The holiday season is upon us once again!
The end of year period has traditionally been a profitable time for online retailers, and in a post-Covid world, this is truer than ever. Consumers are all the more accustomed to shopping online, ecommerce sales are growing, and Q4 period is an opportune moment for online retailers to boost their revenue.
In this article, we walk you through all the things you need to check off your list in order to prepare for the holiday season, including:
- Making sure you have enough inventory
- Ensuring that your site loads quickly
- Ensuring that your products are easy to find
- Offering gift cards
- Offering more shipping options
- Offering digital payment options
Read on to find out more!
Item #1: Make sure you have enough inventory
One of the most important things that you need to do in preparation for the holiday season? Making sure you have enough inventory on hand.
This is relatively straightforward: you’ll get more sales leading up to the holidays, and you don’t want to leave money on the table by having items go out of stock. Any shifting availability on your part may lead your customers to seek out your same products and services elsewhere. So, the best course of action is to remain fully stocked (with some wiggle room) for the entire lead up to the holiday season.
With this in mind, look at past data and seasonal trends, and forecast how much you’ll sell. Then put in your orders, to make sure you have enough inventory on hand!
Item #2: Ensure your site loads quickly
Site speed isn’t something that’s top of mind when most retailers think about preparing for the holidays. That said, this is a crucial factor that will help you capitalize on the holiday traffic.
Here’s the thing: you’ll get a lot more potential customers browsing your store during your holidays, and if your site loads slowly, your potential customers will leave your page before it’s fully loaded. This ultimately means you’re “wasting” your increased traffic.
Now, you might be wondering, what’s considered a good load time? According to research, the highest ecommerce conversion rates occur on pages with load times between 0-2 seconds. With each additional second of load time, website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42%.
This is one of those things that affects all online retailers, regardless of whether you’re big or small, or what type of ecommerce you do. For example, Amazon found that if their pages slow down for 1 second, this translates into them losing $1.6 billion in sales a year.
If you’re trying to improve your site load speed, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to do an audit of your site. This will tell you your current load speed, and also give you recommendations on how to improve.
Unless you’ve actively worked on optimizing your site and improving your load time in the past, you’ll probably see a long list of recommendations and to-dos from the PSI tool. Don’t get overwhelmed, just focus on the low-hanging fruit (i.e., things you can do easily) such as compressing images. Tackle one thing at a time, until your site speed is decent.
Item #3: Ensure your products are easy to find
Higher product discoverability = more sales, simple as that.
How do you improve product discoverability? There are many ways to do it.
First and foremost, ensure that you have a well-built search function that’s easy to use. Your text search function should come with features such as auto-complete, auto-suggest, and spell check. If possible, add visual search to your website as well. This allows shoppers to upload an image to find products that are visually similar.
For online retailers with many SKUs (for example, clothing stores), filters are also a key component of product discoverability. You’ll want to offer a full range of attributes such as price, size, and color so that shoppers can customize their search results, and home in on the products that they’re looking for.
If you haven’t done so already, add a “related products” or “recommended products” widget to your product pages. This encourages consumers to browse more and could potentially increase their Average Order Value (AOV).
Finally, if you have seasonal products or a holiday collection, make sure it’s listed within your menu on the home page and not hidden deep within your ecommerce store. The goal is to increase visibility and allow consumers to navigate to it easily.
Item #4: Offer digital gift cards
If you don’t already offer digital gift cards on your site, now’s the time to do so. The global digital gift card market was valued at $258B in 2020, and is projected to reach $1,101B by 2030. Meaning it’s growing by 15.8% annually.
If you think about it, this makes sense. Over the past two years, people have been opting to stay at home instead of traveling to spend their holidays with their friends and family. This has resulted in an increased adoption of digital gift cards, which are the most convenient and flexible way for folks to still participate in gifting, even though they’re not physically together.
Item #5: Offer more shipping options
This one is for all the last-minute shoppers out there. Yes, your sales will definitely slow down going into the last 2 weeks of Christmas, but you can still generate revenue from last-minute shoppers, assuming that you offer expedited shipping. Alternatively, you can also offer buy-online-pickup-in-store or BOPIS, where you allow customers to go to your store (or even your office space) to pick up their items.
If you’re thinking of offering expedited shipping, start exploring options and talking to 3PL companies early. Once you’ve figured out exactly what you’re doing, make sure the information is stated clearly on your product pages. You can also send out newsletters to your customers, telling them when they need to cart out in order to get their items in time for Christmas.
Item #6: Offer digital payment options
As an online retailer, you probably already know that digital payments are the next big thing. Last year, digital payments accounted for 29% of all ecommerce payments worldwide, and this number is projected to grow to a whopping 51.7% by 2024.
If you haven’t already integrated popular digital wallets like PayPal and Apple Pay to your site, now’s the time to do so!
A final word on preparing for the holidays
Bottom line? The holidays are really what you make out of it.
If you’re ill-prepared, you might have several products go out-of-stock, generate less revenue than what you could potentially make, and worst of all, risk having your customers switch to competing brands for good.
If you’re well-prepared, on the other hand, you’ll be able to capitalize on the holiday season. We’re talking more transacted orders, higher revenue, and potentially capturing more market share and welcoming new customers into your ecosystem.
With the stress of the holiday season building and customer expectations rising, all of these items may seem extremely daunting. However, if you take each of them in stride, you will find that they can be easily completed with minimal effort. For instance, adding digital payment solutions, such as buy-now-pay-later solutions, only take a few clicks to add to your website. These solutions add flexibility for your customers and build rapport for your products or services.
We hope you have a happy holiday (sales) season!