Preparing Your Business for eCommerce Holidays

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With the upcoming holiday season, the majority of eCommerce stores are planning for a big rush of orders. Are you ready to make the most of the holiday shopping season? eCommerce holidays are starting earlier and lasting longer, with Cyber Monday turning into a whole week or even an entire month!

As you prepare for the 2022 eCommerce holiday season, you need to be ready for everything from running the sale to getting the orders to your customer's doorstep. How can you ensure a smooth, easy holiday season? Here is what you need to know to make the most of the holidays.

When Are eCommerce Holidays?

The eCommerce holiday season starts earlier than most people realize. For many, Halloween has become a big eCommerce holiday, for fall treats, decorations, and costumes. The shopping season for Halloween started as early as late August or early September. For the winter holidays, many eCommerce shops begin to advertise their November specials at the very beginning of October. That means that you should be planning now for your Black Friday sales.

Each year, there are several fall and winter holidays that drive people to shop. The 2022 eCommerce dates for major holiday shopping are:

  • Halloween | October 31
  • Black Friday | November 25
  • Cyber Monday | November 28
  • Hanukkah | December 18 - 26
  • Christmas | December 25
  • Kwanzaa | Dec. 26–Jan. 1

Shipping Deadlines for 2022 Winter Holidays

For eCommerce businesses, aside from knowing the holiday dates to plan for promotions, you also need to know the shipping deadlines. Each carrier and service has its own shipping deadline. Knowing these options will help you set deadlines and expectations for your customers.

For delivery by Christmas day, here are the 2022 shipping deadlines for FedEx, UPS, and USPS:

Christmas 2022 shipping deadlines - ShipNetwork

*Disclaimer: These Shipping Deadlines are recommended dates and official dates are usually announced closer to the holidays.

Get Ready for Busy eCommerce Holidays

ecommerce holiday calendar - ShipNetwork

When you are thinking about eCommerce holidays, it is never too early to prepare. Now is the perfect time to get started, if you have not already. Whether you do Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the full weekend, week, or even month, there are a lot of things to get ready to have a successful sale. The main categories of big decisions include:

  • Timeframe of promotion.
  • Products to include in the promotion.
  • Marketing your promotions.

Once those decisions are made, you need to get the website ready.

Deciding on the Promotion Details

First, you will need to decide the what and when of the promotion. What will you put on sale? When will the sale happen?

eCommerce stores are not limited to just Cyber Monday. Many stores run a month-long marketing campaign with pop-up deals, flash sales, and special holiday offers. You can choose what best fits your store and the inventory or order capacity you have.

Top Items for eCommerce Holiday Sales

Bestsellers

  • Identify your bestsellers and implement maximum quantities to ensure you have enough stock for the length of the sale. You can also feature your bestsellers in flash sales throughout the event. Bestsellers also work well in a holiday gift set or pitch them to influencers for inclusion in a holiday gift guide.

Upsell & Cross-Sell

  • Encourage customers to either upgrade to a more expensive version, add more items, or purchase a complementary item with their order. You may consider “holiday bundles” of similar or popular items, which can be a great way to upsell customers purchasing one item into buying more!

Product Launch

  • Add a new item to those bundles with popular items, use them in the upsell section, and use social media to create excitement about the deals on a brand new item.

Preparing Your Website

You do not want to encounter website issues while hosting a big sale. You may experience higher traffic and orders than normal, so ensuring your website can handle this increased load will be important. You also will want to make sure your customers don’t get frustrated and leave before completing a purchase.

First, you will want to check that your website can handle more visitors and orders. If not, it might crash mid-sale and people will not be able to complete their orders.

You should also make sure your website is optimized for mobile. More and more people are shopping on their phones, so having it easy to navigate, find products, and place an order from a mobile device is important.

Then you should audit the checkout process. If it is too complicated or involves too many steps, people may close out of the browser without ordering. If you can reduce the steps as much as possible and add one-click purchase options, you might see a much higher conversion rate.

