The holiday season is right around the corner, and the National Retail Federation is predicting a 3.6% increase in sales for 2016. If you want a piece of this $655.8 billion pie, your eCommerce business needs to look at its list and check it twice.
1. Prepare Product Photos and Content
Make sure to take product photos with multiple angles so that customers see exactly what they’re getting. The description and supporting content should address common questions to reduce the load on your customer service and returns staff during and after the holidays. If the products come with manuals or require additional downloads, include these in your listing.
2. Optimize Your Website’s User Experience
Visit your own eCommerce store… How many seconds does it take for it to load? Kissmetrics found 40 percent of people leave a website if they’re stuck waiting for more than three seconds. You don’t want to drive away almost half your potential holiday sales, so take some time to test your site and get it prepared for heavier than normal traffic. Take the path a typical consumer uses when they purchase a product, and identify ways to make this process easier. While you’re testing the user experience, don’t forget about the mobile experience too – all devices are different.
3. Prep Your Customer Support
Empower your customer support staff with the tools they need to help holiday shoppers shop effectively. Zendesk, Desk and Intercom offer powerful solutions that allow your employees to increase productivity while maintaining a high quality customer experience. For many people, getting help with their holiday gifts or purchases is the first time they interact with your organization. Get started on the right foot.
4. Create Your Holiday Marketing Material
You have enough on your plate during the holiday season, so create a marketing plan and the corresponding assets in advance. Blog posts, gift guides, Instagram pictures, Facebook polls and email promotions are just some of the marketing material that you can create in advance. By planning early on, you can focus solely on execution once you hit the critical weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Use a calendar to coordinate with multiple departments, teams and outside partners so that you can be productive, increase sales and get a good return on your investment. If you’re planning to use techniques you haven’t previously incorporated into your marketing, spend some time doing test runs before you get bogged down in holiday details.
5. Help New Customers With Their Gift Shopping
New consumers may be completely unfamiliar with your market segment and have no idea where to start with their shopping. Publish a series of gift guides, offer an interactive tool designed to recommend the most suitable products, or offer a “gift concierge” via live chat, phone or other support channels. The gift giver gets the information they need, and the gift receiver ends up with a present that they love, as well as exposure to your brand.
6. Stock Up on Packaging
Shipping logistics are complicated enough during the holiday season, so don’t let your supply chain get held up because you ran out of packaging. Look at your previous year’s holiday shopping data to order an appropriate mix of options that match consumer buying patterns. You may usually go through smaller boxes during the year, but during the holiday season, you may find that you need larger boxes or packaging as consumers shop for the whole family.
Want to go the extra mile? Get custom printed packaging featuring holiday motifs or styles that can double as a gift box. Last-minute shoppers and those who never got the hang of wrapping presents will thank you. Companies such as Arka, Lumi and Uline are great options if you want to provide custom branded packaging for the holiday season (or any time of year).
7. Stock Up on Enough Inventory
Don’t cross your fingers and hope you have enough inventory to make it through the holiday season. If you end up going out of stock midway through the holiday, you will potentially miss out on revenue opportunities and then of course the customer will be disappointed that they can’t get what they were looking for. Reference any available data from November and December of 2015 to establish a baseline for your order volume, but also research predicted trends for the end of the year as well.
8. Prepare Shipping Logistics
The United States Postal Service handled 600 million packages during the 2015 holiday season. Consumers want their packages as quickly as possible and don’t particularly care that every shipping service is at or over capacity. The Wall Street Journal found same-day, next-day and two-day shipping from companies such as Amazon have defined what fast is for 90% of consumers. 63% still consider a three- or four-day shipping time speedy, but satisfaction goes down rapidly after this. Adjust your order cutoffs and shipping deadlines accordingly to provide the service your customers expect from your brand.
Make sure you have everything you need from this checklist and prepare your eCommerce store for a very busy holiday season. By being prepared early, you leave yourself plenty of time to make last-minute adjustments.