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5 Ways to Prepare your eCommerce Store for The Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year with gifts, sales and spending on everyone’s minds. However, if your eCommerce store is not well prepared, the holiday season can turn into the most stressful time of the year. Done well, your brand can make around 40-50% of its annual sales during this time. Not to mention with an increasing number of customers joining the cyber shopping shift, you now have a much larger audience right at your brand’s fingertips. To help you get ahead, we’ve shortlisted 5 ways to prepare your eCommerce store for the Holiday Season. 

Assess Inventory

As we mentioned above, your brand can make around 40-50% of its annual sales during the holiday season, which can amount to a large chunk of your stock. To ensure there’s no falling at the first hurdle and running dry on stock too early, it’s crucial to consider your best-sellers, bundles and any upcoming promotions. It’s also important to note that with a surge in online shopping, it also impacts the fulfilment process. Therefore, not only can you expect shipping delays with couriers, but also with suppliers. By assessing and maintaining healthy inventory levels, you can keep your brands fulfilment processes running smoothly and efficiently which, in turn, keeps your customers happy.

Evaluate Fulfilment Processes

Following on from above, fast and efficient fulfilment equals happy customers. Before the holiday rush, re-evaluate your fulfilment processes and address any potential bottlenecks. From automating processes, expanding your in-house pick and pack team or partnering with a 3PL, the sooner you can streamline your processes, the more efficient (and less-stressful) it will be during the holiday season. 

In addition, it’s important to consider where a majority of your orders will be shipping to. If a large amount of orders are being placed on the other side of the country, it may be more efficient and cost effective to have a fulfilment centre closer to that location. This will also help to reduce shipping times and costs, especially with courier delays during the holiday period. Not to mention, with over 1.7 million packages going missing from US doorsteps every day, it’s the perfect opportunity to go the extra mile and offer your customers shipping protection. In the case a package does go missing, shipping protection means that both the brand and customer are covered, and a replacement can be shipped out immediately at no extra charge to either party.

Optimize the Customer Experience

According to Baymard Institute, 69.57% of online shopping carts are abandoned. That’s roughly 7 out of 10 shoppers that will not complete their orders. However, brands can reduce this scary statistic by optimising their customer experience. Firstly, it’s important to ensure your customers can get from start to checkout as seamlessly and as hassle-free as possible. In addition, with over 55% of users shopping on their mobile phones, it’s key to ensure that your website is optimised for mobile users and that all features and functions and working correctly. This also needs to be tested under high volumes of traffic to ensure that your website will not have any technical issues with the increase in users. 

Finally, to give your customers an experience they’ll love, and keep returning back for, ensure you personalise the experience. Despite the heavy shift over to online shopping, consumers still appreciate the feeling of having their very own assistant on standby to answer questions, make recommendations and to reiterate that your purchase is a great choice. There are a number of ways to do this such as making suggestions to enhance their order. For example, if they are ordering a dress, on the listing you can have suggested accessories that go with the dress such as shoes, a purse and jewelry. This is also a great way to increase your average order value. Additionally, you can add a live chat support to your site so customers can shop in confidence knowing that a team member can answer any questions that they may have. This also helps to reduce the number of abandoned carts. 

Prepare Holiday Marketing Strategies

There’s no such thing as too early. In fact, the earlier you can start mapping out your holiday strategies, the better. Start by creating a holiday content calendar with key dates to plan out campaigns, offers, ads, emails and social posts. From there you can tie in any promotions with your inventory evaluation, and for any slower moving products, use bundles or offers to get them off the shelves. In addition, gift guides are a great way to boost SEO around the holiday season and are easy to coincide with promotions and offers your brand may be running. 

Linking back to personalising the customer experience, social and email are also a great way to stay on your customers’ minds. Particularly with email, you can customise and personalise your mailing lists so your customers feel like you are talking directly to them, instead of another mass email. You can use factors such as previous orders, abandoned cart items and frequency of orders to separate these lists to use the the right copy, suggested products and offers that speak directly to them. 

Utilize The Increased Traffic 

With an increase of online shoppers around the holiday season, it’s important to not only provide an exceptional customer experience pre-purchase, but also post-purchase and for those who did not purchase at all. By continuing communications after a customer has visited or purchased from your brand, you can stay on the top of their minds, build trust and encourage them to make the purchase. These communications can include suggested products in a helpful, non-pushy way, special offers, how-to demonstrations so customers can get the most out of your product of service, recommendations and even just a friendly check-in to make sure they are happy with their purchase or what is holding them back from hitting checkout. It’s also the perfect time to revisit your abandoned cart emails to ensure yours stand out from the crowd and help to increase conversions. 

Another great way to make the most out of the increase in traffic, is to add an affiliate or rewards program. Not only does this encourage customers to spend more, but it also increases their customer lifetime value. With every order helping them to accumulate points or discounts, customers will be even more motivated to shop gifts for their family and friends from your brand. In addition, it helps to keep them a returning customers even once the holiday season is over. 

Finally, building a community is a brilliant way to show your customers that your brand cares beyond the spending season. These communities can be easily made in Facebook groups, Slack, PeerBoard and many other options but create a place where you can share tips, offers, feedback and build a truly loyal following which other customers will want to be a part of. 

There are a lot of things for your brand to consider, therefore the earlier you can get started the better. Start evaluating and assessing as much as you can now so you can enjoy a successful and relatively stress-free holiday season. 

Something we missed? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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