Online Retailers - Is Your eCommerce Store Ready For The Holidays?

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We’re almost halfway into October, and you know what that means. That’s right, it’s the beginning of the Holiday season. And as an online retailer, you probably know it starts a month earlier for you than everyone else. While there are huge opportunities in the form of holiday sales, there are also the added complications of dealing with them. Here are a few things to keep in mind before the season starts.

Are Your Holiday Marketing Materials Ready?

The first thing to do in regards to a holiday rush of orders is to ensure you actually have a rush of orders. The fundamental question you need to ask yourself is this: Why would holiday shoppers go to your store over someone else’s during the holidays?

Holiday discounts are a great way to ensure more people come to your store. You can be sure your competitors will be offering them. Another good way to distinguish yourself from the crowd is by offering discounted or free shipping. Studies have shown that offering discounted shipping can increase sales by more than 40%.

Of course, make sure you’re making a profit on such an arrangement. Emphasize how fast your shipping is! Think about all the nervous, last-minute Christmas shoppers who are waiting at the door for their packages! By emphasizing the speed of your delivery, they will be more likely to buy from you.

And speaking of speed of delivery…

Is Your Fulfillment Up To the Holiday Challenge?

Do you have the ability to deliver quickly?

Online buyers these days are used to quick delivery speeds, as most large online retailers offer 2-day delivery by ground. Any longer and you might not be gaining customer loyalty, but losing it instead. Make sure your operations are streamlined so that your target market gets their orders as quickly as possible. There’s nothing worse than a late Christmas present, so don’t spoil your customers’ holiday.

You also need to consider whether you can handle the additional influx of orders from holiday shoppers. It’s not unusual to double, triple, or even quadruple order volume during this time of year.If you’re shipping orders yourself, determine whether you need to hire temporary workers to help you through the busy months. If you simply don’t have the room or the expertise required, consider outsourcing your fulfillment to a specialized service.

Some of you will already be outsourcing your fulfillment. In that case, make sure that your fulfillment provider is able to meet the high standards you would want if you were doing it yourself. Even during the busy holiday season, these standards, such as 1-day order processing, should still be carried out for 100% of orders. If you’re not confident with your service, now is the time to shop around before the orders start flooding in.

Do Something Special To Get Old Customers Coming Back.

You should also engage customers who have shopped at your site before. After all, they are the ones most likely to buy from you. Perhaps you can introduce a new product during the holidays, or have a holiday contest.

At the very least, you will need to communicate with all your loyal buyers. Utilize social media, and also send them eCards or discounts through e-mail. A small gift or holiday card in the mail can produce surprising results, test it in a limited market to find out if it’ll work for you.

There are so many more things you need to do to get ready for the holidays. But the above suggestions are good places to start. One thing, however, is clear. You cannot wait until the season actually starts to get prepared, you need to start now. Otherwise you risk more than a few sales… you’ll risk your reputation.

We’ll continue next week with more things you can do to prepare for holiday shoppers. How have you been preparing for the Holiday rush?

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