There are many different one-click purchase options these days, so investigate which ones you can offer. You might be able to offer Shopify Pay, Apple Pay, Android Pay, Amazon Pay, or Google Pay. All of these could make it a simple process for your customers, increasing the likelihood of sales.

Marketing Your Promotions With an eCommerce Holiday Calendar

Once you have decided what to sell and when to offer the deals and you have checked over your website and checkout process, it is time to put together your eCommerce holiday calendar for marketing.

Plan Backward

Start with the date of the sale, and plan backward from there. You will want to give yourself plenty of time to promote your holiday sales. If you are hosting a Black Friday sale (or around that time), you should probably start your marketing plan in October.

You can plan a weekly post about the sale interspersed with your normal content, increasing the number of posts the closer you get to the big event.  

Start Early

You should start early with your planning so that you have plenty of time to develop content and create excitement with your audience. You will have enough time to work out any issues your website may be experiencing.

This also gives you time to ensure proper inventory and staffing levels for order fulfillment during and after the sale.

Develop an Audience

You probably already have a following on social media, so now is the time to add to that and convert those people into email subscribers. You can use your Instagram Stories to offer promo codes for signing up for your email list

This tactic will ensure you have a larger number of people to send marketing emails to.

Use Social Media

Social media apps have made it so people never even have to leave the app to make a purchase. This improves the customer experience and cuts down on the steps to making that purchase.

All they have to do is hit "Buy Now" from your post or story, and the app might even fill in the shipping and payment information. You can even have special social commerce flash sales this way to increase buying opportunities.

Create Partnerships

In addition to social media for promotion and sales, you could develop partnerships and collaborate with influencers. A micro-influencer, someone with under 10,000 followers, can have a close-knit community of followers you could target.

They can help create buzz around your products, include you in their holiday gift guides, and encourage their audience to follow you for deals and discounts.

You can create special codes or landing pages for each influencer, so you can gauge which partnerships are the most beneficial for your business.

Run Ads

Promote your products and your online store through digital advertising. You can use advertising like Google Ads to attract paid search visitors searching for your products or industry. Another popular way is by running social media campaigns to let more people find you where they already spend time browsing.

Send Emails

Using your list of past customers’ emails as well as any you collected during the early phases of your eCommerce marketing calendar social media promo, start to send emails teasing the sale about a month out. Let your customers know that you will be hosting a holiday sale, which products they can expect, and how much savings they could see.

You can target it to specific groups, like past customers, and give out special promo codes or have flash sales to thank them for their business. During the sale, you can use email to follow up on abandoned carts and convert those into sales.

Your eCommerce Holiday Guide

holiday season - ShipNetwork

If you want to have a successful holiday season, your eCommerce shop needs to be prepared for everything from a functional website and strong deals to quick order fulfillment and easy returns. Here is a guide to a successful eCommerce holiday season.

Start Early With the Prep Work

By starting early, you will be able to plan for good sales and promote them to current customers, while building an audience to create new customers too. You will also have the time to bring on new staff to help with the busy season or even to outsource things like order fulfillment or returns management.

ecommerce peak season fulfillment - ShipNetwork

Simplify the Customer Experience

You want to make it easy for people to find your products on your website and make it easy to buy from you, too. Things like one-click purchase options and mobile checkout make it simple for your customers to take advantage of the deals you have to offer.

Automatically applying coupon codes or not requiring a code at all can make it simpler for people to checkout with holiday discounts – they won’t have to swap back and forth between different tabs or windows to ensure they get the codes correct.

Make Sure Your Website Works

With so many people shopping during the holidays, you will want to ensure that your website can handle an influx of traffic. You will also want to be sure that the mobile experience works for shopping too.

Optimizing for mobile and having a website capable of higher levels of traffic will help create more conversions during the busiest shopping season of the year.

