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Plan Now for E-Commerce Holiday Success, Part 1

Is your online store holiday-ready?

Here we are in August already! The upcoming holidays are probably the last thing on your mind, but now is the time to start getting prepared for the whirlwind online shopping season. Once you’re in it, you’re in it – preparing as much as you can, as early as you can, will help everything run as smoothly as possible.

This is part one of a two-part series where we outline 4 basic areas of coverage to focus on while planning for the upcoming e-commerce retail holiday season. With planning and a good foundation, these tips can help the next few months go smoothly.

1. Start Your Engines

Manufacturing and Orders. The first thing you should do to get started is to think manufacturing. With so many products being manufactured overseas, drill down to what your actual timeline is from placing a large order to when it arrives at our loading docks to be put into inventory. Even if you have a pretty fast turnaround time and think you might be sitting on your product too long, it’s better to be safe and have it on-hand then to be out of stock on Cyber Monday.

How big of an order should you put together? A good place to start is by going to your shopping cart solution’s Reports page and pulling last year’s sales report. There you can get a rundown of what kind of sales you did last year and compare them to where you’re at now. Do you predict an uptick this year, or about the same? Analyze this data well, it’s part of your cart solution package and can be very helpful.

Another factor in your decision is current inventory. Are you heavy on product, what are your best movers and what items are slow movers? Take into account your more popular items and make sure to adjust order quantities accordingly. You can easily access to real-time order and inventory data right through our web portal.

Have your holiday order estimate ready? Send it off to your manufacturer and get that ball rolling.

2. Check Under the Hood

What’s the most important thing about your online store? The website and user experience. Now might be a good time to make sure everything on your website is running smoothly and maybe even implement some new features or a fresh look before the season starts.

– Is everything up to date? Take the time to go through your product offerings and make sure all your items and prices are up to date. If you have discontinued stock, remove not only the page, but also update any links elsewhere that may lead to it (no one likes a 404 error!) How about your policies, has anything changed?

– Images and Load Speeds: You have an online store, so you already know – images are everything. A quality image, combined with some strategic moves on the back end, can mean all the difference in making a sale. Aside from your image basics, think about loading speed. Slow-loading pages (anything over 2 seconds is considered “slow”) result in a customer losing patience and leaving the site, so your pages and images must be optimized to allow for the instant gratification customers are looking for in user experience.

– Holiday Look and Feel: It’s a good practice to create an inviting customer experience and visually “deck the halls” of your online store with some seasonal graphics. Start thinking about and preparing them now so they’re all ready to be swapped in once Thanksgiving week rolls around. Update your best-selling product descriptions too, to relay seasonality.

– Mobile: Do not underestimate the importance of a responsive, mobile-friendly website. It is critical. Nearly 50% off all ecommerce browsing and over 26% of purchases are made on mobile devices, a number which is expected to grow substantially by the end of the year (especially with the dawn of “buy it buttons.”) Having a mobile-friendly site is also essential for your SEO. Recently, Google changed its search algorithms (nicknamed ominously “Mobilegeddon”) to favor displaying mobile-optimized websites over non-optimized in a search. To put it simply, if you sell “sprockets” and someone searches for “sprockets,” the other guy who sells sprockets and has a mobile-optimized search will come up in the result – and not your website.

Chances are, you’re running your site on one of the major shopping cart platforms, most of which offer mobile versions and/or responsive free or premium themes. It’s still good practice to go through on a mobile device and check each page, especially if you’ve updated your content.

How can you check to see if your site is mobile-friendly and ready for the holiday shopping season? Google provides a quick test page where you enter your URL and they come back with a quick analysis. A very helpful tool and starting point if you need to make changes!

Next up: For Part Two of our series, we’ll go over a few holiday shipping strategies and promotional tips to drive sales and keep your customers happy. Stay tuned!

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