Ho, Ho, How to Prepare Your eCommerce Store For The 2020 Holiday Season

Holiday shopping has been changing for the past few years, and 2020 might leave a lasting mark on how and where consumers buy gifts. It won’t be surprising if kids forget about Santa Claus and leave milk and cookies for the trusty delivery driver instead.

While the coronavirus pandemic carries on, fewer shoppers will be heading to brick and mortar stores, choosing to do their holiday shopping online instead. 

This can be an opportunity for eCommerce businesses to establish their presence and increase their conversion rates. But it can also spell disaster if your store is disorganized. 

Avoid the headache and ready your store so you can reap the rewards of the most significant spending period of the year. Preparing for the holiday season can potentially lead to lasting growth for your business. 

Here you’ll learn about:

  • The outlook for the holiday shopping season
  • Initial steps to prepare your eCommerce store 
  • The critical areas of your website to optimize 
  • Holiday promotional ideas 
  • How to use your holiday season results to prepare for next year

Holiday Shopping Online 

Digital Commerce 360 reports that eCommerce spending has more than tripled in the last three years, accounting for 16% of total retail sales in 2019. Also, holiday shopping online sales increased by 13.6% in 2019. These numbers are sure to increase in 2020 with the ongoing pandemic keeping people at home. 

Forecasts predict the 2020 holiday shopping season will see: 

  • A rise in mobile shopping
  • Audiences broadening
  • An increase in social commerce
  • Higher demand for click-to-door delivery
  • Earlier shopping time tables

Optimize your store for online and mobile shopping. Consumers are getting comfortable, and their standards are rising. 

Buyers want frictionless purchasing. A slow website or a complex check out system can lose you a sale. 

Consumers are also being encouraged to shop early. This means anticipating more customers at the beginning of the holiday season. 

Because fewer people will opt to shop at physical locations, your network of potential customers is much more comprehensive. Baby boomers and Gen X-ers are just some of the groups making a move to holiday shopping online.  

It’s critical to do everything you can to prepare your eCommerce store for the holiday season. Your website crashing for just an hour or selling out inventory too quickly can result in a significant loss of profit.

Do yourself and your customers a favor by thoroughly preparing for the holiday online shopping season.

First Steps to Prep Your eCommerce Store

Learn From the Past 

Glean as much you can from last year’s holiday season. Did you have enough stock? Did you lose customers because of a lack of customer service? Don’t make the same mistakes twice. 

Furthermore, the 2020 pandemic provides another good learning opportunity and a chance to prepare. Did you struggle with individual suppliers? Have shipping times been affected? How did you adapt?

By no means is the pandemic a reason to overhaul your entire process. But if you anticipate potential problems, you can be prepared with back-up plans or information for your customers. 

Pick Your Holidays 

Choose which holidays to optimize for holiday shopping online. 

Maybe you’d rather go big for Small Business Saturday than compete with the giants on Cyber Monday. Or you might want to roll out some new items just before Black Friday. 

Have a plan that suits your store. Assess your audience, and determine which dates they’ll be the most active. 

Plus, be aware that people are shopping earlier for holidays like Hanukkah and Christmas. So reconsider that December 23rd sale.  

Inventory Check 

To be prepared for the holiday season, shoring up your inventory is essential. Do an overview of your supply chain and check-in with suppliers to make sure everything will run smoothly. 

Assess what you have and what you need, and make a plan for meeting your sales forecasts. Consider adding holiday-themed items or putting seasonal spins on your existing inventory. 

Also, make sure you have an efficient way to track your inventory. Customers won’t be happy if they have a product in their cart, only to later realize it’s sold out. 

Strengthen Site Function

One of the most important preparations you can do is make sure your website runs well. Customers want sites that load fast, and you want happy customers. 

Think with Google’s research shows that one to three seconds of load time can increase the likelihood of users leaving the page by 32%. That number jumps to 90% after five seconds. 

This suggestion also goes for your mobile site. A Google experiment found that participants who dealt with lagging websites quickly became frustrated.

