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August 12, 2013

3 Things Online Retailers Should Be Thinking About Now to Prep for the Holiday Season

In a recent Amazon webinar, a poll revealed that 85% of attendees consider the holiday season to be the most important time for their online businesses. 

BowcashFrom the years of experience we have partnering with retailers to grow their businesses online, we’d say that’s pretty spot on. The holiday season Q4 sales spike isn’t an anomaly; it’s the standard of the industry.  With all of e-commerce trending upward in terms of sales and consumers adopting online shopping, the opportunity to have your best quarter yet could well be up for grabs in the upcoming 2013 holiday season.

 Every year, we see the full gamut of holiday preparedness with our retailers: for some, it’s their very first holiday season; others have expanded to an additional channel within the year and are hoping to capitalize, and the more seasoned crowd takes the phrase “Christmas in July” quite literally and have campaigns, stock and back end operations buttoned up and ready to trigger by the middle of summer.

Regardless of experience, there’s a foundational list of processes and tasks that must be considered by all online retailers who want to capitalize during the holidays.  Below are 3 important things you must consider, but if you want to learn more about how to prepare for the holidays in 2013, watch this on-demand webinar to learn The 3 Megatrends You MUST Capitalize on This Holiday Season.

For now, enjoy these holiday prep tips!

1.     Don’t Underestimate Order Volume

When it comes to sales, you’ve set your expectations high for the holidays. Truth be told, they might not be high enough. Every year we see retailers who miss the mark estimating how many orders they’ll receive from October through January. As a result, inventory, especially that of hot products, runs dry before the Thanksgiving turkeys even get sliced across the US.

To properly estimate the order volume during this high time, look back at last year’s holiday season and review high-converting products from the first half of the year. Also, consider what holiday/seasonal items might be important to stock up on.

 2.     Prepare Fulfillment Operations

People want packages fast. And if they’re buying a gift for a friend or family member, they’ll want it delivered even faster. Fulfillment is an indispensable component of e-commerce business operations year-round, but during the holidays, your reputation lives or dies by your ability to deliver on promises.

To address seasonal spikes, you may want to consider outsourcing fulfillment during the holidays. This is an advantageous strategy to implement year-round, but if you fulfill in-house or through a drop shipper, a hybrid fulfillment strategy during the holidays can help reduce the workload from the influx of orders.

Consider leveraging Amazon’s global network of fulfillment centers through Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). Sellers who use FBA ship their inventory to Amazon, who then “picks, packs and ships” the item to its consumer. Also, Multi-Channel Fulfillment by Amazon can be used to fulfill orders for your products placed via Amazon, your website and a number of other places your products are sold online.

3.     Get Your Website Ready for Traffic

Website downtime is bad anytime but, during the holidays, it could really cost you. Make sure your servers are prepared for the influx of traffic during peak traffic days. In tandem with this, don’t perform any critical system updates during the holidays. If you must make updates, execute them during off-peak hours.

To decrease the risk that website issues arise, test page load times and identify any speed bumps, like image sizes, that could be causing the slow pace, and QA your entire website to make sure all links are active. And, don’t forget, mobile has emerged as a game changer for e-commerce research and conversions, so be sure you’re doing everything you can to reach those customers. You’ll want to take on these heavier tasks long before the holiday season so that you can focus on updating website messaging and content with holiday themes when the season gets closer.

These tips are evergreen tips every online retailer should consider and return to year after year in preparation  for the holiday shopping season!

Ready to get started preparing for this year’s holiday shopping season? Check out our on-demand webinar, "The 3 Megatrends Retailers MUST Capitalize on This Holiday Shopping Season."

Blog Post by Natalie Sink, Digital and Content Marketing Strategist, ChannelAdvisor

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