Winter is coming ;) and in a few weeks, people will be sharing love (and gifts). The holiday period is well known as the busiest and most important time of the year for shoppers and e-commerce brands.
The holiday season accounts for 20% of the retail industry’s annual sales, and it is often responsible for up to 30% of some independent retailers’ total sales.
Holiday e-commerce sales account for $126 billion in 2018 worldwide, a 16.5 percent increase from the $108.2 billion generated in 2017. It actually had an average growth of 15.8% over the last four years, and it is also expected to grow in 2019.
For some online retailers, the holiday season is the most stressful one of the year. While for some others, it can be a huge opportunity to capitalize on and exceed your business goals. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas, you have more than one occasion to attract new customers and grow your sales.
So to ensure that you succeed during this period, you will need to prepare and plan every aspect of your business, from marketing to customer service. You will have to make sure that every process in on point for the big rush in operations.
To help you out with that, we prepared for you a list of 6 mistakes to avoid during the holidays period.
1. Not ordering enough inventory
This period of the year is high in demand, and more demand requires more inventory. However, too often customers add items to their cart only to find out that it is out of stock. Stockouts can generate a lot of frustration, especially for potential new customers who are visiting your website for the first time.
To avoid that, make sure to forecast demand so that you know approximately how many products you will sell. If you were in business in previous holiday seasons, you can use historical data to predict sales levels this year. You should also take into consideration other factors such as the products you will mainly showcase, your marketing campaign, and discounts.
Diving deeper into these numbers will give you some insights into how your products are going to perform.
Once you know approximately how many items you will sell during the season, you can then order enough items for the holiday rush and hopefully, your stock will be full enough by mid-November.
If you are externalizing your logistics processes and inventory management to a logistics provider, make sure that his solution connects to your shop and gives access to real-time data. This is essential if you want to monitor and track your orders, stock levels, and other important metrics.
2. Ignoring shipping deadlines
This time of year, I can guarantee you that most of your customers want to receive their orders before December 24th, especially if it is a gift they intend to offer to one of their relatives.
Since transportation carriers are overwhelmed during the holiday season, they all set deadlines and cutoff dates to when an order should be placed, to ensure it arrives on time for Christmas Eve.
To set the right expectations with your customers, make sure to highlight your shipping deadlines. Try to communicate around it on your website so that your customers know when they should place their order by and which shipping method they should choose. So don’t forget to add your deadlines to your shipping policy, your checkout confirmation page, and your FAQ.
According to ShipStation, while customers prefer free slow delivery for themselves, they are also 76% more willing to pay for fast delivery when they are buying a gift.
This means that the closest we are to Christmas, the more customers will be willing to pay to have their family’s gifts shipped on time. In this case, offering a fast delivery option is a clear opportunity to stand out for your competitors, meet your customers’ expectations, and drive more sales.
3. Spoiling the Christmas surprise
One of the biggest mistakes that e-commerce brands make during the holiday period is spoiling the Christmas surprise. After all, your customer might live with their companion, and he doesn’t want the gift to be revealed by your beautiful branded boxes.
To avoid that, make sure to offer a gift-wrapping option on your check-out page. This will help you distinguish yourself from your competition and show to your customers that you care about every little detail.
Instead of ruining the surprise, opt for making it even special by adding a small “thank you and Merry Christmas note”. This will not only surprise positively your customers, but it will also show them that you care.
Undercutting your prices is not the only way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. You can choose to focus on other factors such as quality of service, convenience, and empathy. This will help you to build long-lasting relationships with your customer base, attract a loyal following, and succeed in the long-term.
4. Not providing live support
During this period, everyone is in a rush to get gifts fast and make their purchase before the sales are over. To help your customers through that consideration phase, you will need to ensure that they have all the information needed to make the right purchase decision.
Taking a proactive approach to customer support is crucial if you want to drive more sales for your business. For that, you will have to optimize your product pages and update your FAQ with all the questions related to shipping, returns, discounts, and special offers.
You can also implement live chat support on your website. By doing so, you will be able to answer customers who are often looking for fast answers and are in a hurry to move on to the next sale or product on their gift list.
Think about automating your support process, as it can help you to respond faster to your visitors and convert these visitors to customers. There are many solutions on the market like Botmind that can also help you to automate your chat.
Finally, make sure to train your customer support team properly before the rush period arrives.
5. Not extending your return's deadline
Since a big part of the products purchased during the holidays are gifts for relatives, more than 11% of all items ordered during that period are returned.
It is, then, crucial for you to extend your returns deadline and give people more time than usual to make returns or exchanges. This will make your customers feel more secure with the purchase and have more trust in your brand.
Making returns painless will help you boost loyalty and encourage your customers to purchase more items from your website, as it will act as a major differentiation point in the eyes of your customers
In this case, don’t forget to highlight your extended return policy on your website and communicate around it via email and social media. This will help you more exposure and attract more customers.
6. Neglecting shipping addresses validation
One of the biggest mistakes e-commerce brands can make during the holiday period is neglecting to check and validate shipping addresses.
Actually, with the rush and all the buzz around sales and special offers, many customers accidentally place their orders with the wrong shipping address.
Shipping to an incorrect address may ruin the whole experience. It will leave you with no choice than having the package returned to your warehouse, which means more costs, less profit, and unhappy customers. It also slows down the efficiency of your logistics during the time of the year when you need it the most.
So remember to validate the shipping address before making the delivery of the order. This will help you avoid last moment confusion and will give you the opportunity to fix it proactively by contacting your customer and changing the address.
This also shows your customers that you care about them and about their experience. Thus, you will be able to build trust and ensure they come back for more.
Finally, even if checking every shipping address is a huge and tiring task, in the long run, the extra time it takes is worth the pain it saves. You can also opt for some tools like Bigblue, which does it automatically.
The holiday period can be really intimidating for e-commerce owners. It is a really busy period, competition is fierce, and the customers’ expectations reach an all-time high.
To ensure that you survive and you succeed during this period, taking a proactive approach is crucial. Letting your customers know that their packages will arrive on time is also essential if you want to drive more sales and boost conversions.
As mentioned earlier, focusing on price discounts isn’t the only way to differentiate yourself from your competitors during the holidays. You can opt for other factors such as personalizing items with gift-wrapping and thank you notes or extending your return policy deadlines.
Avoiding these mistakes and implementing these solutions is no easy task.
For sure, it takes time, but this will be a time well spent!