Check Your Inventory

Whether you store all of your inventory in-house or use an order fulfillment warehouse, you will want to make sure you have enough inventory of your most popular items and the things you will be having on sale.

You do not want to find out later on that your sales exceed your inventory, so knowing what your inventory levels are and checking that your warehouse management system is synced to your storefront so live inventory levels are reflected online will make it an easy process.

Plan for Order Fulfillment

You made a ton of sales during your big holiday season, but that means you have a ton of orders to pack and ship. You should be filling orders as they come in so that you do not have to worry too much about getting behind on order fulfillment. If a customer pays for expedited shipping, prioritize those orders so you can honor the shipping speed they selected and get the order out the door as quickly as possible.

Most shipping companies have Christmas deadlines between December 15 and 20, depending on the shipping speed, but plan for delays and ship early if possible.

Expect Returns

No matter what your products are, you should plan for some returns during the holiday season. Some of these may be impulse buys or even accidental purchases, and the customer may change their mind as soon as they receive them.

Some may be a gift that someone does not want or need. Expect to see some returned inventory, and make sure your return policy is clear upfront so that there are not any major questions or concerns down the road.

Be Ready for the Busy eCommerce Holiday Shipping Season

marketing campaigns - ShipNetwork

Shipping during the holidays can be challenging and overwhelming, but it is so important to get those orders out to your customers quickly. Your customer is excited about the gift they just purchased, and it could be for any number of holidays or events during this time of year, so you can’t count on it being for December 25th only.

You can make the shipping season a little less painful for your business by following these tips.

Offer In-Store or Curbside Pick-up

With more people than ever shopping online, people have gotten used to different shipping and pick-up options. If you have a large local customer base, you can offer in-store and curbside pick-up.

This will keep shipping costs down for you and the customer, can give you a little bit of an extra personal touch with your customers, and lets your customer get their items even faster than shipping.

Clear Expectations

No matter what shipping or pick-up options you offer, be clear about what your customers can expect when it comes to shipping rates, timelines, and policies. If there is a delay or inventory issue, clearly communicate what is happening to your customer and set a new expectation for the timeline.

This will allow you to set more realistic order fulfillment timelines and provide a higher level of customer service.

Provide Options

Make sure your customers have options for shipping. While you may be operating under a Christmas shipping deadline policy, some of your customers may be shopping for Hanukkah, a birthday, or another occasion.

Those will need different shipping deadlines – and some customers may be willing to pay more to get their items there on time. For other customers shopping on Black Friday for Christmas gifts, they may want to save some money on shipping and are okay waiting for ground shipping.

Plan for Returns

As mentioned, you will have some returns from the crazy holiday shopping months. You will want to follow best practices for returns, including making it as easy as possible and having a clear policy in place.

Your returns policy should be easy to find on your website and easy to understand. If an item (or a sale) is not eligible for returns, be sure that it is clearly stated on the item’s product description.

If you have outsourced order fulfillment, check with your provider to see how they can help you with holiday returns.

https://www.shipnetwork.com/resources/holiday-returns-handbook#resource-rfq

eCommerce Holiday Tactics for Your Business

major holiday - ShipNetwork

As you prepare for the holiday season, you should follow these best practice eCommerce tactics to increase sales and keep your customers happy.

Make a Plan

Write out your deals, develop marketing and advertising plans around each one, and set a timeline for when you want to start the promotion of each deal. Make sure you know exactly what you plan to offer and when you plan to offer it.

Start researching potential collaborators for social media specials and marketing campaigns. Take some time to work on your website and get help for items you need additional assistance with (like tech support, seasonal employees, or outsourced tasks).

Update Your Website

If you have plugins or an outdated website, check for updates to make sure its functionality is up to date. You do not want to experience any lag or crashes that happen during your sale dates, as this means you could lose out on sales.

By doing this early, you can be sure that everything will run as smoothly as possible during your promotions.

