The pandemic has continued to accelerate eCommerce growth around the world. Many small businesses continue to invest in eCommerce solutions to serve a growing base of customers who prefer to shop online.
This holiday season, it is forecasted that US retail eCommerce sales will surge to 14.4% ($211.66 billion), accounting for 18.4% of total retail sales.
Plan ahead before holiday crunch time hits you and your business
For many of us, the holiday season means two things: shopping and stress. We need to find gifts for everyone on our list, we’ve got to try not to spend too much, and we’ve got to make sure the gifts get to where they need to be on time. And we’ve got to do all of that around getting ready for guests or trips around the holidays, preparing large or involved meals, dealing with weather changes, and so on.
Now, if it’s this stressful as a shopper during the holiday season, it’s likely even more stressful for merchants like you! You’ve got to make sure that you have enough stock to meet customer demand, ensure your prices are listed accurately, manage customer expectations and complaints or suggestions, work with shipping and logistics providers so that products get delivered where they need to in a timely manner, keep up with billing and payroll, and so on.
It’s a lot to deal with — and that doesn’t even touch on the challenges that can come with running an online shop! For example, can your store manage a substantial uptick in online traffic? Are all of its promotions accurate? Does it function well on phones and other mobile devices?
Being successful online during the holidays can be essential to the livelihood and stability of many businesses, and eCommerce is expected to account for a record 18.9% of total holiday season retail sales in 2021*. So it’s critical that not only is your store prepared for the craziness of the holiday shopping season but that you start preparing it now. The holidays will be upon us before we know it and soon it’ll be too late to ready your online shop for the world’s biggest shopping season of the year.
That’s why we’ve put together this practical guide to help you prepare your business for the holiday selling season. Keep reading to learn quick tips to make holiday selling a breeze for your business.
Here are the five tips to optimize your store for holidays:
1. Know your promotions, coupons, and discounts
Everyone loves a good coupon or deal on something they want to buy, and shopping online is no different. Given the option to purchase something at a discount or as part of promotion instead of paying full price, wouldn’t you want to take advantage of a deal to get greater value as a shopper?
Now is the time to figure out any deals or promotions you want to run for the holidays so that you can get them set up well in advance and start advertising them to your current and potential customers. Massive shopping days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday along with everything else holiday-related will be top-of-mind for shoppers, so it’s important that you plan out your emails, website and social promotions, and other offers now so you can focus on fulfillment later.
2. Know your shipping deadlines
The holiday season is stressful and taxing for shipping companies, too. Shipping volumes (and customer expectations) rise significantly ahead of the holidays, so waiting until the last minute to get stuff out is obviously less than ideal because there’s no guarantee that things will ship on time.
So whether you’re using the postal service, UPS, FedEx, DHL or another carrier, take the time now to learn the deadlines for each logistics provider. And make sure you communicate your deadlines to your customers so that they know exactly what to expect ahead of time. You don’t want to potentially anger customers because a gift didn’t arrive on time!
3. Update your content for the holidays
Now, while now is not the time to engage in a broad-scale update or rebrand of your online store, it could do with some updated content specifically for the holiday selling season.
Check and make sure that all of your FAQs, shipping details, shipping terms, and return policy pages are updated for the holiday season. Look at your confirmation emails, too; is everything clear and accurate?
You may also want to consider adding some holiday language to remind your customers that not all delays are the merchant’s fault. Because if there is a problem, the first place many customers will go is your website, and you don’t want to find out that your policy pages haven’t
been updated since the summer.
4. Use trust seals
If you’ve been thinking about adding trust seals or achievement certificates to your website, there’s never been a better time (or reason) to do so. With many retail stores and online shops to choose from, having differentiators like trust seals and other certificates can help set your
business apart from the competition as a place that’s safe and customer-centric to shop at.
Anywhere customers are reviewing you, any awards you’ve received, and any security seals or recognition you’ve received — add them to your site’s footer and checkout pages so that customers know that they are making the right choice at check out by purchasing from your shop.
If you were the consumer, would you rather purchase from a shop that’s received certifications and recognition for protecting customer information, or a shop that’s earned none of those things?
During the second quarter of 2020 alone, 31% of all eCommerce sales come from purchases made through mobile phones, and this percentage is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.
So when was the last time you bought something on your own website using your phone? Or, more to the point, when was the last time you reviewed your shop’s mobile experience?
Try making a sample purchase on your website through your phone, and note anything that you don’t like about the experience: Is the checkout experience quick and easy? Did images, sizes, and colors load properly? Were any questions you had answered by FAQs or policy pages?
If anything about the purchase experience makes you cringe, you’ll want to update these things before the holidays, because chances are some of your clients will share some of these dislikes, which could turn them off from making a purchase.
We hope this guide has given you helpful background information on (as well as a nudging toward) getting your business ready for the holidays. It’s never too early to get started prepping your business for the biggest shopping season of the year; when it gets close to crunch time, trust us — you’ll be glad you did.
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