It’s no secret the holiday season is the busiest time for ecommerce retailers, and this year (despite all of its uncertainties) is on track to break even more records. The upcoming Q4 is anticipated to blow by last year and become the busiest quarter in ecommerce history, just one more way 2020 has taught us to expect the unexpected.
With that said, you might find yourself wondering how to apply that same lesson to your order and inventory operations. Fortunately, Skubana has compiled an ecommerce holiday planning checklist that’ll help your team tackle the upcoming holiday season with ease, so you can welcome all the growth and financial gains that accompany it.
While traditional Black Friday shopping has come to a halt this year, the future for ecommerce sales still looks bright. In fact, an estimated 61% of online retailers are predicting increased customer engagement and profits this holiday, which is why so many brands are ramping up their merchandising, marketing, and social media strategies to accommodate this upward trajectory.
As you prepare for the impending surge in holiday shopping, use this ecommerce holiday checklist to ensure your company thrives (not just survives) this season.
The truth is, customers are loyal to brands who make shopping an easy, seamless experience, and this is never more pertinent than at the holidays. If new customers run into issues while using your online store, or they can’t readily find what they’re looking for, there’s a strong chance they’ll move on and make their purchase elsewhere. That’s why, to keep cart abandonment low, it’s so important to secure a solid infrastructure, industry-leading uptime, and updated third-party integrations for your site well ahead of the holiday rush.
When it comes to your online infrastructure, your shop needs to be able to handle a large surge in both traffic and transactions. To guarantee everything is up to par, do a round of testing to see how well your site responds to spikes in visits and traffic patterns. Similarly, check on your site speed and determine the length of your page load time; if it’s any longer than three seconds, you’ll likely be faced with high bounce rates. Improvements and optimizations can definitely be made in this area, but may require revising image sizes for the web or reducing the average number of redirects.
Evaluating your third-party integrations is another crucial component to having the most efficient site possible. Take the time to test your third-party integrations and make sure they can handle the load, and then don’t add any more -- a last-minute addition can actually disrupt the flow or slow down the speed of your site.
And don’t forget about optimizing your checkout page, as improving the checkout process can keep customers from leaving your site before they’ve completed their purchase. The best checkout systems are simple and streamlined, hosting all checkout-related forms on a single page to make payment quick and painless. Likewise, providing guest checkout and offering a range of payment options can have a positive impact on customer satisfaction, as well.
With a staggering number of shoppers relying on ecommerce this year, it’s not difficult to imagine the amount of competition online retailers will face. A surefire way to stay a step ahead of your competitors is to plan, create, and schedule your marketing strategy well in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Send a series of promotional ‘teaser’ emails in the weeks leading up to these shopping days, so your subscribers are on the lookout for the big holiday reveal (whether that’s an exclusive product, an insider discount, free shipping, etc).
Your marketing efforts via email blasts, text messages, social posts, or other ideations should absolutely showcase the holiday deals and bundles you know your target audience will want.
Make seasonal favorites the focus of your emails or Instagram ads to drive traffic to your site, where personalized product recommendations can be made to drive sales further. It may seem obvious to promote your Christmas specials, but it’s truly the best way to lead shoppers deeper into their buying journey (and closer to checkout).
If your ecommerce marketing campaign doesn’t have something seasonally relevant to show shoppers right away, you run the risk of losing their attention, and ultimately, losing that potential sale. That’s why keeping your content flowing and optimized for SEO is an essential part of a holiday marketing strategy; when your content is original and consistent, chances are customers will find themselves on your site without a second thought.
With this in mind, don’t be afraid to leverage social media in any and every way that makes sense for your brand. You can utilize a variety of resources from Instagram Checkout, to hashtags, to paid advertising, all of which lead to higher traffic, and inevitably, greater sales.
While online shopping can sometimes lack the ambience or warmth associated with a brick-and-mortar business, there’s no doubt you can still deliver a memorable experience within a virtual space. But if you hope to exceed customer expectations, not only does your ecommerce business need to operate smoothly, it also needs to include a personalized touch.
By investing in your site’s design, you can really breathe life into your brand, optimize the user experience, and give your customers an engaging shopping experience -- making them much more likely to return. But thoughtful design goes beyond holiday-themed banners and landing pages, by providing customized suggestions tailored to each unique shopper.
