prepare your online store for the holiday season

How To Prepare Your Store for the Holiday Season

I know, I know it’s only September. But guess what? The countdown is here. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas…the mad rush of the holiday season. But, if you’re an retailer, or run a small online store, the holiday onslaught means something much more: you’re about to enter the most profitable time of the year. Do you know how to prepare your store for the holiday season? 

Data from the National Retail Federation shows that 20% to 40% of  the year’s total sales  for smaller and mid-sized retailers take place within the last two months of the year.

What’s more, this year’s holiday eCommerce sales are slated to increase by more than 15.8.

If you need to make 2018 your strongest showing yet as an digital retailer, then you need to get prepped early. Maybe you aren’t already selling online. That’s ok, you still have ample time to prepare for the holiday season. eHopper’s eCommerce solution offers a variety of benefits that will help double your sales from Black Friday through Christmas. 

Maybe you aren’t already selling online. That’s fine, nothing to worry about there.

In this post, we outline a quick guide for preparing your store so you can cash in on the holiday season. 

(eCommerce + Point of Sale) Integration

Every retailer or small business is different. Perhaps you’re a brick and mortar boutique that doesn’t have much of an online presence. Maybe you’re not happy with your existing ecommerce platform. Maybe you’re not sure how to leverage these tools to increase sales over the holiday season. 

While it’s important to  prepare your online store for the holiday season, for many retailers, eCommerce is only part of the overall prep. If you do business in a physical location, as well as online, it’s crucial that your online store syncs with your point-of-sale. 

If you realize there are gaps in your retail strategy, it might be time to consider omnichannel.

An omnichannel retail strategy is an approach to sales and marketing that provides customers with a fully-integrated shopping experience by uniting user experiences from brick-and-mortar to mobile-browsing and everything in between.

Essentially, this combines your POS with your ecommerce and digital reach. This synergy allows you to do a variety of things to prepare your business for the holidays.

eHopper offers an Omnichannel Plan that seamlessly integrates inventory, customer information, reporting, and employee management.

By syncing eHopper POS with your eCommerce store , you can ensure that you are reaching your customers at the right points of your sales pipeline. eCommerce, search engine optimization, email marketing, stock controls, and loyalty programs – eHopper offers the perfect solution to help you prepare your online store for the holiday season. 

Are you ready for the rush? Don’t miss a chance to capitalize on the holidays. Yep, there’s a lot to remember to get ready for the season – let eHopper handle all the work for you! 

Sign up today for a free trial of eHopper’s Omnichannel Plan. 

Inventory Tracking 

Next, you need to think about your stock. Inventory tracking is of paramount importance during the holidays. You need to accurately predict levels and figure out which product lines you need to order from your suppliers, and how much, to maximize your profit from Black Friday through Christmas. With proper inventory management, you don’t have to worry about ordering too much, or even worse, too little of any product in your line. 

The best place to start with this effort is your analytics for last holiday season. You need to isolate which items were popular during the holidays last year, and how many you sold.

Consider the items you’re currently selling and make an informed decision about how much more stock you need before the holiday shoppers descend. 

eHopper POS inventory control

eHopper POS inventory control

If your current point-of-sale doesn’t support inventory tracking then it might be time upgrade to a more complete POS system. eHopper’s Freedom plan gives you access to rich inventory controls such as:

  • Purchase order receiving
  • Variants and serialized items
  • Current stock total views
  • Reporting on purchase orders

Holiday Categories

For your online store, it’s import to creating holiday-focused category pages.  This creates the appropriate holiday spirit on your website, and will enhance user experience. The added bonus is that this makes it much easier for customers to find your discounts, deals and gift packages.

Holiday Categories can prepare your online store for the holiday season

 Macy’s optimizes their online store with holiday categories and call-to-actions

Here are some winning examples of high performing holiday categories:

  • Black Friday Sale
  • Cyber Monday Deals
  • Christmas offers
  • Perfect Gifts for men
  • Perfect Gifts for Mom

Gift Card Promotions

A great way to drive sales on your online store during the holiday season is to offer gift card promotions.  Often, it’s easier to give gift cards a present than take the time to shop for an individual. This also avoids buying someone a gift they may not like. Don’t miss out on this holiday business because you don’t support gift cards. What’s best, gift card promotions allow you to combine your physical brick and mortar sales with you online efforts, by allowing your customers the flexibility to use gift cards in both places. 

This means, to fully optimize your online retail, you must have a solution in place that can handle gift cards on your ecommerce site, as well as your point of sale at your store. 

Another great bonus of gift cards is that people are likely to spend more than the value of the card. Offering gift cards is a great way to boost sales during the holidays. 

Holiday Email Campaigns

You should be more active via email during the Holiday Season. If you have a huge email list filled with previous buyers and leads, fantastic! The key to optimizing holiday sales is to start communicating with these people ASAP.

Remind them that they can buy their Christmas presents now without waiting in long lines or fighting to find a spot in the parking lot. With eHopper POS, you are able to offer the option of buying online and then picking up in the store. This is something that is quite valuable to potential customers that don’t want to wait in long lines or deal with crowds during the holidays. 

It’s best to make sure you include hard time deadlines in these emails. This call-to-action creates a sense of urgency.

prepare your online store for the holiday season

Email campaigns are perfect for digital holidays such as Black Friday & Cyber Monday. Not only are they commonly among the highest total retail ecommerce days of the entire year, but these are days where consumers are the most likely to make purchases online. If you operate an online store, these are keys dates to focus on. An active, targeted email campaign, is one of the best ways to boost sales on these days.  

Shipping & Return Policy

During the holiday season, timing can make or break anything. This brings your shipping and return policy into sharp focus. 

