5 Ways to Prepare Your eCommerce Store for the Holidays
‘Tis the season! Slay the holidays by making sure these 5 areas of your eCommerce business are prepped, perfected and ready for the shopping rush.
This has certainly been a wild year for the eCommerce industry, and it’s not slowing down any time soon. That’s because, believe it or not, we’re already entering Q4 — which means the holiday season is now upon us!
But don’t stress. Managing the shopping rush doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Here are Replyco’s 5 pro tips on preparing your eCommerce store for the holidays.
Stock the Right Inventory
One of the most important steps when getting your online business ready for the holidays is to ensure you stock the right inventory. You want to sell the products customers are looking for, while also having enough of any hot-selling items on-hand to avoid running out before the end of the season.
There are a few ways to approach your holiday inventory checklist. First, if you’ve been in business for at least a year, take a look at the analytics from previous years. What items sold the best? Which products did you sell out of? Were there any frequently requested items that you didn’t have? And finally, did you stock up on any products that wound up not selling well? Addressing these factors can help you determine what to stock this year, as well as what to avoid over-stocking.
Additionally, look to industry insiders, influencers, social media and other forums to research current or upcoming trends in your space. For instance, if you sell toys, learn which ones are predicted to be on kids’ “must-have” wish lists this season.
Likewise, if you sell apparel, check out the projections for this year’s trending colors and styles. Articles surrounding September’s New York Fashion Week are a great place to glean this type of information.
Create Holiday Sales & Promotions
Once you have the right stock on-hand for the holiday shopping season, it’s time to think about sales and promotions.
A few common times for big sales include Amazon Prime Day, Halloween, pre-Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Hanukkah, pre-Christmas, after-Christmas, Boxing Day and New Years Eve / Day. Depending on your store type, you may offer special prices for all events, or pick and choose certain ones. But most every eCommerce seller holds major promotions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Free shipping is often expected these days. However, you can mitigate the expense by offering free shipping on orders over a certain purchase threshold. Expedited shipping is also gaining in popularity as the industry anticipates high package volumes which will likely impact arrival times.
Remember to use your inventory research when deciding which items to offer at promotional prices. You can also offer perks to a special subset of customers like registered members or shoppers who spend a certain dollar amount. To learn more about how to price sale items effectively, consult our full-length guide: 23 Pricing Strategies Any eCommerce Seller Can Use to Increase Sales.
Make Sure You Have Enough Staff
Okay, so you’ve stocked plenty of in-demand inventory and put together an amazing holiday sales and promotions strategy. That means you will likely be inundated by excited shoppers soon. Get ready for the rush by making sure you have enough staff on your team.
Think about every department in your company. Once again, look at your sales from last holiday season (if you’ve been in business for that long). Say you tend to make 3X more sales during the holiday months than during the rest of the year. Is your current staff poised to handle the influx of customer questions, orders, etc.? And can they do so without a significantly negative impact on processing times or customer service?
For most companies, the answer to that question is “No.” So you may need to hire additional workers and / or temporarily bring some of your part-timers up to full-time. Just a few of the types of extra employees you might need to hire could include:
- Sales Reps
- Customer Service Agents
- Warehouse Associates
- Inventory Specialists
- Administrative Workers
- Marketers / Copywriters
- Website Development Staff
Give Shoppers a Great User Experience
Another crucial aspect of your store to check on before the holiday season begins is user experience. Make sure your website is easy to use and navigate. You don’t want shoppers to hit snags while browsing, adding products to their cart, searching for items or checking out.
Have your team go through your site and / or marketplace store(s) to make sure product listings and images are up-to-date, including concise, accurate and compelling descriptions that are SEO ready. If you’re running an Amazon store, it’s important that your products are matched to the correct ASIN numbers to reduce customer confusion. For stand-alone stores, be sure your platform is capable of handling a large number of shoppers and transactions at once without going down.
The inventory on your site should also be displayed in an aesthetically pleasing, sensible way. Shoppers should be able to find what they’re looking for easily, without becoming frustrated or overwhelmed.
Finally, include help pages or popups that offer customers easy access to FAQ or Live Chat agents if they need assistance.
Provide Excellent Customer Service
This last pro tip might just be the most important one of all. The key to running a successful eCommerce store throughout the holidays (and all year long) is providing excellent customer service.
Meet with your entire team and put together a customer service plan for the holiday season. Set out goals and objectives for things like inquiry response times, ways to answer common holiday inventory questions, order processing speed and customer service rep friendliness / demeanor. Every member of your staff should be reminded to put customer experience above all else, even when the work gets stressful or crazy busy.
Additionally, you need a way to keep customers happy even when you’re closed for a holiday. This is where auto-responders come in. By using auto-responders, you can ensure customers receive immediate notification that their message has been received and will be addressed as soon as you re-open.
You can also provide answers to frequently asked questions and information about your store’s hours and policies in the body of your auto-responders. But remember, don’t label your message as an auto-responder. Instead, make the subject line something like: “Thank you for your inquiry,” or “We look forward to assisting you.” Also, if you’re an eBay seller, don’t include any type of contact information in any part of your message.
Finally, if you’re looking for a more effective way to provide customers with stellar service and lightning-fast responses during the holidays, Replyco can help. And with our quick, hassle-free setup process, you can check “get control of customer messaging” off your list in no time.