10 Steps to Increase Sales and Meet the Demand During the Holiday Season

The biggest sales period of the year for e-commerce firms – the holiday shopping season – is just around the corner.  Retail e-commerce sales are expected to jump 13.9 per cent this year, to touch 79.4 billion USD, during the season, which extends from Black Friday to Christmas.  Vendors get 50-100 per cent more sales per day during the season, than during the rest of the year.

Hence it is very important that you prepare well in advance to optimize your operations during the period.  Any mistake could ruin your reputation and affect your sales for the year- perhaps for the coming years too. E-commerce firms have to meet many challenges – from promoting the website to handling the surge in demand and fulfilling it- to make the most out of the season.  The following steps could help you enjoy the holidays and satisfy your customers at the same time.

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1. Prepare a marketing calendar for the holiday season

Your customers need to know about the products that you offer and the offers that you are providing on them. That means that you have to run marketing campaigns to make them aware of your e-commerce website. And as the holiday season runs for almost a month, it is very important that you time your campaigns. Email campaigns, social media marketing, promotions and all other marketing activity that you do have to be coordinated in such a way that they complement each other and help in optimising your visibility. Some of the activities that you should be part of the plan are

  • Readying promotions, new images and content for the products
  • Decide on the time and frequency of the promotions
  • Identifying target customer segments and focusing campaigns on them
  • Develop dynamic pricing strategies to outsmart the competition

2. Join the celebrations with your customers

People tend to loosen their purse strings when they are in a celebratory mood. So decorate your store and join the celebration. Make sure that you have different images for the different events in the season – images that spread warmth and happiness. And make your customers happier by giving them gifts for shopping with you during the season.

3. Personalize Promotions

Many of your customers will be repeat customers. Make sure that you send them personalized e-mails, with promotions and information about the deals on offer at your site during the holiday season.  You can use the data that you have such as their purchase history and wish list to send them special offers that would entice them. A personalized online experience will also help them easily find what they need, in your store and help you increase your sales.

4. Run flash deals to lock in customers

The holiday season is also the season for deals. Bundle products by offering volume discounts and tactics such as up-selling and cross-selling to increase your sales. Tempt your customers by running daily flash deals. Deals that expire within hours urge customers to make the buying decision immediately instead of postponing it indefinitely.  So make phrases such as “Discount valid till midnight” and “Discount for first 100 customers” part of your site vocabulary.

5. Forecast demand and ramp up production and inventory

The demand for products would be much higher than normal during the holiday shopping season. Out-of-stock products could cause you to lose customers. So you have to plan to meet the increase in demand during the period. The first step in doing that is to forecast the demand. Make an estimate of the demand for the different products during the season based on the marketing activities, current trends and data from previous years. Ramp up production or make tie-ups to ensure that you can satisfy the increase in demand for the products.

6. Use traffic management tools to speed up your site

Online campaigns have the potential go viral and lead to a surge in traffic to your site. That means that you could end up with a problem of plenty if your promotions are successful. Higher traffic to the site could lead to performance issues that could slow down your site, or in worse cases make it inaccessible altogether. Research shows that few shoppers have the patience to wait for slow-loading pages or to tolerate sites that perform badly. Forty per cent of them will abandon your site if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds.  So you have to make sure that your pages load fast by

  • Making use of  traffic management and optimization tools to reduce downtime and increase performance
  • Reducing the size of the images, avoiding videos and other heavy stuff on the page
  • Talking to hosting providers so that they provide you higher bandwidth and server times during the holiday season. Ensure that they are capable of ramping up capacity at short notice. Consider using a Content Delivery Network, if your business has customers over a wide area.
  • Using analytics to find out what customers actually do – browsing, searching, talking to customer service, purchasing, and the like – on your site. This will help you get an idea of how your site performs and help you improve it.
  • Identifying functions such as weekly database updates, that affect the performance of the website and reschedule them in such a way that they do not coincide with your peak load times.
  • No matter what you do, things could sometimes go wrong. Prepare a backup plan to deal with such exigencies and test it thoroughly so that you can stay afloat even during a crisis situation.

7. Optimize the site design for various devices

Make sure that the site looks good on various devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets and mobiles. According to IBM, mobile users accounted for 50 per cent of all holiday traffic last year. The proliferation of smart phones means that the figure will increase this year. So it would be better to adopt a mobile-first approach to site design rather than designing it for desktops as is usually done. A responsive design will allow the layout to adjust to various screen sizes.

8. Be Active on Social Media

Engage your customers on social media. Post information about the deals on Facebook and Twitter so that they are aware of the deals on offer. Use popular hashtags- #Happyholidays, #MerryChristmas, #HappyNewYear, #happythanksgiving –  to make your posts more reachable. Run contests on a daily basis, to keep your audience interested.

9. Offer free shipping

Shipping charges are often a big deterrent for customers to close the sale.  It was the prime reason for customers abandoning their purchase, during the last holiday season. Studies show that around 60 percent of shoppers will buy more products to qualify for free shipping.  And 80 per cent of customers are willing to wait an additional two days for delivery if shipping is free. So offer them free shipping, especially on high value orders. At the same time make sure that they get their product on time. After all, it doesn’t make any sense to deliver a Christmas gift on New Year.

10. Provide hassle free returns

In many categories of products such as clothing, customers are unsure if the product will fit them. Hence they hesitate to buy such products online. Providing them the option to return the product in a hassle free manner could help overcome their hesitation and increase sales in the category.

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The huge marketing efforts during the holiday season would ensure that you would have got many new customers. With a little planning you could convert them into regular customers for your site. Be prepared with post-holiday marketing strategies such as sending a thank you email and providing them offers to make repeat purchases at the site.

The e-commerce platform you choose could affect the ability of your site to offer these facilities to your customers. So be extra careful while choosing an e-commerce solution. Talk to our experts to know more about a flexible and robust e-commerce platform that suits your needs.