HolidayPrep_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.


Hot summer days may not bring the holiday season to mind, but this is exactly when you need to start preparing if you want your online store to be successful during this all-important time. Here are some tips on what to do now to get started:


Understand the e-commerce calendar

The holiday shopping season begins before Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and extends into the New Year. This year, cyber Monday is November 28th; on this date, online shoppers expect the most amazing deals and offers of the shopping season. However, not everybody starts shopping early. Last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s numbers, nine out of 10 shoppers were actively buying gifts, décor, and other holiday items throughout December. America’s Research Group reports that 2015 saw the numbers of last minute shoppers hit a 12-year high, with nearly half of their respondents still actively shopping on Christmas Eve.


Time promotions and offers carefully

Purchasing behavior varies throughout the holiday shopping season. Your promotions and offers should be tailored accordingly. On cyber Monday, it’s all about price, whereas more sentiment-driven messaging can be used effectively during the first 15 days of December. Appealing to a buyer’s sense of urgency becomes powerful after that point, and once the holidays are done? It’s time to give your bargain hunters what they’re looking for and slash prices on slow selling items and excess inventory.


HolidayPrep_PQ.jpgUpdate your return policy and FAQ pages now

Customers want easy access to critical shopping information while they’re on your website and social media. Make sure your return policy, sizing and shipping information, and other important information is accurate, up to date, and extremely easy to find. If you’re using chatbots to facilitate your customer service, make sure they’re prepared with text that addresses these common holiday season inquiries well in advance of the holiday buying rush.


Know and share critical cut-off shipping dates

Delivery companies make a valiant effort to scale up in order to meet the increased demands of the holiday shopping season, but there are limits to what can be done. Strongly encourage your customers to place their orders in time to ensure holiday delivery. UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Post Office all post the cut-off dates for their different shipping options. Share these with your customers regularly to help them avoid disappointment. Emphasizing early orders is a good best practice, as even one bad weather event can slow down the entire delivery chain.


Start generating creative materials

The graphics, language, and imagery you use to support your holiday promotions should be visually consistent across all of your messaging channels, while also tailored to play to the strengths of each platform. This means the beautiful product photos on Instagram one day should reflect what’s current on sale in your online store. Pinterest and Facebook posts should also be in alignment. Use one platform to reinforce the messaging and engagement on another. For instance, when highlighting a specific offer, drive traffic to the exact location—a website page or social media commerce ad—where the customer can actually make a purchase. Creating the sales materials in advance means that during the holiday season you’ll be able to focus on providing superior customer service.



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