Last minute holiday prep

The final shopping days of the holiday season are here.  As many shoppers head to the mall, many others will also shop online.  The e-commerce holiday selling season is shorter than its brick and mortar counterpart, as extra time needs to be factored in to accommodate the time needed for orders to be processed and shipped. 2016 consumer holiday spending is expected to increase 10% over 2015.  Further digital sales projected to rise by an astounding 25%, according to PwC’s 2016 Holiday Outlook. Considering this upward climb in e-commerce retail sales, your site traffic and sales volume will continue to increase, creating new demands to which store owners and staff must respond.

To make sure your store is ready for the flood of last minute holiday shoppers, here are 5 things you should do right now to ensure your store is operationally ready for the remainder of the holiday season. Hopefully you have already checked all or most of these off your list!

  1. Define KPIs How do you determine if this holiday season was truly a success for your business?  KPIs are goals for your store’s performance.  Online stores can be complex and multi-faceted businesses, so be sure to include goals for metrics related to the performance of both technical and retail focused parts of your online store.  After the holiday season, review and analyze all collected data, using it to answer questions about your store’s performance and how it can improve.  Examples of e-commerce KPIs may include: bounce rate, new vs. existing visitors and customers, abandoned cart rate, and conversion rate.  The list of what can be be measured is nearly endless.  For a more comprehensive list of e-commerce KPIs, check out:
  2. Implement a code freeze – A code freeze refers to stopping all changes to your store’s code during a defined period of time.  For the holiday season, your code freeze should already be in place, and active until December 27 or even longer, depending on your particular store.  This time frame helps boxing day shopping happen without worry of your customers’ experiences being disrupted by technical problems.
  3. Review your return & exchange policies – Have your store policies been reviewed or updated lately?  While this time of year is not ideal (or even a good idea) to be going through exercises such as major policy revisions, be sure your return and exchange statements include something to reflect the nuances of the holiday season, even if just minimal.  Are there blackout periods for returns and exchanges?  If not, do you need to implement this? Based on your holiday sales volume forecast, do you want to be dealing with returns and exchanges when you have a pile of orders to ship?  Be sure to consider if you need to extend return and exchange time-frames.  For instance, do you need to grant more time if something purchased as a gift in November needs to be returned in late December or early January?  Customers expect that you have altered your customer service policies accordingly, so make sure you are covered for all eventualities over the Christmas season.
  4. Inventory – When did you last check your inventory?  Are the quantities entered in your e-commerce system accurate? Does website stock information, whether it be on the back or front end, match what is actually in the stockroom or warehouse?  You can’t sell what you don’t have, so be sure to physically confirm inventory to avoid customer frustration and cancelled orders (which, by the way, are “the worst”).  When you have to cancel an order due to not having stock, you are not just losing revenue, you are most likely losing a customer.  No one wants to waste their time shopping on a site that leaves them guessing at whether something they would like to buy is even available.  Even more frustrating is getting a notice for a cancelled order, after having taken the time to visit and transact on a site.  Along with your product inventory, be sure you have enough supplies, such as boxes, tape, labels, ribbon, etc. to last you to at least the end of the season.  If you get a last minute spike in volume, you will need to focus your attention on processing and shipping out orders within your advertised window, not running out for supplies which should have already been stocked up weeks earlier.
  5. Optimize Merchandising – Your products should be organized and presented to customers in a way that is intuitive and extremely simple to navigate.  If a customer navigates to: clothing – men – shirts, then filters by an attribute such as “colour,” and selects “red,” they should only be presented with red shirts for men!
  6. But wait, there’s more! 
    • Bonus tip 6: Enjoy the holidays! After a hard Christmas season, be proud of all that you have accomplished! Owning or working in an e-commerce business, especially over the busy holiday season, can be very demanding.  Take some time to unwind with friends and family.  With a new year around the corner, now is a great time to reflect on the challenges and successes of the past year, and look to the future of your business.

However prepared or unprepared you might be, just remember that as an e-commerce retailer, your first priority is creating a flawless customer experience.  A brief but thorough review of some fundamentals aspects of what makes your store run, will ensure you survive the hectic Christmas season, setting you up for continued growth and success in the new year and beyond.

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