For example, if you’re offering a holiday sale on a variety of products, you’d be wise to cross-sell or upsell other items that complement what’s already in their cart or appears in their purchase history. Product recommendations that speak to a customer’s individual taste or preferences have an incredible impact, by boosting sales and raising your cumulative conversion rate.
Additionally, you might also consider enabling abandoned cart notifications or emails. Since there are endless reasons why a shopper may leave your site without completing their purchase, sending a push notification will remind them of the items they’ve left behind, and hopefully encourage them to revisit their cart and make a purchase. These notifications have a much greater click-through-rate compared to targeted emails, which means you have nothing to lose and significant revenue to gain.
Running holiday-specific sales can really generate festive feelings and stir up enthusiasm around your brand. The possibilities are almost endless when you begin thinking of ways to bring in customers while simultaneously helping them celebrate the season. But whether you run two primary promotions or have a dozen different deals, be careful that your efforts won’t hurt your bottom line or cause issues with fulfillment later on.
Adopt promotional strategies that will excite consumers and make for an easy upsell. Customers are more inclined to expand their spending if there are additional perks involved, which might include any of the following:
What’s more, you can plan for holiday contests and giveaways, which are great for amplifying engagement as well as boosting sales. These giveaways can be run directly through your site or by way of social media, like having customers comment on a particular Instagram post to enter. This way, not only do you create a sense of community around your brand, but you increase activity on your account and get more eyes on your products.
At the same time your company is finding fresh and fun ways to celebrate the season, you want to be sure to celebrate your customers, as well. Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are prime opportunities to build relationships with your existing customers and entice them to return.
Anyone who’s previously purchased from your company is sure to welcome extra incentives, like early access to a sale or exclusive deals for subscribing to your email list.
Additionally, a loyalty program that’s tailored to your brand can cause a significant bump in holiday sales. A quality program is easy to use, has members only perks, and increases customer engagement and interaction. Offering rewards is a wonderful way to turn one-time shoppers into lifelong customers, since they’ll feel seen, valued, and invested in by your brand.
And speaking of valuing your customers, ensure they feel that way on the customer service side of things, as well. Make your contact information easy to find on your site, and if possible, provide 24/7 support so shoppers don’t have to wait on hold for hours or wait a week for an emailed response. Create a return policy that allows for easy, hassle free returns, and have policies in place for what to do should an order become lost, stolen, or damaged on arrival.
Lastly, do whatever you can to make your customers feel like the hero this holiday season, by placing their voices at the forefront. This can take on many forms, but it might look like highlighting customer favorites on your Instagram feed, featuring five-star reviews in your next newsletter, or sharing videos demonstrating how customers use your products in their own lives. Bringing attention to real stories makes your brand feel more approachable, and it shows you truly care about the people behind the purchase.
To take on the heightened traffic of the holiday season, you’ll definitely need a plan for how to execute on shipping and fulfillment. While some companies may prefer to handle fulfillment in-house, others might choose to outsource with a dropshipper or third-party logistics provider.
Whichever route you take, you’ll definitely want to automate your process with an operations software. When you’re dealing with a huge volume of orders, automations will simplify your inventory management, order fulfillment, and more. Automating these aspects of your business means fewer unresolved orders, stockouts, mispicks, and other common ecommerce issues. This way, you can keep your supply chain running smoothly and improve your overall quality of service.
By investing in tools that complete inventory and fulfillment tasks automatically, you’ll be amazed at how much time, money, and energy you save — assets which are especially important to reserve during the holiday hustle. Ecommerce automation is the key to moving your ongoing, repetitive responsibilities to auto-pilot and improving key metrics. In turn, your team can focus on more important matters, like brand awareness, retention rates, and customer experience.
The holidays should be your most productive and profitable season, but to reach your end-of-year goals, you’re going to need to operate at maximum capacity. Automations are the way to do exactly that, and to help you stay ahead of your competitors in Q4 and beyond.
Online merchants have had to adapt to a myriad of new challenges over the last several months, and yet the upcoming shopping season is on track to be bigger than ever. It’s never too early to start planning for your holiday campaign, and it’ll be much easier to prepare for if you use this checklist as your guide. By implementing campaign strategies several weeks out, ensuring each shopper’s experience is unique, and leveraging the power of automations, you can weave together some holiday magic for an unforgettable end to an unprecedented year.