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5 Important Ways to Prep Your Ecommerce Store Early for the Holiday Season

Why Headless Commerce Is the Way to Sell in 2019
August 30, 2019
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5 Important Ways to Prep Your Ecommerce Store Early for the Holiday Season

Christmastime is the biggest shopping season of the year. They even make entire movies about it. (Remember Jingle All The Way, anyone?) The fact that this shopping can now be done mostly online means that ecommerce stores also need to prepare themselves for the crazy Christmas rush. However, if you wait until December to get started, you could be in for a sore surprise when you get left out of the famed holiday sales boost.

Many customers start shopping for the holiday over the Thanksgiving weekend. After a Thursday of turkey and family fun, they’ll go hunting for deals on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Nowadays, many retailers, but online and in-store, have started to promote deals for that weekend long before the weekend itself, so their customers can plan accordingly.

This means that if you’re looking to get into the holiday shopping fray, you need to start preparing no later than mid-October to truly maximize your holiday earning potential.

So what should you be doing to prepare for the season rush? Here are some of the major things that should definitely be on your list.

1. Make a promotional plan

Before you dive in, it’s always good to have a general idea of what promotions you’ll be offering and to whom, as well as how you’re going to execute it all. These are some of the things you’ll need to consider when planning your promotion:

  • Which audience will you be targeting and who are they buying for?
  • What products will you promoting, i.e. which ones have the most giftable potential?
  • What’s the special offer – discounts, free shipping, BOGO (buy one, get one)?
  • How will you be promoting the offer – website banner, social media, online advertising?
  • When will you start promoting to maximize your sales potential?

As soon as you’ve drafted your plan, get into action immediately with executing it – especially if you engage a freelance graphic or web designer to assist. Remember, they have other clients making similar plans, so you don’t want to catch them during their busy period.

2. Talk to your suppliers about their plans for the holidays

Manufacturers and suppliers know that their clients, i.e. retail stores, will need additional products during this time. While they often do their best to prepare for it, it never hurts to let them know in advance that you’ll be needing a larger order when the time comes. If they have a shortage and have to ration stock, you want to make sure you’re at the top of the list.

Your suppliers will also be able to tell you about any anticipated challenges with delivery and shipping, and how they plan to handle them. This may have some impact on your own shipping times, so it’s always good to know so you can expect any delays and keep your customers well-informed. Speaking of which…

3. Consider outsourcing fulfillment or dropshipping

Shipping and logistics for online business owners during the holiday season can be a nightmare. If you feel like you won’t be able to handle the influx of orders on your own, or you don’t have the space to accommodate additional inventory, consider outsourcing your fulfillment process, or dropshipping, to remove yourself from the shipping process altogether.

There are many great dropshipping resources online that can guide you to reliable suppliers and manufacturers who are well-experienced in handling order fulfillment for their customers and they have an existing logistics network they can count on. Who knows, the suppliers you use right now may offer such a service without you knowing!

[Image Credit: ELEVATE on Pexels]

With a fulfillment center, you’ll have to get the products to them first before they can handle shipping for you. This setup is best if you already have products on hand, or you need to work with a supplier who doesn’t offer dropshipping.

Either way, you’ll want to start working with these partners at least a month before the holiday rush begins to ensure that you’re both comfortable with the process and you can work out all the finer details in good time.

4. Let your customers know what to expect with shipping

There are two main things your customers want to know when they buy gifts online during the holiday season – will it get to them in time, and will they be able to return it, if needed. To remove any potential friction in these two areas, but this information in a prominent spot on your website.

Offering guaranteed shipping by Christmas? Let them know. May there be potential delays after a certain date? Let them know. Do you offer money-back guarantees or exchanges for returns? Let them know!

The more your customers are informed upfront, the more they can plan accordingly. Increased sales are great, but if you’re planning for your store to be around next year, the last thing you want is disgruntled customers whose packages didn’t show up in time for the holiday.

5. Hold off any major website changes

This may sound a bit counter-intuitive. Showing off a brand new site just in time for Christmas sounds like a grand idea! In theory.

However, trying to adjust to a new setup when you’re already stressed with a growing order list can be a nightmare for even the most tech-savvy online store owners. The potential for something to break or simply not function the way it was intended is also much higher immediately after a website redesign. Your existing customers will be even more frustrated trying to navigate a site they were previously comfortable with.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make any website design changes. You absolutely should! Giving your site a bit of holiday-themed decor not only puts your customers in a festive mood, but it also lets them know that you are open for holiday business – literally!

Christmas promotional banner [Image Credit: Addicted to Costo]

Along with promotional banners and images, feel free to add a few prominent cues such as gift packaging options and pairing ideas to let customers know that you are ready and willing to be their source for amazing holiday gifts. Just don’t go about changing your core design and functionality too close to the season.

Wrapping Up

A holiday sales boost is a great way to end the year on a high note, but if you want a piece of that big ol’ $707.5 billion dollar holiday sales pie, then you’ll have to put in some work to get there. Fortunately, if you get a jump on things by starting earlier than most, you’ll find that it can lighten the load and leave both you and your customers very happy during the holidays.

Moosa Hemani
Moosa Hemani
Moosa Hemani owns SEtalks.com, an Inbound Marketing Agency that help clients grow their traffic and leads using all Inbound Marketing channels. 

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