This holiday season should be a big one for retailers. Deloitte anticipates that total holiday sales will increase somewhere between 4.0% and 4.5% over 2013, for total sales of $981 to $986 billion. Another recent projection from eMarketer–even better news for e-retailers–projects eCommerce growth for November and December at 16.6% this year to $72.4 billion, up from their estimate of 15.3% last year.
In their Seventh Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, IBM provides key metrics to convince sellers to sell online this year. Average order value (AOV) and items per order both rose to record over the past year. AOV in 2013 was $122.46 in December, a 13% increase from 2011.
Multiple sources are reporting promising numbers for this holiday season. It’s not too early to start prepping for the most wonderful time of year.
Here are five tips to help you increase your online sales this holiday season:
Tip 1: Determine the Right Products to Sell
With more shoppers turning to online to search for and buy products, it’s important to offer unique, high-quality products at a differentiating price point. Review your current product performance and see how customers respond to what you offer. Evaluate your 2013 sales and see what type of products you sold out of quickly or had backorders for. Use these numbers to determine what your best-selling items are and how much inventory to hold for each.
If you have a product that sells extremely well, think about cross-selling a complementary product. By choosing two products that go well together, you can convince buyers to add products they didn’t intend to purchase.
Don’t just look at your own sales. Pay attention to what’s going on in the market. Look for what experts predict will sell well this season. Use this research to help guide you on what other type of products to offer for consumers. Some resources to jumpstart your research are:
If you need a great tool to view your sales trends and product performance leading up to and during this shopping season, check out nChannel’s Business Intelligence app.
Tip 2: Make Your Products Easy to Find
According to IBM’s Holiday Readiness report, shoppers’ online attention span keeps getting shorter and shorter. Pageviews per session hit a new bottom of 6.93 in March 2014.
Holiday shoppers don’t have the patience to search through multiple sellers on marketplaces. And they certainly don’t have time to search through pages and pages of items on your website.
Your products need to be easily searchable and defined correctly. Make sure your product information and descriptions are up-to-date before holiday shopping begins. Optimize your website and items with the correct SEO terms (Not sure what SEO is all about? Read how to use SEO to get your site holiday ready.)
If you have messy product information data, nChannel’s Product Information Management (PIM) tool might be the solution for you. You control all your product information from a single workspace and get your products to market faster.
Tip 3: Expand Brand Presence into More Active Markets and Channels
Along with expanding your product assortment, expand your brand presence into other sales channels.
Every marketplace isn’t for every seller. Look at your product mix and decide which marketplace reaches your target market. If you sell in a specific category, look for sites that sell to that specific audience only. For example, if you sell handmade items, you should be on Etsy. Amazon sellers who sell computer hardware and software should also be on Newegg. For home goods sellers, check out the marketplace Houzz. Sellers with multiple and entirely different product categories could benefit from separate web stores that focus on only one category.
Selling on more channels allows you to reach a larger number of potential customers who are looking for your products.
Tip 4: Control Your Inventory
Expanding your product assortment and the numbers of channels you sell on can complicate your inventory. You probably already know this if you struggled with inventory control last season. Don’t let that be a problem for you again.
Don’t let your customers experience stock-outs, backorders, and cancelled orders. Avoid selling the same item twice to different shoppers because your inventory levels aren’t updated across your channels.
Not making these types of mistakes this holiday season is a huge advantage in selling more to shoppers. You’ll have a smooth holiday season without the stress of dealing with angry customers who thought they were getting that package under the tree.
There are many inventory synchronization solutions available to you that keep your inventory up-to-date in real time, across all your channels. Take a moment and have a sigh of relief. If you’re in the market for one of these solutions, check out how nChannel synchronizes all of your inventory.
Tip 5: Provide Outstanding Customer Experience
If you sold or bought items last season, you probably either experienced or delivered bad customer experience. You weren’t alone.
Last year, Internet Retailer reported that at least one third of retailers didn’t get order under the tree as promised. In another article, UPS even admitted that they weren’t prepared for in the increase in online holiday shopping.
But we must all learn from our mistakes and be more prepared this year.
Shoppers are already determining that they will start their shopping early to avoid late deliveries. To provide shoppers with a better experience this year, make sure your order, fulfillment, returns, and shipping process are in place before the surge in holiday shopping.
First thing to consider is your check-out process. Cart abandonment is a serious problem for all online retailers, especially during the holidays. Put yourself in your shopper’s shoes. Make your process simple and be upfront about costs. Display your security logos to build trust (if you’re certified). Provide different popular and convenient payment options for sellers.
Orders, Fulfillment & Shipping
Once they’ve placed an order, you must deliver on the expected date. Be realistic about what your last date is that guarantees items before Christmas day. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Consider options like Fulfillment by Amazon to handle your orders and shipping. If you’re looking for a better order management system this season, take a look at our complied list of top Order Management systems.
After the holidays, or for those early shoppers, returns are also important to a customer’s experience with you. A user-friendly return process is a key driver in repeat business. Before the holidays, determine and display your return policy. When tracking your returns, keeps notes of why items are being returned so that they you can make the appropriate changes.
Stellar customer experience not only ensures more sales during the holidays, it encourages customers to shop with you after the season is over.
These 5 tips help kick-start your holiday plans into place. And with November right around the corner, be confident that you’re going to have your best-selling holiday season to-date.