Where has the summer gone?
The kids are back in school, the Labor Day weekend is almost upon us and it’s time to start thinking about holiday shopping.
If you’re in the eCommerce business, the 4th quarter is the holy grail for most of you, so you’ve got to make the most of it. You may not be ready to start thinking about the holidays yet, but you need to. And you need to start thinking now.
Here are a few tips I recommend following as you start your holiday prep work:
Jingle Up The Website – Just like bricks-and-mortar stores decorate their windows, put up holiday displays and make the place festive, you need to put your shoppers in the mood as well. Start working with your design and programming teams to nail down a holiday theme for your website that you can publish on Black Friday. Consider a holiday header and make modifications to the colors and elements on the front page to give it a holiday flair.
Create A Gift Guide – If you sell items that are perfect for gift giving and can be broken out by gender, age, etc. consider creating a Gift Guide section on your website. This not only makes it easy for shoppers to find items you – the product expert – believe make great gifts, but can also be used to promote higher margin items that don’t have a high return rate. Start selecting items for these guides now and have them in-stock and ready to go when you publish your holiday site on Black Friday.
Have a Marketing Plan – Don’t go into the season without arming yourself with a well thought out marketing plan. Your plan should include dates and specifics of sales you’re going to run, dates and content of email blasts you’re going to send, special “get them to come back” inserts that will be included with each outgoing order and of course, plenty of Twitter and Facebook chatter and social-media only promotions to get your fans engaged.
Speaking of Promotions – Let’s face it… holiday shoppers expect you to provide them with special offers, sales and discounts in order to get their business. So, give them what they’re looking for! Create fun events like a Scratch & Save Coupon Weekend by using this feature from Solid Cactus or create time sensitive promos like a Happy Hour sale using the Promo Manager from King Webmaster. Make sales fun and customers will come!
Consider Gift Wrapping – This is a serious money maker this time of year and is a great up-sell for your shoppers. If you’re not already offering a gift wrapping service, consider it. I know that I order all my gifts pre-wrapped so I don’t have to deal with the hassle of picking out paper and cutting ribbon while slicing my finger on the scissors. This time a year, people are willing to spend extra money (aka increase in order value) to have the items they order conveniently wrapped and ready to go.
Out of Stock – The worst thing that can happen to a store owner is to run out of hot merchandise. If you need to start pre-ordering items to ensure you will have them for the holiday season, bite the bullet and do it. Check sales from last year to see if you need to beef up inventory of items that sell seasonally so you don’t run out of stock. If you have a hot item – or are anticipating the arrival of a hot item – get with the manufacturer now to ensure you are going to have an adequate supply to meet the demand of holiday shoppers.
Staffing – If you do your own customer service or order fulfillment, make sure both can handle the increased volume of calls and orders that will take place during the holiday season. You don’t want to have your customers on hold for extended periods of time and you don’t want orders sitting in your warehouse more than 48 hours unshipped. If you need to add customer service or warehouse staff do it early so you have knowledgeable representatives fielding calls and questions and an experienced warehouse staff to pick orders accurately.
Warehouse – Get your warehouse in order! Check out this blog post I wrote years ago about preparing your warehouse for the holiday rush. I get bombarded with requests for this article every year so be sure to give it a read and put some of the warehouse management practices in place early.
Like I said earlier, you may think it’s too early to start thinking about the upcoming holidays, but it’s not. A successful eCommerce store owner plans ahead!