The signs are everywhere, and you can’t possibly miss them. Cool, crisp air. Pumpkin spice (and everything nice). Halloween candy in every cart. Christmas decorations on every store’s shelves. Countless signs, two words: holiday season.
This can only mean one thing for retail and eCommerce businesses alike; the most lucrative time of the year is upon us, and businesses are on the verge of being struck by an influx of orders the likes of which they haven’t seen before— not even in the 2020 holiday season.
When opportunity knocks, you answer. But before you even open that door and say hello, you need to do everything you can to ensure that your online store is primed for the eCommerce holiday period.
Here are 9 tips to get you closer to that holiday magic.
- Create strategic eCommerce holiday marketing and promotions
Get your store ready for big holiday spending periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday with a solid marketing strategy, and do it early so you’re ready for the shopping frenzy. For Jason Young, Founder of Ballistic Agency, “once Halloween is over, it’s go time.” He says you should “be ready to launch on November 1. Have the necessary info to your influencers well ahead of time so they’re ready by then as well.”
Adapt your promotions strategy for the holiday season. This can entail up-selling gift cards at checkout or offering seasonal services like free gift wrapping or free shipping. Consider promoting limited-time offers to add urgency and increase holiday sales. This strategy can incentivize customers to buy earlier in order to take advantage of attractive offers.
Another strategy to prepare your business for peak season success is planning holiday contests and giveaways. Whether you promote these on your website or on social media, giveaways can get you a great deal of exposure and boost your sales during the holiday season and beyond.
- Stock up on inventory and packaging
The holiday season increases the number of shoppers, and this, by extension, increases your inventory needs. Don’t wait until the last minute to stock up! The last thing that shoppers want is to find out that their must-have gift is out of stock or on back-order, so make sure your suppliers are reliable and check in with them now to make sure you’ll have enough stock to satisfy holiday demands, especially for gift items.
Start by using sales patterns and spikes from last year to give you an indication of how much inventory to plan for, and use real-time predictive analysis to understand product trends and stock up accordingly. It’s always essential to identify bestselling products and ensure you don’t run out of them, but this is especially true during the holiday season. Even less-popular products should be in stock, just in case, since selling out of any item during the holidays means a lost opportunity. Even if you end up with some overstock, you can always move it with another sale later. New Year's Day sales are popular and are a great opportunity to get your unsold inventory out the door.
Bear in mind that, like last year, consumers may start their Christmas shopping early in anticipation of holiday delays. For that reason, it’s a good idea for you to stock up in advance. When you are in the planning stages of forecasting your inventory, be aware that ocean and airfreight rates have in some cases increased by 5x their level a year ago. Always partner up with a trusted third-party logistics company to ensure you get the best rates on the market. Check out SmarteFreight, which handles ocean, air, and truckloads and can get you the most competitive rates and transit times for your inbound needs.
In addition to stocking up on inventory, you also want to ensure you have enough eCommerce shipping and packaging supplies. You, your customers, and their gift recipients want everything to arrive in perfect shape, so don’t skimp on packaging. Find a partner who offers free supplies such as label rolls, envelopes, and polybags— and to avoid delays, order ahead of the holiday rush! If you ship with eShipper, supplies can be ordered directly through your eShipper account.
- Outsource shipping and fulfillment to a third-party logistics provider
Whatever your product category, and no matter what platform you use, you can benefit from outsourcing eCommerce fulfillment to a third-party logistics company— especially during the holidays, when sales are expected to skyrocket. Working with a third-party provider (3PL) means that your eCommerce shipping and fulfillment will be taken care of on your behalf. It also comes with financial benefits, as you get to take advantage of bulk shipping discounts that only 3PLs can get.
Your customers will be happier, too. Working with a third-party logistics partner provides customers with advanced tracking technology and it gets packages to them faster. This is a hot commodity during the busy holiday season!
To enjoy a stress-free 3PL experience, make sure that your eCommerce fulfillment partner is well-staffed and able to handle the influx of orders, and verify that they use automated reorder thresholds to stock up when inventory is running low.
eShipper+ offers boutique eCommerce and B2B solutions which will enable you to scale your volumes, without compromising your customer experience. You’ll enjoy lower eCommerce shipping costs and save money on capital investment as well as labour costs. Equally important are the performance gains you’ll get. That’s because third-party logistics companies have processes in place to optimize your order fill rate while improving order accuracy. These streamlined processes not only reduce your costs, but also increase customer satisfaction.
The holiday season is a particularly hectic time of year, and outsourcing eCommerce fulfillment to the experts is a practical and affordable way to save time and resources. By getting the logistical details out of your way and putting them in the hands of the professionals, you can shift your focus to productive activities that will actually grow your business, such as marketing, sales, product development, and customer service.