Users want smooth holiday shopping online. So make sure your website can handle an influx of traffic. Avoid any significant web changes, and do a speed check.  

Think about Holiday Conversion and Retention

The holiday online shopping season is a great time to focus on conversion and retention. A bevy of potential customers will be visiting your website, and you want them to buy something and come back for more. 

First impressions matter. Justuno found that 84% of conversions happen on the first visit to a website. Evaluate your customer experience and ensure that your website is welcoming, organized, and valuable to your customers. 

Consider offering a loyalty program and exclusive deals for customers who sign up for your mailing list. Encourage those doing their holiday shopping online to use that members-only coupon to buy more gifts at your store or come back throughout the year. 

Holiday Promo Ideas 

  • Decorate your store with holiday season touches
  • Change your SEO strategy accordingly 
  • Update your website copy to have holiday content and blogs
  • Create an email campaign to capitalize on big-spending days 
  • Feature holiday sales and deals 
  • Host contests and giveaways with a holiday theme
  • Be creative and show your brand’s personality
  • Do a holiday countdown to remind people to shop
  • Offer gift suggestions and lists to promote your products 
  • Put a holiday spin on your social media content, and make your posts shoppable 
  • Reward loyal customers and subscribers with exclusive deals 

Don’t look at promotion as a chore. Have fun with your holiday content and get in the spirit by offering creative Christmas sales online or writing a Thanksgiving blog post with a title like “Products to Give Thanks For.”

Optimize for Easier Check Out and Shipping

  • Make check out one page
  • Allow for guest check out
  • Only ask for the same information once
  • Accept multiple methods of payment (for example: all major credit cards and PayPal)

Cart abandonment is another factor to have on your radar. Statista found purchases went uncompleted 69.57% of the time worldwide in 2019. Implement cart abandonment emails to attract customers back. 

Note that customers might give up on a purchase if there are unexpected shipping costs. 

Counterintuitively, free shipping is a profitable choice if you can offer it. In Walker Sand’s The Future of Retail 2018 report, 79% of consumers said free shipping would influence their purchase. 

Also, if manageable, consider providing gift-wrapping or packing your shipments with a personalized note. These details can set you apart from other retailers. Even adding a festive color to your shipping boxes can add a nice touch for the holiday season.

We’ve already seen shipping delayed with the 2020 pandemic. While supply chains are mostly back to normal, there’s a chance the system will experience strain with more holiday shopping online. 

Don’t get blindsided. Prepare for the possibility of delays and formulate a plan for how you’ll cope.

Provide Strong Customer Service and Flush Out Your Return Policy  

Forbes found that 70% of customers will abandon a purchase if they have a bad customer service experience, and 74% will increase their spending for good customer service. 

In this case, the best defense is a good offense. Pad your website with information and a thorough FAQ. Anticipate any questions customers might have and answer them in your content. 

Consider hiring additional customer service staff members to field emails and deliver quick responses. Offering a live chat is also a nice feature for customers. 

Many questions you’ll receive will be about your return policy. Provide straightforward guidelines and easy-to-understand policies. 

Think about being more flexible with your return policy during the holiday season, so you don’t lose the sale. 

And for your sake, remember that most returns will come in the new year

Make a Plan for After the Holidays 

It can be easy to get caught up in the chaos of preparing for holiday shopping online, but it’s beneficial to learn from this period. 

Plan a time after the holiday season to review sales and any other elements that will help create a plan for the future, including: 

  • Page traffic
  • Most-asked questions
  • Conversion rate
  • Shopping cart abandonment stats
  • Website speed
  • Highest profits on which days

This information will empower you to create a game plan that will help beyond the holiday season. 

eCommerce stores are likely to see an increase in traffic since customers will be doing more of their holiday shopping online. 

Meet the demand and optimize your store by evaluating your check-out process, return policy, customer service offerings, and inventory. Bolster your holiday promotions by creating discounts, writing gift lists, and creating holiday social media content.

Don’t let your work be sabotaged by slow load times. Fortify your eCommerce website with a reliable host. Check out Bluehost’s hosting packages today!

Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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