Set Expectations Upfront

One of the most important things to do is to set clear expectations with your customers from the beginning. So many people are shopping from a lot of different retailers this time of year, and many of them are gift shopping for others. This means they probably have a deadline in mind, whether that is the holiday itself or a party or gathering during the month.

Make sure customers can find order deadlines, shipping speeds, and various methods you offer. If something changes, make sure they know. As you approach the deadline for Christmas delivery, start to add banners or pop-up messages on your website so they know what the last day to order from you is (and what shipping speed they will need to select for that).

Be Prepared With Holiday Gifts

You know that many people are holiday shopping for gifts for their friends and family. You can make this easier by having holiday gifts like bundles, kits, and gift sets. These make it easy for your customers to purchase an entire gift from you, and they make it easy for you by allowing you to pre-package kits so you can easily grab and go when it comes time to ship.

This will reduce packaging time for your order fulfillment staff, allowing you to get the orders out the door much more quickly than if you were assembling some of these items every time they were ordered.

Find the Best Shipping Rates

Compare shipping rates from FedEx, UPS, USPS, and other carriers so that you can offer a variety of affordable options for your customers. Some customers may value speed over cost, so giving options for expedited and standard shipping can appeal to a range of customers celebrating different holidays, planning ahead in their shopping, or those last-minute weekend buyers.

Make Your Customers’ Lives Easy

Make it easy for your customers to find and buy from you. Give different payment options and one-click buy-from product pages. By offering card payments, Apple Pay or Android Pay, Shopify Pay, Amazon Pay, PayPal, and other methods, people can buy with whatever method they already use regularly.

Their payment information and shipping address should already be on file, making it easy and convenient for them. This also helps with mobile ordering, which can be complicated if you do not optimize your website for mobile devices.

Check Coupon Codes

If you do end up using coupon codes instead of automatically applying them, make sure that all codes are accurately input into the backend and those same codes are the ones you send to your customers and use for social media posts.

If a code is broken, inaccurate, or prematurely expired, customers may take their business elsewhere where they can get a good deal on similar products.

Automate, Automate, Automate

You can automate as much as possible to simplify your life. Automate things like the website chatbot, email marketing, social media, sales launches, and more. Tools like Shopify Flow, Constant Contact, Sprout Social, and others will allow your customer-facing or back-end tasks to be scheduled, automated, and automatic.

Spending a little time on set up will allow things to flow smoothly. Your eCommerce platform and automation tools may even have a library of templates of common tasks, graphics, and other items you can use to quickly customize and automate your most common tasks.

Stay On Top of Order Fulfillment

As orders come in, it’s important this time of year to stay on top of order fulfillment. It may be your normal policy to ship on Mondays and Wednesdays during other parts of the year, but orders can quickly stack up during this time and you may want to reconsider that policy.

Packaging and shipping orders as they come in will keep your customers happy and cut down on customer emails asking for order status updates.

Rescue Abandoned Carts

Shopping cart abandonment is inevitable, especially during this time of year when it seems like everyone has a sale! People may be shopping on many tabs, adding things to carts, and then looking around for a better deal.

You can rescue an abandoned cart and bring that customer in with email marketing and other tools. Sending an abandoned cart email or an automated message with Facebook Messenger using ShopMessage with a reminder and even an extra discount can convert that customer.

Simplify as Much as Possible

Automating tasks, prepping common items for kitted or boxed orders, and planning for shipping are all great ways for you to get ahead and simplify your holiday selling season. A few other ways to simplify your eCommerce holiday season are scheduled package pickups or outsourcing your shipping altogether.

Scheduled package pickups might be able to save you hours each week without having to drop off packages to the shipping carriers. If you want to go one step further, you can find a third party to outsource your order fulfillment. Outsourcing takes time to get set up, so starting now means that you can have this in place by the holiday season.

