How to Prep Your Online Shop for This Unusual Holiday Season 2020
Christmas table with iphone mockup Christmas patterns for the season! Ecommerce brands face tough vacation demands every year, but we're seeing an unusual turn in 2020 thanks to, well, 2020. Lockdowns, supply chain disruptions,...

Christmas table with an iPhone X mockup

Christmas table with iphone mockup

Ecommerce brands face tough vacation demands every year, but we're seeing an unusual turn in 2020 thanks to, well, 2020. Lockdowns, supply chain disruptions, product shortages and warehouses, and much more, have already happened. It is not surprising that this holiday season 2020 is going to be different too.

However, you can prepare your online store for the unique demands and challenges! Let's take a look at five of the most important areas of impact and opportunity, with the goal of improving customer relationships that drive sales for 2020 and beyond.

1. Improve on-site search and discovery

Man using Iphone 6 at Christmas

Man using iPhone during Christmas mockup

Ecommerce websites can improve sales volumes by adding site searches, but only when that search is working properly. Prepare this research for the holiday shopping season first, because you want people to shop quickly.

They are impatient, a little scared, and more used to shopping online. This means a faster Google search and a jump out of your store when they can't find what they want. The pandemic has just amplified these qualities in all of us.

Part of your site search audit should look at the keywords and search terms people use to visit you and shop on your website. Make sure the pages contain the right elements and that you've spelled things correctly - it makes a difference. At the same time, activate all the features that correct the spelling options of your visitors: those “did you mean…” messages usually at the top of the results.

Reviewing site research can also help you link products to each other. Let research fuel your recommendations and guide the pages you create. Group products based on search when possible.

2. Walkthrough at each stage of purchase

How does someone buy from you? Count the paths and all the stages for each one. Then go through them all yourself.

Your website should eliminate all errors before big sales. Any mistakes can cost you dearly and are compounded by spikes in traffic. So go through product selection, add different items to your cart, checkout, returns, and all the special actions someone can take on your site. Notable actions include positive things like signing up for a newsletter or adding a coupon, as well as negative actions like abandoning a cart or opening a chatbot window, but not very reagent.

One extremely useful option is to check pages for errors and what generates 404 URLs. If your website relies on Google for data, Google Analytics and Google Search Console tools that highlight 404 errors and related issues.

Many ecommerce platforms now handle advertising campaigns and onsite marketing. If so, make sure expired promotions are removed or disabled. Remove pop-ups, overlays, and other marketing elements that aren't related to your year-end sales. When you reactivate your year-end onsite campaigns, test them as well.

While you're thinking about abandoned carts, prepare a retargeting budget. Take that out of your vacation marketing - most likely PPC expenses - could stimulate sales growth. You just don't want this to be a crazy expense while on vacation as people are browsing and buying more which means a big increase in abandoned carts across the board.

3. Add what customers have requested during the year

You are probably reading this article and a few others during the final preparation for the vacation. Many will tell their audiences to offer free shipping and two-day delivery as a general statement. This is true in most cases, but not necessarily for your business.

Say you are shipping very heavy or bulky items such as furniture, for example. Expedited shipping can dramatically increase costs and erode your margins when added to the discounts you offer during the holidays.

What companies should instead do is review the requests they have received throughout the year. Read what customers asked for in 2020. Did they want bigger discounts? Faster shipping? Free refill? More offers on combination purchases?

Many years from now you will have a lot of historical data to guide these decisions. Sadly, it would be better if you toss some of this out the window. The pandemic has changed shopping behaviors and you want to capture those changes in what you offer. Plus, supply chain disruptions can change what you can deliver.

Research the demands in your store and industry, as well as what the vaults can afford you. If you are planning to make a change, ask your partners to make sure they can help you. When you are unsure or find that increasing discounts make it difficult to control income, limit promotions. Perform different options during Black friday and December, only have promotions on weekends, or save the best deals for existing customers and newsletter subscribers.

2020 has been a difficult year. Make offers that work for your business this unusual holiday season, instead of the cookie-cutter approach suggested in most other years.

4. Update warehouse layout for more efficiency

Is your warehouse or distribution space ready for additional traffic? Do you have popular products located near packing stations with enough aisle space for multiple pickers to move around without colliding?

There are many ecommerce tools that can help you run analysis on your warehouse sales and layout. Use the services you have or calculate your sales data yourself to determine your most commonly purchased products. Bringing them closer to the packing stations allows your team to process orders with those products alone much faster. This will help you considerably if you are facing a significant increase in orders.

Consider moving the underperforming away to free up additional shelving for your top sellers. This gives teams more maneuverability and can reduce accidents in the warehouse, especially if the products require forklifts or forklifts.

5. Prepare for returns

Most businesses face returns after any holiday season. Last year saw a significant increase in yields for e-commerce businesses, and the growth in online shopping this year could likely mean an even bigger increase.

If you don't accept returns, make it clear on your website now. Put links to refund policies on sales pages and make sure your chatbots, customer support, FAQs, and other sections explain those policies. Give customer service agents a script to follow regarding returns - you'll need it for a flood of emails, social media posts, and calls. You don't have to accept returns, but you will need a clear explanation of this so that your support team can place calls quickly.

If you do accept returns, make space for them in your warehouse if possible. Set up intake tables and areas to allow you to scan, verify, and potentially put these goods back on the shelf. A large influx of returns will add to the work of warehouse teams with their normal inventory and order management. Give them more space to avoid backups.

Also, be sure to test your ecommerce software for returns. Verify that it works by running a full test. Train your team in how to use your tools to verify a return and reimburse a customer. The faster you can process orders, the happier those customers will be with the overall experience. Training also helps your team accomplish these tasks quickly and avoids increasing your labor costs or slowing down execution.

Security, support, then sales

Mock up of a man holding an Iphone with both hands

Mock up of a man holding an iPhone with both hands

In 2020, brands and customers are rediscovering a need for safety first. Think about your products, your sales processes, and your execution. People have questions and time to ask, so customer support requests are on the rise as well. All of this happens before you make a sale.

When maximizing your efforts for the 2020 sales season, keep this in mind. Your customers want to feel secure and supported before they buy. Show it off and you'll likely become a new favorite brand that they stick with when things get back to normal.

Author bio

Jake Rheude is the Marketing Director for Red Stag Fulfillment, a e-commerce fulfillment warehouse which was born out of electronic commerce. He has years of experience in e-commerce and business development. In his spare time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experiences with others.

Prepare your online store for this holiday season 2020

This holiday season 2020 comes with some challenges for all online stores. Get ready and get your business ready and have a great holiday sales season.

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