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Preparing for the holidays

Summary

Consumers always appear to worry about the holiday season. They consider all they have to do to be able to have a”good showing.” They need to purchase all their presents, prepare the dishes, and arrange for travel and other activities […]

Consumers always appear to worry about the holiday season. They consider all they have to do to be able to have a”good showing.” They need to purchase all their presents, prepare the dishes, and arrange for travel and other activities which are important to them.

We, as online retailers, have to consider the”good showing” and what it means to our customers and in turn what it means to us. This is a make-it-or-break-it quarter for many merchants. Thus, it’s extremely important we capitalize on the holiday season. A good friend once told me “you make hay when the sun shines” and the holiday season is when it shines for us.

So what are the steps to take? What if retailers do to ensure that they are prepared? Part of this list I came up with is obvious, but important and worth mentioning. The rest you might find interesting. While every company is different, many parts are related for many retailers.

  • Inventory. You can not sell it if you do not have it ready to send to customers. This is so easy, it is profound. Sometimes this doesn’t mean owning it. Some retailers have vendors that drop ship for them, in which case you need to ensure that your vendors can perform as promised. For the rest of those who hold stock, it can be hard. We must spend money today for future earnings, which is tough to do. Also, we don’t have a crystal ball. So how can you know what’s going to sell well? There are no easy answers. In my firm, overstockArt.com, we utilize a straightforward method of ordering weekly based on a monthly requirement level and combining that with the date of actual sales from the previous 30 days.
  • Prepare your Site. Ahead of the holiday season you should have finished all of your planned developments. You should have tested what works and what does not. The tools or improvements will need to be set up. We’ve got a code freeze beginning November 1. This means there are no site changes or enhancements until December 26. This doesn’t include images or merchandise changes. Another thing to consider: Be very careful when you’ve got an internet development company telling you on October 15th”it is no problem we will finish this update in 5 days. Do not worry.” We learned this one the hard way. Every time we tried something of this nature it turned out very poorly and we didn’t waste money but also very valuable time and concentrate on the incorrect activities.
  • Plan the vacation theme. Make sure that your site features holiday imagery. Create a gift centre. Plan holiday themed promotions during the months of November and December. Consumers expect to buy items during this season. They will need to”have a great showing.” You can remind them at the most crucial time to click the purchase button. Additionally, be certain to let them know beginning quite early that this will arrive before the holidays — Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukah.
  • Marketing investment. This is the time to spend on marketing. Investment in pay-per-click advertisements and other sort of paid media are far more profitable in this season. You should think about bidding higher and bidding on keywords which are more marginal. Consider your closing ratio will increase; consequently, you can be more competitive on your bidding and other promotion activities. In overstockArtwe like to base our close ratio anticipation on previous year performance. If in the previous a few months we have managed to improve conversions we’ll project a higher conversion compared to last year also. It is time to get competitive.
  • Email advertising. I left email in a class by itself because it is incredibly important. Plan the whole holiday season beforehand. Have all campaigns mapped out so you understand beforehand what the promotions you are going to be running and when. Last minute changes can nevertheless be made. Create very competitive pushes for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. Your clients do not notice all your emails. But during the holidays, boost email frequency and maintain the deals powerful to drive greater sales. But make sure that the deals are great for both you and your clients.
  • Internal operations. Look at previous years to gauge what’s going to be the boost in your business. If this is your fist year in business, expect holiday sales spike in accordance with your industry. Ensure that you are able to ship the orders in time. Clients always want what they purchased as soon as possible, but during the holiday season it is more critical. Also, boost customer service coverage. You don’t need to hire more people if you don’t have the budget. Just be certain you change people in the business to pay taking care of customers. It’s crucial that clients are treated even better during this time of year. That customer experience is crucial for future growth.
  • Train employees. It’s crucial that you have leaders and supervisors in your business speak with employees, especially new employees, and prepare them for the excess workload and for the importance of the season. This can be a demanding time for them at home too. Plus you are very likely to ask them for additional work and extra hours. Be respectful and mindful of your workers. It will pay dividends for you long term.
  • Return policy. Clients give gifts during the holiday season. They wish to know it is easy and possible for their loved ones to return if they did not enjoy the gift. I recall going into a boutique shop wanting to get a present for my wife. After long deliberations and help in the sales associate I found what I believed would be a terrific outfit for my spouse. However, before checking out I asked about the return policy. I was told they could only provide a one-week return policy, which wasn’t enough for me. I immediately told them that they could keep the product. This shop is no longer in business. We like to offer you an elongated return policy during the vacations to cover our clients in case they purchased the gifts early.
  • Meeting of the heads. Produce a meeting which includes people from various areas of the company. The meeting should discuss specifically what goes well and what didn’t go well in years past in your business. Additionally, if you have employees who worked for other online retailers, they could share some of their experiences as to what went well and what did not. It is key for that group to be cross functional, so the information is varied. This will help not repeating old mistakes and capitalizing on previous successes. The meeting ought to be free flowing with a very loose schedule. Also, have one key note taker who afterwards shares the meeting notes with all involved.
  • Take notes. Lastly, it’s crucial to think of your company at a multiyear perspective. Next year there’ll be an additional holiday season. To best prepared for this, you should take notes during this season of what’s effective and what’s not working for you and for other retailers. Keep your eyes open and learn from activities that others do. I make it a point to go and see a few stores during Black Friday. You could always pick up a couple of ideas from what others do and then customize it to your environment and industry.
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The above list is short and looks simple. And for the most part it’s simple. But it provides a great guideline of how to get ready for the most crucial time of year.

I wish the very best holiday season to all of you.

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