Tips to prepare e-commerce business for holiday season
The holiday shopping season is fast-approaching, and it is time to prepare your online business for optimized performance, if you haven’t already. According to the National Retail Federation, 20-40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place over the last two months of the year. What’s more, pundits predict a whopping 17.2 percent increase in holiday ecommerce sales in 2016, with consumers taking to the web earlier than ever to start their shopping.
The following five tips will help you prepare for the upcoming holiday season!
One of the most important planning steps for a successful holiday season is to understand your customers buying patterns and offering them curated selection of products. It is very difficult for buyers to find all your products and they may miss out on a few interesting ones. Create special landing pages with themes and pre-selected ware. Use your page real estate to create banners about these themes so that visitors can easily find them. Invest in tools like “similar to your search and view” so that customers can have a choice in colour and variation. Create bundles with accessories or complementary products like an earring with a pendant or a mobile case with a device. This makes shopping easy and enjoyable. Do not make your site overbearing with offers as it may also deter some customers. Highlight certain products and product categories that can provide a wow experience. Make sure that you show what is in stock to avoid disappointment. Most importantly if you are offering a promotion call it out very transparently and clearly and do not try to put too many riders, this may again create negative perceptions about your brand and business practises.
Conduct a stress test for your website
The holiday rush will push your website performance to its technical limit; if you can’t stand the pressure, you’ll experience downtime. Check your infrastructure and capabilities for astronomically high sales as compared to regular week’s sales. One way to forecast is to look at percentage growth in last year just before the festive season and during season to predict this year’s potential. Match your stocks with current season trends. Services like Load Focus and Locust let you swarm your site with millions of artificial users to see how your server performs. If the results aren’t good, talk to your hosting company about increasing your bandwidth. Now is also a good time to test your site’s load speed. Optimize your images, clear up your database, get your hands on the latest version of your theme, and you should be able to give Santa’s sleigh a run for its money.
Improve Your Content
When buying online shoppers make their decisions on a) the product information you provide, b) reviews by experts or their peer shoppers about the product and the seller. Hence it is important that you have multiple product images, videos describing the product, the right product descriptions, dimensions and any specific information that can be useful in buyer decision making. The richer the catalogue the better the chances of securing a buy. Also encourage your buyers to provide product reviews as other potential buyers tend to trust their decision and inputs. Spend some time in the coming weeks ramping up your content strategy, including development of blog articles and social posts that speak to the interests of holiday shoppers in targeted markets.
Many a time potential customers have questions before they make their purchase. Be ready to answer customer queries quickly. Even if you use a reputed shipping company having the orders ready for shipping is a time-consuming process, especially for smaller ecommerce businesses and hiring additional staff ensures that. Budget for higher number of items that may require gift packaging and adding special messages. These are very standard requests from customers shopping during holiday season. Spend time in training the new staff on regular processes, create standard operating procedure (SOP) manuals and even try some dry runs to make sure that they processes work in tandem. Define certain acceptable benchmarks for your team to answer customer emails, tweets, Facebook queries and calls and make sure that they adhere to it. The faster you respond, the higher the conversion rate.
At first make sure that you communicate clearly on every product page about the time you would take to ship the item. Many a time the supply lines from manufacturers and procurement agents go haywire during peak season. Make sure you have them secured. Also work with your shipping providers to find out if they have changed their shipping time estimates. Present a true picture to your customers. It is also advisable to integrate with the tracking systems of your shipping providers so that your customers can track the packages till they are delivered. Create email and SMS alerts so that you can communicate real time with them.
The holidays are a busy time for small business owners, both professionally and personally. By planning your marketing activities now, you’ll have more time to help your business be a success during the holiday season.