Holiday season. It’s the busiest and, arguably, the most profitable time of the year for e-commerce. It’s also a time of reckoning for online stores. If your store is not prepared or not seen by customers during the holidays, it could spell the end for your store.
Prepare ahead, way ahead
We recommend that you start preparing six months before the holiday season. This will give you enough time. Some of the preparations that we will talk about take several months to prepare, test, execute, optimize and see results from.
Have a breathing week
This is a simple yet ignored part of the preparation. It’s not just your site that needs to be working well, it’s you and your staff as well. Handling the bulk and surge of holiday customers will be stressful and challenging. If you and your team have been working overtime for the whole preparation period, they might not be at the optimal condition to handle the holiday load.
You want yourself and your team to be hyper-focused, hyper-aware and fast to react should anything unpredicted happen. This won’t be possible if you and staff are sleepy, tired and stressed out. Create a calm before the storm to provide space to develop the physical, mental and emotional fortitude required to face the horde of shoppers.
Make sure you have ALL hands on deck
Speaking of your team, have a meeting before you dig into holiday preparation. It is imperative for your team to be aligned on all the details you need for the preparation. Here are some of the suggested talking points in your meeting:
What do we need to accomplish?
When do we need to accomplish our goals?
- Persons in contact
- Who is in charge of achieving this goal?
Some of your staff may already be planning to take leaves during the preparation or holiday crunch. Make sure that all of that information will be disclosed ahead of time as one unexpected absence in a critical time is going to affect the whole store.
In case members of your team will be gone in an emergency or unforeseen circumstances, assign someone who will cover their spot.
As a precaution, you can hire a project-based freelancer to be on standby in case the scenario above happens. Also, if you end up understaffed, you can easily hire a capable freelancer for specialized jobs without spending that much. All in all, outsourcing jobs is the best way to have manpower readily available, should the need arises.
Use machine learning and automation
There are some tasks that are repetitive and time consuming that can be handled by automating them. You can use Shopify’s own automation app, Flow, or you can explore other apps for Shopify automation. Here are other Shopify apps for automation:
Workflow Automation - Shop Workflow Automation
Customer Support Automation - Gorgias
Marketing Automation - Kit
HYPE UP YOUR PROMOS!
One of the major factors that can make the holiday season not as much of a boom as expected is a lack of awareness about your holiday promos. Make sure you let your audience know ahead of time that you are going to do SOMETHING during the holiday season, whether that’s discounts, freebies, promos or similar.
Test, Fix and Optimize
Prepare your holiday SEO
As we mentioned earlier, there are some preparations that take months to see results. SEO is one of them. Think of SEO as a seed. For it to grow into a plant that yields harvests, you have to plant it months before you expect to see any fruit. And the fertilizer and water for your SEO seed is content.
We highly suggest making content based on the holidays such as the upcoming holiday product releases, gift ideas, product features, etc.
Focus on speed first, then aesthetics
Looks matter for customers, but they value speed more than design. Your site speed is especially important during the busy holiday season. With more people buying for gift-giving, your site must be optimized for viewing in all devices and capable of handling higher traffic and more activity than usual.
The best tip we can give is to make your store simpler. That way, whatever internet speed your visitor might have, they will still be able to load your page quickly.
Here are other speed tips from Shopify:
- Use a fast and reliable hosting
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
- Organize your tracking with Google Tag Manager
- Prioritize testing and optimizing your mobile performance
- Use pop-up quick view windows sparingly
- Beware of excessive liquid loops
- Decrease thumbnail image size
- Ease up on homepage hero slides
- Weigh the benefits of installing another app
- Compress and reduce images
- Minify your code universally
- Reduce redirects and remove broken links
Do user testing
If possible, do user testing frequently with a variety of testers. It’s even highly recommended to have user testers after every optimization. Let’s say that you first optimized the navigation. Have testers navigate through your site before moving on with the next optimization.
You and your team can use incognito mode to test your site on various devices.
Test the promotional material
If your discount codes don’t work, it leaves a VERY bad impression on your customers. Test them out before sending them out to customers.