But take the advice of Christian Little, Director of Marketing at PayHelm: “If you are using a 3PL provider, make sure you have plenty of inventory in their warehouse a good two weeks before the holiday rush. Most 3PL providers get completely bogged down with inbound shipment processing in Q4. The last thing you want is to have three containers of product sitting on the dock at the warehouse the day before Black Friday. Get those containers to the warehouse at the beginning of November!”
- Offer expedited delivery
No one wants to be waiting around on Christmas Eve worrying that their loved one’s gift is not coming on time! Offer your customers a variety of delivery speeds at checkout, including expedited delivery, so they can be confident that their order will arrive on time.
Giving your customers only one option for their deliveries can deter them from making a purchase if they need their product in a hurry, so choose an eCommerce shipping partner that offers competitive rates with multiple service options. While some shoppers buy gifts months in advance, others wait until the last minute to place their orders, so it’s best to cater to all types of customers.
With eShipper, you can offer several ground and express shipping options. If you’re looking for incredibly fast delivery, FleetOptics is a regional carrier that provides flat rates up to 10 pounds and gets your products to your customers the next day, ensuring a positive delivery experience that puts you ahead of the competition and provides customers with the delivery velocity they need during the holiday season.
- Incentivize larger carts with holiday specials
Once shoppers are browsing your store and adding items to their cart, you want to maximize your sales potential and give them an incentive to add more. Consider creating holiday bundles to motivate shoppers and increase revenue. You can bundle similar products or bundle items that pair well together, or even combine a popular product with one you’d like to promote.
Another effective strategy is to offer a gift with purchase; encourage customers to meet a minimum cart value to qualify for a gift. This rewards them by giving them something of value in return for their increased purchase, while boosting your eCommerce holiday revenue.
- Enable cart abandonment notifications
Did you know that 67.45% of online shopping carts get abandoned before a sale is completed? When potential customers leave your store instead of completing their order, you need to do everything you can to recover their cart. Send push notifications to remind them of the products they’ve left behind and work on convincing them to finalize their purchase. Abandoned cart emails have an average 8.24% conversion rate— check out these great examples to help you create your own abandoned cart emails.
One key strategy is to tailor your emails for the holidays. Alan Moore, Group Managing Director at RANDEM Retail says, “Take some time to make a campaign plan to amend these emails to be relevant from November onwards to commence right from the Cyber 5 up to the January sales. Make sure they are linked to the relevant URL, offer discount codes, promote payment services and immediate delivery options if available.”
- Expand beyond your website
Expand your reach beyond your online store and gain access to millions of new customers. The holiday season is the perfect time to do this, with so many consumers on the prowl for great products and gifts for their family and friends. We can help you maximize your sales by setting up your business on Amazon, Walmart, and Google Shopping for your best eCommerce holiday season yet.
If you’re thinking about expanding to Amazon, make sure you’re prepared to sell and deliver to all your eager customers worldwide with AMZ Prep. They’ll prep, pack, and ship orders on your behalf and get your listings set up so you can drive sales, increase your brand’s online visibility, and establish marketplace dominance.
You can also expand your sales channels to other popular online marketplaces, such as Wish, eBay, and Etsy. But don’t forget about social commerce! Your product catalogue can be updated, tagged, and sold on Instagram and Facebook for a wider reach.
- Manage your cash flow
Cash constraints and mounting costs are a continuous challenge for any business, especially during peak season, when you have to increase your investment in inventory, marketing activities, and staff, among other considerations. To ease the financial pressure that comes with Q4 and free up the working capital you need to meet holiday season demands, consider Clearco’s Buy Now, Pay Later program. You’ll be able to pay any invoice over 6+ months rather than upfront, so you can better align costs with the revenue that these costs generate.
- Offer several payment options
It’s frustrating for shoppers and businesses alike when customers have to abandon their carts because you don’t allow their payment method of choice. Consider offering additional payment options such as PayPal for added flexibility. Daniel Zielinski, Technology Partnerships Manager at LiveChat, also recommends “offering support for digital wallets, Apple Pay/Google since mobile shopping is on the rise.”
Another option to consider is letting customers space out their payments. With Sezzle, online shoppers can pay for purchases— interest-free— over a period of 6 weeks. Giving them this option at checkout motivates customers to complete their purchase because they’ll be able to get what they want now and pay for it later. By making the financial barrier more manageable at a time when many shoppers are strapped and waiting for payday to arrive, you increase your peak season sales and get that much closer to your end of year targets.
The Holidays Await!
Now is the time to get ready for your best holiday season yet. Download our 2021 Holiday Shipping Guide for more tips and hacks to take on peak season and create some holiday magic for your business!