5 Easy eCommerce Holiday Prep Strategies

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With the advent of Amazon Prime and two- and one-day shipping, customers are turning to the internet to do an ever-increasing amount of their shopping, especially around the holidays. Shopping online presents a wide array of advantages over fighting the crowds at the local mall, and many savvy consumers realize that doing their holiday shopping online can save them stress and money.

Online sales have increased substantially over the past several years. During the 2018 holiday season (November and December), for example, there were 16.6% more sales than the previous year, continuing a trend of steadily increasing growth. Even brick-and-mortar retailers are having to rethink the way they approach the season because of the shopping shift taking place.

In 2018, 60% of consumers said they planned to do more than half of their holiday shopping online. More than 80% planned to bypass the brick-and-mortar stores for at least a quarter of their holiday spending. The type of shopping experience memorialized in Christmas movies is becoming a thing of the past as consumers increasingly put a greater priority on economy and efficiency.

That's great news for eCommerce sites, but capitalizing on the changing preferences and values of customers requires planning. E-retailers can reap benefits by implementing a plan long in advance of the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday, and even before Halloween. Now is the time to troubleshoot potential issues and launch that plan. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the adage is as true for e-retailers as it is for everyone else.

To take maximum advantage of the trend, here are some holiday sales tips and best practices to implement to make sure that your holiday season goes off without a hitch.

Test your site and troubleshoot

Perform tests on your website to determine whether it can handle the expected increase in volume. If pages take a long time to load, many customers will become impatient and abandon their carts. Half of survey respondents said they leave a web page if it takes more than three seconds to display. The type of customer who shops online values speed and ease.

Because of that, it's important that you assess the design and functionality of your site and consider whether steps can be eliminated from the checkout process. And, implement a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy so the site will already be ranking high in search results by the time the holiday season begins. Now is a good time for stylistic changes, when traffic is relatively low.

Develop a timeline

Developing a marketing timeline is the foundation of success. Execute a strategy that considers the nature of the product you offer and the mindset of your typical customer. If you sell big-ticket items, you may want to start your marketing campaign early. Customers likely won't be buying from you on impulse.

Research shows that more than 40% of customers start their holiday shopping before the end of October, so reaching them early is vital. Offering "early bird" sales will beat brick-and-mortar retailers to the punch and tip the scales in your favor.

Maximize warehouse efficiency and plan labor needs

For e-retailers, maintaining the correct amount of inventory is crucial to a successful holiday season. Overpromising on delivery windows and failing to stock the items that customers want can lead to frustration and lost sales. One expert recommends increasing inventory by at least 50% to accommodate the holiday influx.

Another holiday sales tip is to think about your staffing needs, because you'll likely be handling a much higher volume of orders than during the rest of the year. If you hire seasonal workers, don't forget to factor in time to train them before the rush.

Forecast demand and keep an eye on trends

To maximize your warehouse efficiency, obtain real-time data on what you have in stock. Cloud computing technology such as that used by Rakuten Super Logistics can be extremely helpful. It can enable you to keep track of inventory efficiently and regularly update information on all your sales channels.

If you've been in business for more than a year, you can also use sales data from previous years to forecast the amount of inventory needed to keep on hand and maximize sales, since often the past is prologue, as Shakespeare said.

Take note of what works

Our final holiday sales tip is this: a successful retailer never stops planning. Keeping close track of sales spikes, how customers respond to ad campaigns and promotions and what your staffing and delivery needs are can help you have an even more profitable holiday season in 2020.

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