To increase traffic, don’t have just one code. Have multiple codes for every day, if possible. That way, people will actively access your newsletters or social media posts to get more codes.
Have adequate stocks and stricter quality control
Selling out all your products is a good thing on paper (we’re popular!), but is a bad thing on the books. Running out of stock means you lose the opportunity to capitalize on the holiday season. Demand for products doesn’t just stop immediately, it trails off and can be long-lasting.
Also, the running of stock ruins the experience of prospective customers who were counting on buying one of your products for a gift.
Speaking of customer experience, don’t forget about quality. You may have the quantity on lock but also double-check for quality in your products. One bad experience could spread through social media and halt your rising sales.
Have a plan K, plan B isn’t enough
You should always have multiple contingency plans in case the holiday season interrupts your usual business. We already shared one backup plan to have--outsourced staff. But here are some other things you need to be truly prepared:
Back up your store
During holiday preparation, you are going to make huge changes to your store. Sometimes those changes might have unintended effects on your store. To be safe, have a backup of your store that works perfectly. That way, if there are catastrophic changes, you’ll still have a copy of your working store.
Rewind offers a free, one time backup for your Shopify store that’s perfect for the holiday rush. Here’s the link: https://rewind.io/free/
Don’t forget window shoppers
The great experience shouldn’t just be for customers, but for visitors who don’t end up buying as well--the “window shoppers” of e-commerce. Make your brand memorable for them. You may not get them this season, but if you left a big impression, you will get them next season or even the next month.
Plan for upselling and cross-selling
We’ve said time and time again that impulse buying is a large percentage of online store sales. The holidays turn almost all shoppers into impulse buyers. Since they are already in the mood to buy, nudge them a bit and offer other products to buy in addition to the one in their cart.
We highly recommend making holiday bundles and suggested products. Holiday bundles make sure that you have more sales and more products out the door. Suggested products can be as simple as a line that says, “People who bought this product also purchased this,” at checkout.
Nurture “seasonal customers”
Seasonal customers only buy at your store during these holidays. Take this opportunity to turn them into repeat customers.
Follow through with your customer
Having your store fully prepared is a great foundation for making a good impression on your customers. But the next thing you have to do is to maintain communication with your customer. That means you must have some form of contact details for your customers.
Email is the preferred contact to have. According to WBR Digital’s whitepaper, “Adapting to the pace of omnichannel commerce,” 80% of business professionals believe that email marketing largely influences customer retention.
If you can’t get customer email addresses, another way to keep in contact is by having a strong customer following on social media. Not only will you be able to market to your customers through social media, but you may also be able to send customers direct messages, much like email...
Get their feedback
First, thank each customer for their purchase. Then, get their feedback about the experience. Have two categories for the feedback: One for the store and one for the product. Here are some suggested questions:
- Out of five stars, how was the experience of shopping through the store?
- Do you have comments or suggestions about the experience?
- Out of five stars, how likely are you to recommend shopping through our store?
- Out of five stars, how do you like the product?
- Do you have comments or suggestions about the product?
- Out of five stars, how likely are you to recommend our products?
As much as possible, give something in exchange for their feedback, such as freebies, discounts or exclusive content.
Getting feedback gives you three big advantages:
First, their comments and suggestions help you improve and prepare better for the next holiday season.
Second, asking for feedback gives customers the impression that you want to improve their service.
Third, you reminded customers of your brand after their purchase was complete.
Don’t forget that getting feedback IS part of the overall experience with your store.
Give them valuable content
Now that you’ve got your customers’ contacts, you should take advantage of the communication channel by offering helpful content throughout the year. You might do this through h a weekly/monthly email newsletter, status updates for social media, or both.
After the season ends, look at your data to see how you did and what you can do better
Set your expectations based on your data. Check your analytics. If you did not reach your goals and did not achieve what you forecasted, don’t be too hard on yourself. Analyze what went wrong and improve it next year. As we always say here in Electric Eye, “Fail fast, learn from it, keep on going.”