A third-party logistics provider can help with holiday shopping, and continue with order fulfillment services year-round. You may even be able to find some extra support with lower shipping rates with a 3PL’s network of carriers.

Work With a Fulfillment Partner for Successful eCommerce Holidays

ecommerce dates - ShipNetwork

While it may not make sense for all companies to outsource order fulfillment to a third-party logistics partner (3PL), it can be the best thing some businesses can do for their growth.

If you already feel like you are stretched thin with order fulfillment, warehousing, etc. the lead-up to the busy holiday season can be the perfect time to make the jump into finding a 3PL.

3PLs handle warehousing, order fulfillment, returns management, and more.

What 3PLs Do for eCommerce Businesses

When you partner with a 3PL, you get expert help with logistics tasks. In addition to taking on some of the most time-consuming tasks, they have different technologies and systems to help your business grow and scale.

The data on your inventory levels and order fluctuations can help you make important supply chain decisions in the future, and they are set up to be more efficient.

Receiving

The 3PL needs to receive your inventory. They input the data of inventory into their warehouse management system (WMS), so they can accurately keep track of what you have in their possession.

Warehousing

After the items have been received, they need to be stored. Your company will be assigned an area in the warehouse with shelves, bins, or pallets, which will make order fulfillment easier for the warehouse staff when the time comes.

Picking

Once an order is placed, picking is the first step of fulfillment. There are a few different methods for this, but one of the most common is “pick and pack.” The 3PL’s software will integrate into your eCommerce platform. A packing slip is printed when a customer places an order, and the warehouse worker picks each item in the order.

Packing

After the items have been picked, it is time for them to be packed. They are securely packed in the optimal mailer or box, with protection to secure items through the shipping process.

Depending on your 3PL, you may have branded boxes or packing tape, which allows for your packages to be easily identified.

Shipping

Depending on the shipping method selected at checkout, the package is labeled with the correct shipping label and waits to be picked up. Most 3PLs will input the tracking information into your eCommerce platform, so an email can be automatically sent to update your customer with the current status.

This gives you, the 3PL, and the customer access to the tracking information so everyone knows where the order is during the shipping process.

Returns

We all know that returns will happen, especially during the holidays. Your 3PL can help with managing returns from impulse buys or unhappy customers. They can help you follow your company’s procedures for returns, taking another task from your already busy plate and managing the inventory when it comes back to them.

Benefits of Partnering With a 3PL

Efficient Order Fulfillment

Order fulfillment might be the reason that you seek out a 3PL, but giving more shipping options to your customers is a happy bonus for both you and your customer. 3PLs have relationships with shipping carriers and benefit from the accumulated volume of shipments from all clients, giving you access to negotiated discounts so that you can see lower costs and expanded shipping options.

You may even be able to expand to include international shipping or shortened timelines with 3PL warehouses and networks across the country.

Warehouse Management

As you grow and expand, you can quickly run out of warehouse space to store inventory. With a 3PL, you won’t need to worry about accommodating peak season inventory or scaling storage up and down throughout seasonal cycles.

In addition to warehouse space, 3PLs have warehouse management systems (WMS) that can help with reporting inventory levels, organization, and data analytics.

Using Rakuten Super Logistics, Now ShipNetwork During the eCommerce Holiday Season

2022 ecommerce holiday - ShipNetwork

Rakuten Super Logistics, now ShipNetwork can integrate with eCommerce platforms like Shopify, ShipStation, Amazon, and more so that you can take full advantage of order fulfillment and automated processes during eCommerce’s busy holiday season.

By partnering with ShipNetwork for your logistics needs ahead of any big sales and promotions you have planned, you get access to our one to two-day delivery network, great shipping rates, and a team of experienced fulfillment professionals.

If you want to have order fulfillment services in place before the holidays, now is the time to start those conversations. Learn how ShipNetwork can provide a high level of support for your team and your customers and get a quote for order fulfillment services today.

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