic to your website.
Still, on user experience on mobile devices, remember the mobile thumb zone rule. Mobile users will only reach as far as their thumb goes. The bottom right corner is where most activities happen. Therefore, make sure you place the important buttons like "add to cart" there.
Utilize social media: Most mobile activities happen on social media platforms; luckily for you, you can sell directly to clients using social commerce. Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram allow you to set up shop within your profile, where customers can buy products without leaving social media. Social media streamlines the sales process for customers and comes at no extra cost to you.
3. Manage Your Inventory
Inventory management is essential to providing a seamless customer experience and lowering your business expenses.
With enough preparation, eCommerce businesses can avoid having too little or too much inventory, which can negatively affect their holiday revenue. Preparing your stock ahead of the holiday shopping season is to find balance, have enough products to meet an uptick in sales, and avoid leftover inventory. Here's how to do that:
Check the data and trends: Look into your historical sales data from previous holiday seasons to guide how you prepare your inventory. Look at your bestsellers over the last shopping holidays and examine consumer brand trends. For instance, which of your products have been in demand this year? You should consider stocking fewer products that traditionally don't sell well during the holidays and putting more effort into products that move faster.
Keep the sales and marketing teams in the loop: To avoid sales slowing down and inventory piling up, you need to keep in touch with the marketing team and design new ways to promote your products. Get a deeper insight into your customer base to identify how well you can have them shop more. Simple strategies like creating buzz around products or marketing them as gift bundles at a discounted rate can encourage customers to purchase.
To avoid disasters, you should constantly conduct inventory audits. This helps you maintain in-stock levels and prevent you from over or under-ordering products from your suppliers. You can accomplish this using inventory management software that can integrate with your eCommerce.
Have a strategy to deal with stockout and surplus inventory: While we must recognize the importance of understanding product demand, especially during the holidays, we must agree that it can be unpredictable. And it's for that reason that you should have a plan to deal with stockouts and surplus inventories.
To avoid stockouts, track your sales velocity and keep up with consumer trends. This will help you forecast if you will deplete your stocks before the holidays are over and ultimately help you re-order on time. The same strategy can help you predict surplus inventory, prompting you to change your marketing plan or reduce prices to prevent dealing with deadstock.
4. Get Your Fulfillment, Shipping, And Distribution Channels Ready
The holiday shopping season will test how formidable your supply chain is. Not paying attention to this part of your business can hurt your reputation and lead to a massive loss of revenue. When people shop online, they expect you to deliver within the timeline you promise and deliver what they ordered.
To prepare your eCommerce supply chain for the busiest time of the year and to avoid chaos, adopt these strategies:
Liaison with shipping partners: Talk with everyone within your supply chain and ensure they're ready and capable of handling everything from fulfillment to last-mile delivery. Tell them if you expect an influx of sales or if you've promised your clients perks such as "same-day delivery." By negotiating with your partners earlier, you can reserve spots that prioritize your business during peak hours.
Provide different shipping options: Different clients use different shipping options. Some customers expect free shipping, while others are ready to pay more for faster deliveries. Without making your checkout process complications, offer your buyer different shipping options and communicate your terms well.
Still, on shipping, diversify your carrier and fulfillment options. Partner with different companies so that you have a backup when one option isn't available. Diversification can also help you during a demand surge or when your primary partner doesn't deliver to a specific location.
Automate your order fulfillment: If you lack the in-house capacity to deal with an uptick in orders during the holiday shopping season, you should consider ways to automate your fulfillment process. This strategy will help you get products out of the door faster and deliver to your customers on time.
You can use either of these two viable solutions to automate your supply chain: order fulfillment companies or drop shipping. The former involves outsourcing all your storage and supply chain needs to third parties, and the latter involves leaving all fulfillment needs to the manufacturer.
Have a return policy in place: It's easy to send out the wrong orders during the peak season or for customers to change their minds after receiving the product. To avoid return nightmares that can hurt your business, you first must ensure you send out the correct products the customer ordered. Second, communicate your return policy during checkout.
Are you planning to offer exchanges, or will you offer refunds? Whatever options you offer, ensure that you process returns timely. This will help you avoid bad reviews that can damage your business. Additionally, there are return management tools that can seamlessly integrate with your eCommerce site.
5. Personalize The Customer Experience
According to a recent report, over 70% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. While as an eCommerce business, you might not have the luxury to know your customer on a human level, you can use the data they share to offer them the kind of experience and interaction they demand.
