As we enter October, the holiday season should be on all retailers’ minds. This time of the year is often the most important quarter for your business.
Over the next month, you should finalize your holiday season eCommerce strategy for this season. Last season, non-store holiday sales grew 6.8% to $101.9 billion. And, it’s expected to grow even more this year. You’ll want to take advantage of the increase.
So, we put together a last minute holiday eCommerce checklist for you. Be prepared to have your best year yet!
2015 Holiday eCommerce Checklist
1. Finalize Budget
First, finalize your budget and where you want to spend your money. This might be in new technology, advertising, staff, or a new sales channel. No matter what you decide, be ready for those first holiday shoppers, as consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier.
Action to take: Check your budget to make sure that you allocate dollars to where it best serves you.
2. Quality Product Information
When selling online, whether fon a marketplace or webstore, your product information needs to be high quality. This is especially true if you have new SKUs that you plan on selling this season, or you’re trying to sell on a new online sales channel like Amazon.
Quality product information helps your customers find your products, navigate your site, and confirm that your product is what they’re looking for. Customers are willing to do a lot more research about items upfront, before buying. Your product information is what helps them purchase your item at the end of their buying journey.
Action to take: Double-check that you product information represents your products in the best way possible.
Creating product information, especially for multiple sales channels, can be a hassle and time consuming. What Amazon requires you to provide for products is different than eBay. You also probably structure the same products differently on your own website.
If you have trouble listing quality product information across all your eCommerce channels, check out nChannel Product Information Management (PIM) that helps you quickly list to any sales channel and clean up your data.
3. Paid Search & SEO Optimization
Paid search and SEO play an important role in how customers find your products and your store. It’s a great way to compete for the top spot on search results on Google. You can also bet that it’s going to be competitive for those top positions during the holidays.
Action to take:
For paid search: review your keywords, targeted audience, landing pages, and budget prior to mid-November and Cyber Monday. Keep your quality scores high for keywords and ads so you get the top position, and pay less for clicks and conversions.
For SEO: Using the right keywords is also important for helping your customers find your products on your own site or Amazon. Make sure your product information includes the terms that your customers are searching for.
4. Email Marketing
For online shopping, email marketing might be the best tool you can use to drive more purchases. If you aren’t planning to already, make sure you’re using some type of thought-out email marketing campaign.
Email marketing can be used to inform customers of coupons, sales, and hot items throughout the coming months. It’s also a great way to interact with customers after they abandon their cart while shopping on your site. A good email can drive customers back to your site.
Action to take: You can find apps compatible with major eCommerce platforms like Magento, Shopify, and Bigcommerce to make email marketing easy for your team this season. Just look to your webstore’s community for their AppStore or something similar.
5. Real-time Inventory Updates
When selling online, it’s crucial that your inventory availability is accurate. Overselling is a major problem and will create customer backlash. You also don’t want to miss an opportunity for a sale because your inventory levels weren’t updated.
Action to take: Procure enough inventory for your forecasted sales and put in place a process to have your inventory levels updated across your sales channels as products are sold.
The best way to do this is to use technology that synchronizes your inventory in real time. In this way, no matter where the item sold, whether it be on your website or Amazon, customers know that inventory is available.
See how nChannel’s cloud-based platform solves this inventory synchronization problem for merchants.
6. Mobile Optimization
As eCommerce sales increase, it’s important to note where customers are doing their shopping online. It’s no surprise that mobile is often the medium used for online shopping, either for product research or actual purchasing.
Action to take: Make your site responsive, or mobile optimized to accommodate those that are shopping on their phones or tablets.
7. Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday (November 30th) is the most important day for online sales. It’ll most likely end up being the biggest share of online sales by day for you.
For this year’s Cyber Monday, you’ll need to have your budget finalized, paid search advertising inline, team ready to monitor performance, and customer service equipped to handle customer questions throughout the day.
Action to take: Look at your performance from last year and determine what areas you did well in and how you could improve this year.
8. Shipping and Fulfillment Processes
UPS reported that consumers cited shipping speed as the 4th most important factor when making a purchasing decision online. Your fulfillment processes need to be on point this holiday season, if you plan on making customers happy.
Not only do you need to be able offer fast shipping, free shipping is also important. Customers will wait longer or add items to cart to qualify for free shipping. Offering these types of services can be a differentiator for you this season.
Action to take: Determine what types of promotions you’ll offer towards shipping and the cut-off date for when you can guarantee delivery by Christmas day.
9. Customer Service
Customer service shouldn’t be an area that you overlook this holiday season. Great customer service can go a long way for online buyers.
Action to take: At the start of November, have your customer help sections updated on your site and provide correct contact information. Have your staff equipped to easily help customers through online chats and phone calls.
How you handle shipping information such as deadlines/guarantees and returns processes are also part of customer service.
Action to take: Finalize your terms and policies for returns and make them clear and visible for customers.
Don’t be afraid to provide too much information, it could make the difference between a satisfied customer and a frustrated one.
10. Start Promotions Early
Last, but not least, try to get these checklist points in order early! That’s because we are seeing consumers starting their holiday shopping earlier than usual.
40.4% of consumers in 2014 started their shopping before September to the end of October. So, it’s not too early to start your promotions.
Action to take: Finalize and provide early holiday promotions
What to Do Next
Don’t worry if you still have a lot checks to make on this list. You still have time. But, don’t wait any longer.
Along with the use of this checklist, get our eBook that’s a compilation of 2015 holiday retail shopping trends.
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