June 27, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Are you getting your ecommerce solution ready for the holiday season? I know what you’re thinking: it’s warm and sunny outside, and many people are shopping for bathing suits, coolers, pool toys and other summertime items. Who is thinking about holiday shopping at a time like this?
Well if you run an ecommerce solution, then you should be! Chances are that your competition already is. Online retailers learn early on that it is never too early to prepare for the biggest shopping days of the year. Many experts recommend preparing as early as June or July, since many consumers begin thinking about holiday shopping during the back-to-school sales held in August and September.
Here are some things that you can do to help prepare your online store for the next holiday shopping season:
Order Inventory Early
Are you planning on offering some new products in your store during the holiday season? If you are, then you’ll need to prepare for this by readying photos, descriptions, product pages, etc. for these new items as soon as possible.
Certain items will likely sell out more quickly than others, particularly during busy shopping times. If you know that certain items will likely sell out quickly, be pro-active and order more of them in advance. Plan on placing your orders with the vendors that you work with at least a month or two before holiday sales start.
More customers inherently equals more questions about returns, shipping policies, ordering difficulties, and questions in general. Do you have enough staff to handle this increase in demand? Just in case someone can’t get a hold of a live person, do you provide multiple ways for customers to contact your company, i.e. via fax, email, chat, Twitter, and Facebook? Customer service goes a long way towards increasing both sales and customer loyalty.
People are often reluctant to purchase a gift for someone else online if they aren’t sure whether or not the store that they are purchasing from will allow the recipient to easily return or exchange their gift if need be. Spend the necessary time to review and rework your Returns, Exchanges, Shipping, and other policies if need be, in order to make sure that the language is clear, unambiguous, and easy to understand.
Modify Product Descriptions
What can you do to make your product descriptions more appealing to shoppers? Maybe the copy itself needs revamping, or maybe some of your images need to be replaced? Would a short product video help to add clarity about the features and benefits of a product, and/or visual appeal?
If your descriptions don’t fully explain what a product is and what its attributes are, or if your pictures are outdated or hard to see, would-be customers will be more likely to click away to a competing ecommerce solution – holiday shopping season or not.
Often when people purchase gifts online they look for special options such as gift wrapping and gift messages. When they don’t know what to buy, they will likely be interested in purchasing gift cards or redeemable online gift certificates.
While offering free gift wrapping or gift messages during the busiest shopping time of the year may not be a feasible option for all online merchants, it is something to consider. If you can’t offer them for free, make sure that you do offer these options, as customers will be looking for them specifically during the holidays. Selling gift cards, either physical cards that are mailed to the recipient, or coupon codes that can be redeemed online, is another option that you should consider offering if you aren’t already doing so.
Remember, even though the holidays may seem far away now, it will be that time of the year again before we know it. Now is the time to make sure that your ecommerce solution is ready for a profitable holiday shopping season.
About the Author
Aura Talbott is the lead blogger at Miva Merchant, a leading ecommerce software and hosting provider. Over 50,000 merchants use Miva Merchant’s highly customizable, intuitive and scalable ecommerce software. These merchants range from hand-selected boutique product stores to manufacturers directly integrating their manufacturing with distributor access and an online retail presence.