By Jacques Hart
Even in the most normal of years, the holiday season is one of the most crucial times of the year for e-commerce. Beginning near the end of October, companies go head-to-head with massive sales and eye-catching promotions, jockeying for position in the eyes of consumers as they turn their attention to purchasing gifts for friends and family. Of course, this year has certainly not been a normal one. Amidst the pandemic, consumers are flocking in droves to e-commerce, preferring the ease and safety of at-home shopping over the hassle and risk of possible infection if shopping in-person. Research firm Deloitte expects 2020 online holiday sales to increase 25%-35%, a massive increase when compared to the sizable 13.6% increase the year prior.
We’ve already talked about how you can get your company up and running in the world of e-commerce, but the holidays can be a different beast altogether, and you’ll need to implement additional advanced strategies to capture demand and claim your companies’ share of the pie. While there is no such thing as guaranteed success, the strategic counsel below will help position your business in e-commerce pole-position.
Craft your Christmas List and Create a Plan
To truly succeed during the holiday sales period, you need to go in with a sharp plan of attack. It’s not about throwing everything on sale and hoping for the best, rather you need to take a look at the products people want and the products you have, and formulate discounts that are viable for your company and enticing to consumers. There are many different types of promotions you can utilize to hook consumers, whether it’s straight discounts, buy X get Y deals, gifts with purchases, and more. If you don’t usually do so, offering free shipping during this time of year can often be a deciding factor for shoppers on the fence, and paired with the aforementioned promotions can create an invaluable proposition too good for shoppers to pass up. While sales data is a good starting point, sales data from previous holiday seasons is even better if you have it. Use this data to quickly determine which products were the hottest sellers this time last year as a means to inform which products and promotions will outperform well this year.
Deck the Halls with Inventory
Once you have your plan in place, bolstering your inventory is critical. With deals and promotions locked in, you have the knowledge required to identify which products need to be stocked up on, and having a lot of inventory on hand will be crucial to closing sales. With the sheer number of people shopping online, your typical inventory can quickly be run dry, causing headaches for you and your consumers. The last thing you want is for your deals to go out of stock while watching your hard earned shoppers move on to your competitors looking for the next deal. Conversely, shoppers in this day and age are impatient, and sending them a confirmation email stating their item is on back-order and will be shipping late will just likely result in a canceled order. Gamble on your company and load up on the inventory you’ll need to meet holiday demand, you’ll be grateful you did!
Prepare your Website for Many Merry Guests
When it comes to the holidays, your website can play a role just as vital as the products themselves. This is where the first impression of your company is made, and a sharp, easy to navigate website can be the difference between a prospective buyer and a missed opportunity.
Ease of access is the name of the game. You need to ensure your website is streamlined enough to allow shoppers to visit, browse, and shop as frustration-free as possible, lest they get annoyed and give up on you altogether. Don’t be afraid to decorate your website with small touches in the spirit of the holidays, showing shoppers you are tuned in with the season and not just looking for a quick cash-in. Design cues such as banners can make it incredibly easy for people to identify your sales, offers, and promotions, and lead them straight to your products and deals. Other details can also make an impact, such as an inventory counter on your items and cart abandonment notifications. Having inventory notices on your product page can alert shoppers when stock on a particular item is running low, which may cause them to fear missing out on a deal and lead them to pull the trigger. Cart abandonment notifications can also re-engage shoppers and draw them back to your site to complete a purchase.
In the same vein, it is advisable to speak with your website’s server provider to ensure your site has the bandwidth required to handle any potential site visitor surges. Holiday shopping this year has been a little more spread out, but the marquee dates such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday promise to drive significant increases in website traffic. Ensure you consider transferring your site to a website hosting solution that offers elastic and all-you-can eat capacity such that your site will be able to handle the holiday uptick in traffic.
Plan Beyond the Holidays
While short-term planning seems the most logical for the holidays, it may be beneficial to look beyond and strategize with this in mind. How your company performs during the holiday season can influence its trajectory at the start of the next year and beyond, and inform you of any potential consumer shopping trends. Take note of which products prove to be popular, and develop strategies that have the potential to keep these products visible year-round and atop your sales list. Companies like Nordstrom Rack run sales year-round with great results, and there is no reason you can’t do the same. Take the lessons learned from the holiday sales period and apply them to future deals that keep shoppers coming back regardless of the time of year. Keeping with the theme of looking forward, be aware of your products and what is in the pipeline. If you have new developments in the pipeline set tore place or supersede existing products, turn this potential liability into an opportunity by pushing these products hard during your holiday season sales and clearing out your remaining inventory before the new products arrive and steal the spotlight, leaving you stuck with hard to sell items. The holiday online shopping season this year will likely be among the biggest in history, and even traditional brick-and-mortar stores are finding themselves jumping feet first into the e-commerce ring in hopes of salvaging what has been a difficult year for a lot of companies. By no means is success a given, but by going in with a plan and a can-do attitude, you can enjoy a very merry holiday sales season.