How to ensure your business is ready for the silly season

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

Whether you’re ready to crack open the eggnog and don your Santa hat in October, or you prefer to hunker down til the holiday madness subsides, one thing is certain—Christmas and Boxing Day shapes the business year for ecommerce retailers, so you need to have your digital ducks in order before the silly season hits.

Ecommerce businesses share many of the same considerations as bricks-and-mortar stores when it comes to the Christmas rush and Boxing Day sales. There are inventory levels and staffing requirements to manage, along with decisions around marketing and promotion pre- and post-Christmas. On top of this, ecommerce retailers have to ensure their online shopping portal is not only functional and user friendly, but can withstand the increased traffic the holidays bring.

get your digital ducks in order before the silly season hits

We’ve picked up a few tips from our ecommerce clients for capitalising on the revenue generation opportunities Christmas and Boxing Day bring. Here are eight key considerations for online retailers looking to stay cool, calm and collected during the holiday rush.

How to ensure your business is ready for the silly season

  1. Stock up

Anticipating demand is tricky. You don’t want to underestimate and end up having to turn customers away because you are out of stock; on the flipside, you don’t want to get stuck with stock that isn’t moving. Look at your sales data and figure out which items you should stock up on; use your sales from last year as well as in the last few months to forecast demand. Other economic indicators should also be factored in—think about the current political climate, consumer confidence, even the weather. They all contribute to demand.

  1. Be transparent

Hands down one of the most important things for an online store is to be upfront and transparent with shipping times and order cutoffs; ie, ‘order by 15 December for delivery before Christmas’. Don’t be tempted to over-promise—there is no better way to alienate a customer than telling them they’ll have something before Christmas and not delivering.

  1. Cover your bases

Most ecommerce retailers still need customer service reps, warehousing assistants and other staff, so take a look at your current workforce and assess whether you have sufficient support to handle the increased demand. Best to get any additional employees on-board a few weeks before the madness starts so they have time to familiarise themselves with your products, systems and processes.

  1. Keep being social

Don’t get too caught up in the Christmas rush that you neglect your social media accounts, and remember that it is essential to have an advertising strategy to support your social content. Organic social traffic or engagement is challenging; assigning advertising will increase conversion and returns. When crafting your social ads, always consider where you want the customer to land, what the call of action is, and remember to optimise the design and presentation based on the specific channel you are using. 

  1. Connect with email

While the power of social media is indisputable, according to McKinsey, email marketing is three times more effective than social media in terms of conversion, and the average customer order is 17% higher. The holiday period is an ideal time to use your subscriber database and connect with your customers via email newsletter—think about offering Christmas countdown specials, or emailing a curated guide to surviving the holidays that not only showcases your products but also adds value with advice and tips.

  1. Ensure your website is responsive and user friendly

Navigation is critical to ecommerce website design—visitors to your online store need visible, easy-to-follow purchase pathways, particularly when time-poor in the lead-up to Christmas. To ensure a streamlined, enjoyable experience for your online customers, it’s crucial you invest in a good shopping cart, and make sure you offer a range of payment options.

  1. Test your capacity

The holiday season will bring a huge surge of traffic to your website (particularly after targeted email campaigns or social media posts). Make sure your website can handle it by testing your site speed. More businesses are using SAAS platforms such as Shopify, which boast no downtime, no hosting costs and no compulsory upgrades—all elements that can affect capacity and site performance. These platforms give businesses peace of mind, but doing a health check on page load times, check-out speeds and image sizes should still be mandatory before your Christmas and Boxing Day sales.

  1. Keep it secure

Online crime is known to increase over the holiday season (often known as ‘holiday fraud’), so put your customers at ease by ensuring your have the appropriate online security technology (such as SSL) in place. Let customers know about it by putting your Secure Site certificates in prominent locations, and having a page that addresses your visitors’ concerns, such as a FAQ.

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Laura Qureshi
Laura Qureshi is the Director and co-founder of DO Commerce, a full service digital agency specialising in end-to-end digital and ecommerce projects.

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