Preparing Your Online Business for the Holiday Season

By Alyssa Kaplan • October 22, 2015

Soon enough, you’ll start noticing advertisements for the holiday season. It’s important to take the time to prepare for the holiday season, even as an eCommerce business. The holiday season can be a stressful time for eCommerce startups, especially if your business is in its first year. The most vital advice anyone would provide is simple: plan ahead.

Here’s what you should be thinking about as the end of November quickly approaches:

Logistics

Everyone wants their gifts to arrive before December 24, and having all your ducks in a row prior to mid-November will allow you to fill orders quickly and efficiently.

Are you going to offer gift wrapping? When is the last day someone can place an order if they want it to arrive on Christmas Eve? Iron out your holiday season shipping options prior to Black Friday, as well as your return policy. Make sure shipping deadlines are clearly marked and advertised on multiple pages on your online store.

If your online store has already been causing you to work overtime, consider hiring seasonal staff to manage the increased orders.

Marketing

As it gets closer to the end of December, you’ll be busy fulfilling orders. However, this doesn’t mean that marketing should be on the back burner. Optimize your time by preparing your marketing materials now.

It’s especially important that you plan out promotions prior to the start of Black Friday. Will your store be participating in Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, or Super Saturday? During your store’s first holiday season, it will be beneficial to not participate in all of the “ shopping holidays” leading up to the main events, but you should still offer promotions to encourage shopping. To support these promotions, make sure blog content, graphics, Facebook ads, emails, and social media posts are ready to go. If needed, you can always tweak them as Christmas approaches.

If you’re going to create a holiday gift guide, make sure it’a finalized early and is easily accessible on your website’s homepage.

Customer Service

Pay attention to what your customers have been saying lately. The stakes are high during the holiday season, and a poor customer service experience could lose a potential (or repeat) customer forever. If you’re receiving the same questions repeatedly, consider creating a holiday season Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

Technical Issues

Is everything working properly? Will your site be able to handle increased traffic? Make sure to do ample testing on your website before mid-November, as a poorly-working website can also easily drive your customers to a competitor’s business.

While a shared hosting plan will be cheaper, your store won’t be able to handle spikes and higher levels of traffic.  With a shared hosting plan, there is also a possibility that your website’s performance will be affected by other websites using the same server. Using a virtual private server can also lead to similar issues. For more reliable performance, look into both cloud and dedicated server hosting. It may cost more, but it will also give you peace of mind that you aren’t losing sales because of a slow website.

Overall, don’t plan any major overhauls until the new year; stick to the tried-and-true during the holiday season. While planning is vital to success, you might need to be flexible and alter those plans as the holiday shopping season progresses. Not everything will go as planned, but if you are prepared, you’ll have the tools to handle whatever happens this holiday season.

Alyssa Kaplan

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