With worldwide ecommerce sales expecting to hit an annual total of $4.5 trillion plus by 2021 (Statista), 2018 is set to be the most competitive holiday season yet - but are you ready for the sales to begin...?

 

First of all the key dates!

23rd Nov - Black Friday Deals
26th Nov - Cyber Monday - Now Extends A Full Week
24th Dec - Xmas Eve - Sales Start
26th Dec - Boxing Day - Increased Sales Traffic
1st Jan - New Year Sales

 

Black Friday, November 23, 2018, is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, as it kicks off the holiday season. This season is crucial for the economy because around 30 percent of annual retail sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas. For some retailers, it's even higher, at almost 40 percent.

Looking back at 2017, as the annual shopping jamboree kicked off, an initial dip in web traffic figures and fewer shoppers out on the high streets suggested Britons were falling out of love with the American-inspired discount day. However, momentum built during the day and Barclaycard which processes nearly half of all debit and credit card transactions in the UK, estimated that Black Friday spending finished up 8% on 2016 (The Guardian).

Operating a successful Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale can cause a lot of pressure for many business owners, as they prepare their departments for a huge influx of traffic and sales. In this blog post we’re going to get you up to speed on what you should be doing to ensure that everything falls into place when the time comes.

 

1. Are you at the starting line?

‘The early bird catches the worm’. It may come as a surprise, but it is important to note that customers are looking for information and researching holiday sales deals from an earlier date than you may expect. It is necessary, therefore, to prepare your holiday sales as early as you can, and begin letting your customers and visitors know about your upcoming sale periods in advance.

According to previous research, every year, 40% of customers begin researching and doing their holiday shopping as early as October.

Not only do you need to start preparing early, but you also need to ensure that it is easy for customers who are looking for particular products and gift ideas to find you.

Ensure that you are ‘the early bird’ by creating advertisements for your sale periods early, giving your customers plenty of notice. You could also consider sending an email to all of your existing customers, providing them with information regarding your upcoming promotions.

 

2. Is your website ready for action?

Patience does not appear to be a virtue that many online shoppers possess. According to Kissmetrics:

  • 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in under 2 seconds
  • If loading takes more than 3 seconds, 40% abandon the website
  • A 1 second delay can result in 7% fewer conversions

Although website speed is a vital factor, it is not the only technical factor that may make or break your holiday season sales. Web store stability has shown to be even more important. A slack web store may cause you to lose 40% of your webshop visitors, but an overloaded webshop may lose all of them.

Technical issues due to high volumes of traffic, isn’t just a risk for smaller companies. Last year, a number of major U.S. retailer sites experienced website outages during the Black Friday sale period — prime holiday season selling time. According to Forbes, these I.T. issues likely cost retailers billions of dollars in lost revenue. Make sure your tech infrastructure is up to scratch!

 

3. Can your distribution centre handle increased demand?

Whether you rely on a supplier for your inventory, or your product is manufactured in house, you NEED to consider the influx in demand that you will experience during the holiday season. While you’re at it, you may want to consider the increase in orders that your distribution centre will receive during this period.

Do you have enough staff to create and fulfil the high volumes of orders that you may receive?

It is important that you work with your suppliers and your distribution centre, to ensure that they are fully prepared to handle your projected sales for the holiday season. You do not want to risk selling out faster than you may have expected, and being unable to meet the demand of your customers.

To avoid these issues, one option may be to outsource to an experienced fulfilment company who will be prepared to jump into action when you need it most.

 

4. Is your customer service workforce fully assembled?

Most large companies will be prepared for what’s to come during the holiday season, however, many smaller sized businesses may find that they suddenly become overloaded with unanticipated sales volumes, which impacts every area of their business, including your customer service team!

Research carried out by RightNow discovered that 82% of customers stopped doing business with a company after a bad customer service experience, and research by Bain & Co found that 10% increase in customer retention can result in 30% increase in company value. As you can see, it is important that your customer service is not overlooked during this busy period.

Consider the maximum additional volume your current team could handle. Could you hire temps at short notice if you needed them? Would you have time to train them up last minute? If your answer is no, working with an outsourced customer service company, who are readily prepared and fully trained on your company, may be the answer to your sales season prayers.

 

5. Have you considered Online Marketplaces?

Another thing to consider is the possibility of investing not only in your own website, but in a presence on other online marketplaces. The benefits of a move like this is down to the amount of traffic volume that these marketplaces garner.

Evidence of this can be seen by looking at the volume of retail websites visits during November and December of last year in the US, where Amazon accounted for 33.8% of these visits.

As the saying goes; if you can’t beat them, then why not join them?

 

6. Are you providing competitive fulfilment options?

You’ve followed our previous steps, and you have shoppers on your webshop instead of one of your competitors. From speediness, weekend delivery and pick up points, each year that passes, your customers are expecting more and more. Ask yourself these questions:

 

  • Have you given your visitors as many shipping options as you can?

 

  • Are your delivery options and T&C’s clear on your website so that there are no hidden surprises for your customers?

 

  • Are you prepared for unexpected scenarios such as bad weather or snow delays?

 

  • How will you inform customers of potential delays with their delivery?

 

It is vital that you communicate clearly with your customers about your shipping costs and other terms, to prevent shoppers from getting cold feet and changing their mind about placing an order.

 

Or, if you want to be truly competitive and at the top of the holiday season game, then you may choose to offer free shipping during the holiday season.

Previous research has concluded that 9 out of 10 shoppers list free shipping as the biggest incentive to shop online more regularly. The same survey saw 69% of consumers listing one-day delivery as an incentive, and 68% listing free returns and exchanges.

 

7. Is your returns process foolproof?

The holiday season isn’t just stressful for business owners, it is also a hectic time for shoppers. The aim is to become the online retailer that truly cares and goes above and beyond the call of duty for their customers and site visitors. One way to give them peace of mind is to provide a hassle free, cost free and fast returns service. Showing confidence in your product and removing the risk from the customer may also attract people to your company, and make you stand out from the crowd.

One option you may wish to consider to make your return service as smooth and pain-free as possible for the customer may be to provide them with a free return label within each purchase. This will allow them to simply attach their label to their parcel and take it to a drop of point of their choice.

Another way to ensure the highest quality of returns service may be to ensure that your warehouse is fully equipped and ready to process your returns and refunds as quickly as they can, after they receive the returned package.

Ask yourself: is your warehouse and your team prepared for the large influx of returns that they may receive?

If not, it may be worth considering outsourcing to a fulfilment company, who would be ‘all-hands-on-deck’ to ensure that your returns are processed as efficiently as possible and your customers are left feeling satisfied with your service.

 

There are now just 60 days (at time of writing) until it all begins so we hope we’ve given you some food for thought on how you can make this season the best for your customers and your revenues! Afterall, happy customers, happy business!