Holiday retail sales events are arriving. Customers are gearing up for the shopping marathon so retailers need to prepare their eCommerce site in anticipation of the holiday season. Many people put off buying until the holidays expecting great deals and offers on their favorite items. Be it Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the number of visitors is guaranteed to grow during this time. 

With the COVID 19 pandemic, this has been an unprecedented year. While many brick and mortar stores have shut shop, many other companies have filed for bankruptcy. With these uncertain times, many retailers are looking at a particularly dull season this year. On the other hand, some companies saw a boom during the pandemic, particularly the eCommerce stores.

The holiday season is a great time for online merchants. The retailers should be prepared for the increase in online traffic and get their store ready to handle the incoming orders. The holiday season is a very competitive time for online retailers, and if you fail to deliver the desired customer experience or are caught napping, the deal will slip through and land on your competitor’s door. 

Each year, retailers rely on the holiday season to make a huge chunk of their annual revenue. While this year might witness a change in customer behavior, it is always prudent to prepare your eCommerce site for the season than be caught off-guard. So what are the steps that you should follow to prepare your eCommerce store for the incoming traffic during the holiday season?

  • Ensure a seamless customer experience

Consumers crave personalized attention when they shop online. Your website should be an extension of your brand to provide users with a seamless experience. The world of eCommerce is highly challenging with many sites offering similar products. What sets them apart and makes one more preferable than the other is the user experience. If customers are not happy with the overall functionality of your site then they won’t be your loyal customers. Yes, deals and offers may lure them once or twice, but customer loyalty will be non-existent. To provide a personalized shopping experience, you should cross-sell and upsell products that directly complement the sale for visiting customers. Have clear product descriptions and images that can make decision making easier. 

  • Get your inventory organized

43 percent of small businesses in the United States don’t track inventory or do so using a manual system.

Have your inventory well-stocked and organized. Depending on the type of deals and offers you are planning to offer accompanied with last year’s sales figures should give you a rough estimate of the unit pieces for each product to order. If you have added new products to your inventory, since the last sale or introducing limited products for the holiday season, then conduct a market study to assess the demand for the product to gather a fair estimate. This will prevent losses and keep your online store ready to handle the demand. Additionally, don’t forget to stock up on auxiliary supplies such as labels, boxes, and other packaging material.

  • Test your online store for vital parameters

Your website should bring your brand to life and deliver an impeccable customer experience. During peak season, your eCommerce store needs to be able to handle the surge in traffic. Reach out to your technology provider and do a round of load testing to ensure that the servers can handle an increase in traffic and transactions. Optimize your page load time; as anything higher than three seconds will result in high bounce rates. Having too many apps and plugins can also significantly slow down the page loading time. Take a look at your third-party integrations and verify that they can handle the load without breaking the site.

  • Check the mobile responsiveness of your site

Mobile commerce sales are projected to reach $2.91 trillion in 2020 – 25.4 percent more than the $2.32 trillion it registered in 2019.
During the holiday season, more people browse online from mobiles and tablets. To cater to this audience set, it is important to optimize your site and make it mobile-responsive. Make sure it’s easy to browse your products and make a purchase from your store on phones and tablets.

  • Automate selling, shipping, and fulfillment

During the holiday season, you’re likely to experience heightened traffic and an increase in orders. The shipping process needs to be carefully planned to avoid any last-minute hiccups and provide a seamless customer experience. For a smooth shipping process, you can resort to three primary options:
  1. Handle shipping and fulfillment in-house
  2. Outsource shipping to a third-party logistics provider
  3. Outsource shipping and fulfillment with a dropshipper
With the right shipping strategy in place, you’ll be able to offer your shoppers a better shipping experience, improving conversion, and building stronger brand loyalty. While in-house shipping and fulfillment keep you in control of your logistics, it can get overwhelming during the Sale season when the number of orders is considerably higher. Utilizing the services of a third-party provider means that customers will get their orders fast and they can handle all shipping queries. This frees up your team to concentrate on matters that need more attention. With dropshipping, products reach your consumers directly from the wholesaler. This reduces the cost, and also you don’t have to keep track of inventory, shipment, or returns.

  • Plan strategic promotional activities

To sell products in the most effective way, merchants must come up with a strong promotional strategy that helps them reach the audience efficiently. Consider running a promotional campaign pertaining to an upcoming season to catch the attention of the audience. The key is to engage the audience and pique their interest once they visit your website. Reach out to them via social media campaigns, paid/promoted content, and keep the messages short and entertaining. With short attention spans, it is necessary to create engaging content that captures attention quickly. Plan an eclectic marketing mix, send holiday emails, keeping your target audience in mind. The promotional activities should begin much before the season commences and continue well up to the end of the season. Plan giveaways, free shipping options, loyalty programs, and reward points system in place to gain more traction and make the entire exercise a success.

  • Elevate customer service and support during peak season

During the holiday season, visitors are likely to reach you more often. Integrate live chat options, to offer customers quick answers and short response time to their queries. Ensure that your eCommerce platform has 24/7 global support to respond to all the queries efficiently. Be prepared to handle any questions and concerns, and make information readily available. Having a robust customer service plan, helps you serve customers better during rush hours, and leads to higher sales as complaints and queries are quickly dealt with. Ask for feedback from customers, obtain customer testimonials, and also learn how to improve as a business.

  • Measure the success of the campaign

Measuring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can help you understand the overall performance of your online store during the peak season. Analyzing this data can give you amazing insights that can translate to better sales if employed wisely later. Google Analytics is another great tool to integrate and optimize your website further. A few KPIs to consider:
  1. Sales
  2. Conversion Rate
  3. Shopping cart abandonment rate
  4. Site speed
  5. Traffic (new vs existing)
  6. Bounce rate
  7. Mobile site traffic
  8. Pay-per-click (PPC)
  9. Click-through-rate (CTR)
  10. Email Open Rate
Along with these listed above, there are many other KPIs that you can consider depending on your business model and the kind of marketing activities you undertook. Once you’ve gathered all of the necessary data, adjust your strategies accordingly.
Additionally, it is crucial to keep a few other factors in mind when preparing your site for the incoming holiday traffic. Optimize the checkout process and preferably allow one-page checkout, guest checkout options, offer several payment options, and enable multi-recipient functionality. Display the preferred addresses and payment options of that particular customer (if they are repeat buyers) to facilitate a smooth and quick checkout process. Holiday shipping and return policies should be adjusted from your brand’s normal rules and guidelines to further aid buyers. People want to avail of the best deals during this season, and your store should match up to the hype. Sort out the types of discounts, deals, and promotions, that your store plans to run. 
If you think it is challenging to set up an eCommerce store all by yourself, then we are here to assist you. Citytech Software has extensive experience when it comes to developing an eCommerce store for online vendors. Having worked on technologies like Magento, Kentico, OpenCart, nopCommerce, etc, Citytech has helped numerous companies become scalable and profitable by developing their online stores from scratch. To get started, contact us today, we are just a click away: