There’s an undeniable nip of cold in the air and the Holidays are just around the corner. Soon the waves of eager customers looking for holiday gifts for friends and family will flood online and physical shopping venues all over the world. Once, shoppers would have had to perform their yearly pilgrimage to the shopping malls to get everything they need but today, eCommerce is the new crowd-free shopping mall alternative. Of course, what this means is that no matter how small your eCommerce site, you’re likely to see a massive boost in sales as the holiday season rolls around. Are you ready?
Here are ten great tips to face the holiday onslaught of orders, thrive, and come out the other side with more revenue than you can shake a stick at. While you may be exhausted from restocking and shipping by New Years, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that next year could be even bigger. All you have to do is prepare correctly and your inventory will be flying off the shelves in no time.
1. Stock Up on Inventory Early
First and foremost, the holidays are a season of shopping. No matter what you sell, if it would make an interesting, lovely, or useful gift you are likely to sell a lot of it. Your primary goal over the holiday season is to avoid the dreaded ‘out of stock’ sign. Make sure to stock up extra goods before the buying frenzy starts and be prepared to restock at a moment’s notice. Running out of an item people want to buy means lost sales, lost revenue, and potentially lost customers as they look somewhere else for the item they would have bought from you. Make sure your inventory is ready for the rush.
2. Make a Fast-Restock Plan with Your Suppliers
Most industries, even homemade handicrafts, have some kind of supplier. If you are working with any 3PL (third-party logistics) companies who supply you or help you with other logistical tasks, give them a heads up about your holiday preparation plans. Make sure to get your restock orders in early, while there’s still plenty of inventory left, so you never fully run out. If you are running any special promotions on specific items, let your partners know about the potential extra orders as well.
3. CLEARLY STATE SHIPPING AND RETURN POLICIES
To reduce the number of confused or unhappy shoppers calling your customer service, make sure your policies are clearly stated and highly visible during the shopping experience. Clearly state shipping policies and give estimates based on selected shipping method early and display it prominently so customers can calculate against their own busy schedules. Clearly stated return policies will help customers make their return decisions quickly to comply.
4. Make a Holiday Promotions Calendar
The final cluster of holidays aren’t the only ones you can promote, celebrate, and make extra sales from. Make a calendar of every holiday you plan to participate in along with the featured items and promotions you’d like to associate with them. Don’t forget specialties like Free Shipping Day and Green Monday, which are special holidays just for retail venues. Publish your promotions calendar so your customers can come find deals on those special days.
5. Website Speed, Load Capacity, and Security
While you may be doing tons of hard work on promotions, images, and planning, it’s your website that brings the orders into home-base. It needs to be fast or people will wander off, it needs to handle a lot of customers at once without crashing, and it needs to be secured against potential hackers trying to ruin your lucrative holiday season. If you’re not an IT expert, work with a freelancer or agency to beef up the durability, security, and speed of your eCommerce portal before the rush and consider arranging for steady IT support until the holidays are over.
6. Festive Item Images
People buy based on a lot of things, but their final decision is often based on the images. Do a full assessment of your listed item images and make sure they are big, detailed, well-lit, and complimentary from all angles. Any sub-par images should be re-shot to make sure your entire inventory is literally presented in its best light.
7. Featured Items and Gift Ideas
If there’s one thing shoppers need in the months leading up to the holidays, it’s gift ideas. Make and feature special lists and item categories that would make good gift ideas for categories of people like ‘dad’ or ‘best friend’ or ‘girl children’ as these will help people organize their thoughts and find the perfect gifts. Don’t be shy about throwing your overstock items into the featured lists. If they are perfect for someone, it’s a great way to clean out old inventory.
8. SSL Secure Your Website
You know that little green lock on the left-hand side of your browser address bar? That indicates that a website is safe. The browser knows this because the website domain and IP address are registered with the SSL system and the site you’re visiting matches this registration. This tells visitors that they are on the real website and not some hacker-spoof built to steal credit card information. If your eCommerce portal is not yet set up to be SSL secure, now is a good time.
9. Increase Customer Service
Have no doubt, customers want the same level of customer service no matter how many of them are swamping your phone and chat lines. They expect prompt answers, fast solutions, and considerate upbeat service and it’s your responsibility to provide this. If you can, consider hiring extra customer service staff for the busiest part of the holiday season. This will allow you to continue providing top quality responsiveness and service without overworking your regular staff. Make sure to brief the entire team on how to maintain a unified response to things like special requests, shipping delay notifications (practically inevitable), and standard procedures.
10. Optimize the Checkout Process
Getting customers to come shop is one thing but closing the deal and getting their virtual carts to the finish line is often its own special challenge. To optimize your checkout process, there are a few things you can do. First, make your shipping estimates clear early on so shoppers know as soon as possible whether or not their items will arrive ‘in time’ for their plans. Next, display shipping fees as soon as they select a shipping method and consider integrating more payment options to make it easier for more people to buy from your store. Finally, try to optimize the page load time for checkouts as waiting more than three seconds result in impatiently abandoned carts.
The holidays are an exciting and festive time for shopping, buying, and commerce in general. Preparing your eCommerce site is important, but it doesn’t have to be a hassle. Get into the holiday spirit and have some fun designing your promotions and featured items lists. Just make sure your website, inventory, and shipment fulfillment are up to the increased traffic and you’re ready to restock your inventor at a moment’s notice. For more small business tips in and out of the holiday season, don’t hesitate to contact us today! Here at Ottawa Logistics, helping eCommerce businesses handle high volume orders is what we do best.