How to prepare for the festive season: 5 essential tips

The holiday season is quickly approaching, which means it’s time to take advantage of one of the busiest times of the year for online shopping. Revenue in the South African e-commerce market is expected to reach R66,874m in 2020, a 24% Year-Over-Year (YOY) increase. It’s important to properly prepare your e-commerce store, and we’ve rounded up the 5 most important ways to do just that.

Did you know? Consumers tend to spend about 36% more than usual during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

It’s time to get your store ready for a successful festive season.

1. Take advantage of holiday sales and celebrations

One of the most important parts of preparing for the festival season is considering which sales and deals you’ll offer. If you’re a seasoned online retailer, you may already have some promotions in mind.

However, you can still be strategic about holiday sales, gifts, and celebrations – even if you’re not retail-focused. For example, you could offer online vouchers for experiences, packages for Christmas gifts, teacher gifts or year-end celebrations. When it comes to gifts and celebrating, think outside-the-box.

2. Organise your inventory

Making sure you’re thoroughly stocked and ready to meet a sudden increase in demand is crucial. The last thing you want during the holiday rush is to frustrate your customers with slow delivery times, or worse, lose business to competitors who were better prepared.

It’s best to assess and organise your inventory as early as possible. Stock up on your best-selling products, and use sales records from previous years to gauge how much to order. Consider which items you’ll promote and run sales on this year, and make sure your packaging and shipping supplies are in order, well in advance.

3. Optimise your website

A fast, secure website is imperative for delivering a positive online shopping experience. If your site takes too long to load or you have a slow checkout process, that can lead to shopping cart abandonment and hamper your conversion rates.

Before the holiday season starts, you can conduct a website health check and fix any issues. This will let you:

Security is also a major concern during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To safeguard your site, you can install a valid Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate and use a Web Application Firewall (WAF) such as Cloudbric.

4. Create a content calendar

Another way to ensure a successful holiday season is to plan your content marketing ahead of time. Creating a holiday calendar and scheduling your content in advance will reduce the risk of your online promotions falling to the wayside while you’re busy filling orders. 

Consider which campaigns and posts your target audience will find most useful during this time of year. For example, gift guides for different members of the family could help your customers decide which products to purchase.

In addition to blog posts, you can also incorporate social media in your holiday content calendar. Once you’ve established which deals and promotions you’d like to run, automate your  social media posts – this will save you time and make it easier to get the word out about your special offers. 

5. Ramp up your customer service

Top-notch customer service and support are staples for positive online shopping experiences. They’re particularly important during the holiday season when more sales and returns are expected.

Having a robust and readily-available customer help centre is an effective way to create return customers. Some proven ways to enhance customer service include:

  • Provide self-help and self-service resources, such as a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page, to reduce the time you have to dedicate to answering questions and inquiries.
  • Use customer service software or a live chat tool to make contacting support quick and easy.
  • Manage customer expectations by clearly communicating policies regarding shipping, returns, and exchanges.

Also, consider your current shipping and refund policies, and look for opportunities to better accommodate holiday shoppers. For example, customers purchasing gifts may hesitate to buy from you if you have a strict or complicated return process. If so, adjusting your policies during the holidays can be beneficial.

Putting it all into practice

Thanks to COVID-19, it’s likely that even more people will be shopping online this year. In fact, online retail sales grew by approximately 40% during the lockdown.

Getting your site ready for the online shopping season can feel overwhelming at first. But if you follow these five tips you’ll boost your chances of having a successful festival season of sales!

While you prepare your online store for the festive season,
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