Here's how you can do that without breaking a sweat:
Personalized recommendations: General products will not impress many customers. When creating your promotions, offers, or running marketing campaigns, target your audience based on their interest. This will help narrow down their choices and lead to faster conversions.
When you give the customer too many options, they might feel overwhelmed and leave your site. Additionally, when you give customers offers that they find relevant and at the right time, they'll keep coming back to your store for more.
Offer product education: Customers want to know more about you before giving you their dollars. While a product description might work for clients at the end of the sale journey, it won't work for customers coming in contact with your brand for the first time. Create different web content your clients can interact with and learn more about you and your products. You can use this opportunity to buy their trust by showing expertise.
Stay consistent across all marketing channels: Promote your products with a unified message throughout the holiday. Prospects will likely interact with your product at different stages throughout their shopping journey.
Any inconsistency along the way has the potential to ward them off. If you have a brick-and-mortar store or other offline presence, create an in-person magic that gives customers a personalized experience even when shopping online.
Offer top-notch customer service: People mostly shop throughout the Holiday season. As more individuals purchase, more problems that require your attention will arise. You should make it your main priority to address your customers' concerns and make their experience unforgettable.
When dealing with complaints, try to be understandable, polite, responsive, patient, and flexible with your customers. During this season, you should maintain excellent customer service by using the customer care tools to avoid unfavorable reviews about your business.
Drive Up Your Sales During The Holiday Shopping Season
The holiday shopping season is short. You need to leverage that short window to hit your revenue targets. After all, you are going through this preparation to increase your sales. So what should you do to drive sales?
Go Hard With Your Promotions
Run well-thought promotions that can attract customers to spend more money on your store. Promotions, giveaways, and treasure hunts can increase brand awareness and customer engagement rates. You can also offer discounts such as free shipping when customers spend a certain amount or buy one get one promo that can encourage customers to spend more.
Here is an example by Walmart:
Leverage All The Holidays
There are many holidays between now and new year's eve. While staying tolerant, ensure you cover and highlight all the holidays, even the niche. This will send a message to your customers and make the marginalized and the minority feel seen.
Increase Your Marketing Channels
Don't restrict yourself to social media marketing or buying ads only. Try other marketing strategies like SEO to help draw in organic customers. If you have the budget, you can also work with an influencer to amplify your products to their audience.
Go After Abandoned Carts
The majority of customers will add items to their carts but don't complete the purchase for one reason or another. It's after you to go after them and convince them to come back and finish their orders. You improve your website design, allow easy checkout, offer free shipping, and send shopping cart abandonment emails.
Prepare For Post-Holiday Sales Slumps
According to recent studies, 30% of small business failures can be attributed to cash flow issues. After the holidays, many eCommerce businesses will experience a decrease in sales. Additionally, many buyers will be making returns, which will only increase your cash flow problems. So how do you keep the selling momentum from going and avoid sale slumps?
Start A Clearance Sale
While most of your competitors, especially the bigger household brands, will return to full-price mode after the holidays, do the opposite and keep the discounts going. One strategy that might work is looking into your inventory for products that didn't sell well during the holiday or deadstock from the previous years and discounting them. You can add a clearance category to your site and add these products to that section.
Here is an excellent example of a clearance sale by Studio Bank:
Explore Customers' New Mindset
New year, new people, right? Your customers will be looking to change their mindset when they cross into 2023, and with the right strategies, you can take advantage of that. First, take a look into your product lineup and start promoting those that might align with your customer's new year goals. Additionally, you will have to change your marketing strategies to address the new pain points of your clients.
Using all the data you have on your customers, reach out to them according to the place they are on their journeys. You can send emails or ads to target people who previously interacted with your brand. When sales are low, January is also the perfect time to reach out to loyal customers with new offers/rewards and go after abandoned carts with price cuts.
Get Your New Year Ecommerce Holiday Ready
Start prepping for all the upcoming holidays of the year. Identify all the holidays that matter the most to your brand and start devising marketing strategies to make the best of them. This is also the time to set goals and write down your brand's new year resolutions. What is your sales target for 2023?
You Are Now Geared Up For The Holiday Shopping Season!
The holiday season is the last chance to increase your sales and take your business to the next level. While you will definitely be facing a lot of challenges, set contingency plans in place to address them before they get out of hand. Avoidable mistakes such as mismanaging your supply chain or offering poor customer service drop your ratings and send customers away.
Take every step to prepare and guarantee your customers the type of experience they deserve. That is how you build loyalty and earn a lifetime customer.
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