Review Shipping Options

Right now, ahead of the upcoming holiday rush, is when you should be reviewing your shipping methods. Has your shipping been reliable? How many complaints about shipping do you generally receive?

What about last holiday season? Were your customers happy with shipping? 

Handling returns with omnichannel

Review your shipping and return policies ahead of the holidays.

Even if you’re completely satisfied with your current shipping configuration, NOW is the ideal time to reach out to them, confirm anticipated delivery dates and potentially garner important information for your website information, email marketing or social media campaigns.

If you haven’t been happy, now’s the right time to shop around for new shipping options. 

Also, make sure your shipping options and delivery time frames are easy to find on your site – including at checkout – and update any new information for the holidays.

Update Return Policy

Of equal importance to shipping considerations is your online store’s return policy. The return policy is one of the most important pages of your ecommerce site. With any sort of online business, you need a stated return policy. The best return pages make the return and exchange process simple to understand. 

A lot of sales can hinge on this page. If your customers feels like returning an item might be a headache, they might not bother buying it. Yet, if it seems your policy is easy to navigate, it might make your customers more likely to roll the dice and make a purchase.

To optimize your return policy for the holidays, make sure your return process is laid out in an enticing way. Focus on the grace period, or maybe, what any customer questions might be. 

Loyalty & Rewards Programs

You’re spent a lot of effort growing your business and bringing new customers into your sales funnel. Now, you need to retain these customers.

A proven way to reward loyal customers is with a loyalty program. This is a great way to engage over time, which will serve to drive future sales and many return visits.

On top of this “stickiness,” a loyalty or rewards program can add direct extra value to the customer experience your online store provides.

eHopper POS software offers marketing box features that enable your business to craft a loyalty program within your point of sale system. This means that as your customers make purchases, the POS software automatically updates their reward progress – whether they are online or in-person.  It’s not too late to begin gathering valuable information about your customers that you can use to increase retail sales during the holiday season. 

Customer Service

Obviously, with increased online holiday sales, you can expect that during the holiday season, customers will reach out to you more.Whether they’re seeking additional information on a product before purchasing, or confirming that shipping times will work, it’s important that your customer service is there to meet the requests.

how to prepare your online store for the holiday season

This means that customers on your site should be able to easily find your contact information, with clearly laid out steps for customer service. Highlight your customer service and make sure you are always available for any customer inquiries. 

You can add a sticky bar at the top of your website with your contact information, or even add a pop-up chat window that activates after a user has viewed specific pages. 

Staff Time Clock Management

 The holidays bring an increase in foot traffic to many different kinds of retail. From coffee shops, to liquor stores, to retail boutiques. Any retailer needs to be able to accurately track their employees hours, and in preparing for the holiday season, consider which shifts are best for which employees. To do this, your POS needs to be able to generate reports about what time your employees clock in or clock out, as well as what happens during their shifts.  

Does your POS track your employees clocking in and out? When you sign up with eHopper point of sale you can:

  • Easily record and track employee hours
  • Filter reporting by register, employee, store, and time period
  • Export reports for full visualization of employee hours

Analyze Site Performance and Traffic

Site Performance

Nothing can more directly affect your online holiday sales than poor site performanceThe harsh truth:

  • 47% of potential customers expect a page to load in less than 2 seconds.
  • 40% of users leave a website that takes over 3 seconds to load.
  • 1-second delay in the time of page response can lead to as much as a 7% loss in conversions.
  • For example, if your online store is making $100,000 per day, just a little ole 1-second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales each year.

Luckily, there’s plenty of powerful (and some free) tools to address these holiday ecommerce concerns.

Scanning your site with a web performance tool like Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix or WP Checkup can quickly show you what areas of your site to focus on improving. There’s many things to consider, so these metrics will be a useful starting point.

It might be that you need to optimize your image meta data, update your theme or template, or start cleaning up your database.

Load Testing

More sales inevitably means more site traffic. Nothing makes a seasoned retailer panic more than the thought of a customer experiencing an error, or – gulp – your site going down mid-purchase. 

To get ready for the surge of traffic during the holidays, you need to make sure that your site can handle it. Now’s the time to put it through a stress test. Try out services like Locust that can hit your website with millions of simultaneous users. This provides a great glimpse into how your server performs.

Hopefully, you’re in good shape. However, if your server cracks under pressure, you should talk to your hosting company about upping your bandwidth or possibly upgrading your hosting package.

Traffic Analysis

What are your biggest traffic days?  What landing pages drive the most conversions? It’s crucial to arm yourself with this data in order to optimize your holiday season online sales. These metrics can clue you in to which days, times or platforms to invest your advertising dollars during the holiday season. 

Once you’ve looked into your site data, you can leverage this information to drive users to specific pages, products or sales.

For example, if you notice that Tuesday mornings bring a spike in traffic to your online store, then you can run banner ads on your site promoting a discount to drive sales. Next, combine this strategy with an email blast to your customers ahead of Tuesday morning, advertising a “one day only flash sale.”

You could even supplement this support with social media, harnessing all of your digital channels to push customers to a landing page or category of your choice. An omnichannel retail strategy is one that combine

Conclusion

The last quarter of any year, primarily the holiday season, is the busiest and most profitable time of year for retail and eCommerce. As a business owner, it’s important that you take all the steps possible to prepare your business to capitalize on this seasonal rush. 

With so many moving parts, it helps to have a fully integrated omnichannel retail strategy, to guarantee you are touching potential customer at all crucial parts of the sales pipeline. Fundamental to this harmonious approach is syncing your point of sale with your ecommerce site. Once this is in place, you are able to begin tracking the inventory, customers and employee information that you can use to prepare your business for the holiday season. 

Businesses of any size, type, or niche could greatly benefit from an omnichannel retail strategy.

Sign up today and try eHopper’s managed business solution, while you still have time to optimize your holiday sales.