The holiday season is a favorite for many, but no one enjoys the next two months like retailers. Considering that last year the average online order was $132.71 in November and $122.46 in December, and ever more shoppers are ditching long lines to shop online, a strong holiday ecommerce strategy can be the difference between a good year or a great year.
There are a lot of dollars to be had over the next two months. The time is now to make sure your ecommerce strategy is ready to deal with the hustle and bustle of the holiday retail season. Here are four key areas for online merchants to address in their ecommerce strategy to ensure their holiday retail season ends up with a stocking full of presents, instead of coal.
1. Hosting infrastructure
Consumers will not be jolly if they are hit with slow loading or crashing web sites when they are trying to snag the best deals of the season. Your site needs to be rock solid to deal with the boost in traffic coming over the next two months from additional promos and normal holiday traffic. To free up as much space as possible in your database, clean out all unnecessary old logs and files. If you haven’t performed load testing lately, now is the time. There are several tools that will allow you to simulate high levels of traffic to your site, so you can determine the maximum capacity your servers can handle.
Depending on what type of servers you are on, you may or may not be able to provision more server power. If not, talk to your hosting provider ASAP, as there may be some other things that can be done before Santa’s Reindeer head back to the North Pole.
2. Get your promotions right
The deals you are offering are undoubtedly what will be driving people to your site, so it’s important to have an understanding of promotions, when they are scheduled (as that can effect your server performance), how they work, how they are implemented, etc. It can be a retailer’s worst nightmare – an online promotion code works incorrectly and now you are offering $500 items for a fraction of the cost.
The retailer is now left with two options, and neither of them is great for business. First, you can honor the sale, and take a financial loss on the items while keeping those few lucky customers happy. Or, you void the sale and publicly admit a mistake, while angering some consumers in the process. So make your list, and check it twice – don’t let a mistake decide if your season is naughty or nice.
3. Don't run out and don't delay
This should be a given, but ensuring enough inventory is on hand to cover the various sales and items you will be promoting is crucial. Things can sell quickly over the next couple of weeks. It’s imperative your online, mobile and retail stores are synced automatically to what your actual inventory levels are for all products so you can deliver to the customer’s doorstep, on time.
If you say you can deliver next day, you have to deliver next day – even if you get hit for 10 times the next-day delivery requests that you are normally used to. Offering products for sale online when there are none actually left available, or failing to get items delivered on time can lead to backorders and unhappy customers. This can create a customer service nightmare that’ll keep the elves up at night and destroy customer confidence.
4. Be ready for Grinches seeking bargains
Holiday shopping can be a stressful time for the consumer, as they try to scoop up as many deals as they can. Invariably, you’ll hit a bump in the road — your site will go down for a minute, a shipping code won’t work, or a customer will select the wrong item. Your customer service has to be at the top of its game to deal with some real Grinches.
How you handle these situations can secure these consumers as regular buyers or lose them as holiday one-off shoppers. Plan ahead for the increase in both customers and issues. Remind your customer service reps that it’s a high stress time for everyone, but it’s their responsibility to give the customer a positive shopping experience so your store is on next year’s wish list.