Q4 2022 looms large for ecommerce brands. Q4, of course, encompasses the holiday shopping season. In fact, many ecommerce brands see up to 25% of their yearly retail sales from October to December, particularly around major shopping days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday. Ahead of the holiday rush, it’s important to prepare for higher retail sales volumes in order to maximize revenue and minimize costly issues. Here are the steps we recommend.

Step 1: Prepare operations for high sales volumes

Higher sales also mean a higher burden on your operations and site infrastructure. And, given the higher volume, any failure during the holiday season can be significantly more costly than at other times of year. In order to make sure you can deliver the best experience for your customers, we recommend taking a careful look at your systems and processes. 

Operationally, that means double-checking your inventory and making sure to re-order stock with plenty of time for delivery. Make sure to evaluate which products you expect to sell best based on your past sales data and any industry trends you anticipate during the upcoming holidays. Don’t forget to ensure that you have packaging supplies and enough manpower ready to process your orders during the busy season. If you work with a third party logistics provider, you should make sure you are aware of their holiday season SLAs so you can communicate accurately with your customers. 

If you use integrations, enablement software, or Shopify apps to run your business, now is the time to run tests and ensure they can support the volume of activity that you anticipate during the holiday season. If you need to upgrade your systems, make sure to do a dry run before big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Step 2: Optimize your site experience for conversion

While your first priority should be simply ensuring that your systems can handle holiday visitor volumes, you should also take steps to optimize your site in order to maximize customer conversions. Make sure your page load time is low, and take a close look at your merchandising, reviews, checkout flows, and CTA language. You may want to consider tactics like upselling, cross-selling, personalized recommendations, and abandon-cart communications to encourage purchases even further. 

Step 3: Plan your deals and promotions

Planning for the holiday shopping season also includes making decisions about discounts and promotion strategies in order to win business for your brand. Be sure to take a close look at your cost of goods and cost of acquisition to determine how deeply you can afford to discount your products during the holiday rush. Think carefully about your discounting structure: you can get creative with progressive discounts that incentivize purchases ahead of holiday shipping cutoffs. Promotion timing is also important. If you anticipate long lead times or delivery delays, you can extend your promotional period or begin it earlier than usual to ensure customer satisfaction. 

Step 4: Strategize impactful marketing campaigns

Don’t rely on your customers coming to you. Instead, plan ahead to cut through the holiday-season noise. Now is the time to start planning and building out your holiday marketing campaigns. During the holiday shopping season, prepare to spend more than usual on customer acquisition, as all brands ramp up spend simultaneously. Organic and non-traditional acquisition strategies that capitalize on existing customers can be particularly effective during this time. 

Get creative with your organic marketing campaigns. Co-branding and co-marketing products with brand partners can help you reach new audiences without major ad spend, while tactics like influencer campaigns, giveaways, and product drops can generate buzz and earned media. Content marketing can be tailored to the season and segmented to offer personalized gifting suggestions to your customers. You can also consider utilizing your rewards program to incentivize purchases during the period and generate referrals. 

Step 5: Step up your customer service game

Customer service is extra important during the holiday shopping season. Good CX can win loyalty, and bad CX can destroy it. The holidays can be a stressful time, and there can be extra emotional weight to holiday purchases. Customers are stressed out about their purchases arriving on time, and want to know they can return their purchases if the gift isn’t quite right.

If you are having trouble meeting customer service SLAs now, staff up ahead of the holidays. Consider adding more customer service communication channels, like live chat or dedicated social accounts. In general, customers appreciate transparent and upfront communication: tell them realistically what they can expect from shipping and delivery, and communicate your return policies clearly. Be sure to empower your customer service reps to go above and beyond to help your customers when things go wrong — surprise and delight tactics can go a long way (and even create viral marketing moments).

As you prepare for the holiday shopping season, Canal lets you access new products without taking on inventory. Using Canal, you can optimize your site merchandising and power co-branding partnerships, content marketing, and on-site conversion tactics. Learn more.

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