How to prepare your online store for the Christmas season in 6 steps
Year after year, the Christmas shopping season is the high season in retail, and the number of sales in e-commerce is also steadily increasing.
According to a recent study, online retailers generate a good quarter of their annual sales in November and December, i.e. the periods in which promotional days such as Black Friday and the Christmas business take place. Likewise, the online share of total sales in the German Christmas shopping season has increased sharply in recent years, as the following analysis by Statista shows:
However, preparations for the Christmas season don’t just start in the fall. Many online retailers already start their first measures and advertising campaigns in late summer, which means that preparations for them start much earlier.
There are a few things to keep in mind for both retailers and manufacturers (B2B and D2C approach). We have compiled 6 tips to help you prepare your online store for the upcoming season.
Address your customers early and directly to draw their attention to offers in your store. To do this, use various formats and, in particular, the channels where your target group is active (mail, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.).
In addition, increase your visibility on well-known marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. Indecisive shoppers will start looking for gift ideas here. Search engine marketing and optimization also help to attract customers to your store. Once customers are there, optimal pricing ensures lower bounce rates. It is best to check in advance how you are performing in this area.
If necessary, adjust your product range and replace items that are not suitable as gifts. It also makes sense to keep an eye on your competitors’ assortments and optimize your own product range accordingly. You should likewise keep an eye on the supply chains so that you are not out of stock in the middle of the Christmas season. It is best to replenish the stocks of your top sellers.
Manufacturers should also keep an eye on this development so that they can supply as many retailers as possible with goods in time, or with a D2C approach, replenish their own stocks. A market analysis for the hottest or highest-margin products is a good idea for both of them.
The bottleneck in the Christmas business is often logistics. During this time of year, your warehouse has to cope with the multiple of tasks that have to be managed otherwise. It’s best to make sure you have enough staff and also materials (e.g. packaging, filling materials). During this time, logistics must be able to get many packages on the road, even at very short notice. Offer an express service for this time, many customers will thank you.
Experience also shows that there will be an increased amount of returns during this time, which must be handled. Returns handling and processing should take place at the same time as shipping in order to avoid bottlenecks. To reduce returns as much as possible or even avoid them altogether, you should check whether the product data in your store is sufficiently maintained. Incorrect information about size, fit or the product in general has a negative impact on the return rate and customer ratings.
#4 Customer Service
A hotline for questions about products, delivery times, complaints and returns is worth its weight in gold during the Christmas shopping season. Also name a deadline by which you can guarantee deliveries until Christmas Eve. This will save your customer service department and your customers some discussion.
From experience, retailers have an advantage over manufacturers with a D2C approach in this process, as they usually have directly assigned teams and divisions for this purpose. Especially for manufacturers who are new to direct sales, there are usually only limited resources available for customer service.
In addition to the employees, your online store must of course be able to cope with the massive rush and absorb peak loads. Monitor the utilization of your store regularly and ensure that you have sufficient capacity at the right time. You can also measure the loading times of your website with various tools in order to optimize them. If you work with different service providers (agencies, etc.), talk to them about increased availability during the Christmas business – the vast majority are also equipped for this.
Furthermore, make sure that all order processes work and are kept simple to ensure a smooth process even during high system utilization. Your store can be as nice and clearly structured as you want it to be: If the ordering process doesn’t work and there are cancellations or errors, you will lose sales and reputation.
It should also be noted that the proportion of mobile shoppers has increased massively over the years: Currently, more than a third of online shoppers order via cell phone, tablet, and other mobile devices. Check whether your store is displayed as cleanly on mobile devices as it is on desktop and whether the processes work. People often complain about long scrolling paths, poor product displays, and unclear forms in the ordering process.
#6 After the Christmas season – all done?
The holidays are over, orders are down – time for a rest? You should wait a little longer. Especially after the holidays, the return rate for many products increases again significantly, you should pay attention to this in logistics as well as in customer service.
You should also check the prices in your web store. If you have advertised special promotions, the prices should now be back to their original state, otherwise customer service will be happy about another rush.
In addition, adjust the presentation of the store and also the marketing activities again, so as not to still advertise with “Christmas specials” in the new year. Evaluate your activities and numbers of the Christmas business in order to be even better prepared for the following year.
Conclusion: Be prepared and Christmas season will be successful
The time around Christmas is associated with a lot of effort for most retailers, but due to the sales potential it is indispensable for great success. With our 6 tips, we hope to prepare you best for this time.
We wish you every success for the upcoming months!