We use checklists for all sorts of things: packing for a vacation, shopping at the grocery store, and buying for our loved ones during the holidays.
May we suggest another important holiday checklist? Last minute ecommerce holiday readiness.
Like every good checklist, this one is designed to save you time by organizing the chaos which surrounds ecommerce this time of year and covering key categories from sales planning to fulfillment.
SALES FORECASTING AND PLANNING
For many online stores, the holidays can be responsible for up to 20 to 30 percent of annual retail sales so it’s a critical time of year to plan for demand, inventory and fulfillment.
- Memorize the Q4 sales forecast and share with your team. Everyone should be working towards a common, known goal.
- Finalize plans to avoid out of stock positions – especially for products which will be heavily promoted.
- Review last year’s product performance to anticipate what this year’s best selling products will be and market those winners.
- Conduct a peak periods analysis to understand what drove last year’s peaks of traffic and revenue.
BUSINESS OPERATIONS AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Customer service should be viewed as a revenue center, not a cost center. Through thoughtful conversations and resolution, great customer service experiences can boost conversion and remove friction from the holiday shopping experience. And according to Forrester, “Site visitors who use web chat are 2.8x more likely to convert than those that don’t.”
- Centralize customer data in one place for easy access and updates.
- Integrate all 3rd party customer service tools (i.e. chat bots) with customer service operations.
- Prepare the customer service team with scripts and tools to quickly resolve issues.
- Brief the customer service team on all the upcoming holiday promotions and offers.
- Develop and circulate a plan to monitor social media, reviews and questions.
- Add trusted payment methods/digital wallets (Apple Pay, PayPal, etc.) to the checkout experience.
- Conduct a mobile shopping assessment (Guidance can help with that audit).
- Develop and circulate “in case this happens” and contingency plans for any worst case scenarios including shipping problems, a data breach, weather issues, website malfunctions, a server crash and product/supply shortages.
MARKETING AND PROMOTIONS
Holiday marketing and promotions can make or break a year’s plan for revenue and growth. You will need to create a sense of urgency and holiday excitement with coordinated campaigns to drive traffic and boost conversions.
- Circulate your holiday promotions content calendar with key stakeholders, partners and internally to all departments.
- Publish a countdown clock on site and in emails to promote the big shopping days from Black Friday to Free Shipping Day.
- Develop a customer segmentation strategy to deliver on-site and email personalization across all your relevant channels.
- Create email marketing content for both outbound and trigger-based emails including daily promotions, abandoned carts, purchase confirmations, delivery tracking, etc.
- Plan out holiday gift guides, bundles and add-on items and make sure they are prominent on-site and in emails to increase your holiday AOV.
- Plan out gift bundles and make sure they are prominent on-site and in emails
- Get your testing calendar in place so you can capitalize on key learnings and maximize revenue during the holiday season. Contrary to popular belief, with the increased traffic during the holiday season, this is the best time to implement well-planned A/B testing campaigns. HiConversion has a flexible testing platform to run multivariate tests with fast and simple deployment. Their tool ensures the winning version is always prioritized to prevent any missed conversions.
This is the time of year that will reveal how effective your ecommerce site’s infrastructure can manage demand and security. Unpredictable increases in site traffic and cybercriminals lurking in the shadows will be conspiring to get between your online store and a great customer experience.
- Optimize all image sizes across various devices (image size can slow down your site) and ensure all images are SEO friendly (add alt tags whenever possible).
- Perform load testing to ensure your online store can handle the increase in traffic and transactions.
- Scrub your website for broken images and links--especially your top sellers!
- Test 3rd party integrations to make sure they can handle the additional load.
- Back up all store data to be prepared for a worst case scenario.
- Properly tag all pages for analytics; you’ll want to leverage that data after the holiday surge.
- Implement a code freeze by no later than November 1st to ensure all moving parts remained unaltered.
- Deploy a security audit (Guidance specializes in security audits) and make sure security certifications are clearly displayed for customers.
PACKAGING AND FULFILLMENT
All the traffic and conversion in the world will mean naught if you run out of packaging, can’t ship packages in a timely manner, fail to deliver gifts to your customers on time or lack transparency in your shipping and return policies.
- Forecast your packaging needs and know lead times for packaging partners.
- Make sure fulfillment centers are adequately stocked.
- Add gift wrapping and other unique packaging elements at check-out/point of purchase.
- Clearly communicate through multiple channels the shipping cut off dates for Christmas delivery.
- Promote holiday return/exchange policies and make the process easy for your customers.
As 3 in 5 holiday shoppers plan to begin shopping before the end of October we hope that by now you have that deeply satisfying feeling of having completed this long checklist of important tasks. It means you are one step closer to reaching your holiday revenue goals.
And if you’ve got quite a few boxes that still need to be checked, Guidance is here to help with a last minute holiday readiness package.