The world of retail is radically different now than it was even six months ago. The way people shop, as well as their expectations for quick turnaround times, new fulfillment methods and other conveniences has changed. A recent article featured on MarketingWeek revealed that online orders have experienced a jaw-dropping 95% increase, and page views have increased by 75%.
While no one can be sure exactly what the rest of the year will bring, it is clear that it is unlikely retail will look the same as it has in years past. For the millions of retailers who rely on strong holiday sales that means taking steps now to prepare for successful eCommerce performance.
Get Online, It’s Not Too Late
A shift to digital has been a trend in retail for the past 10+ years, however COVID-19 has accelerated that trend faster than we’ve ever seen. The good news for retailers is that launching a new eCommerce site does not have to mean large upfront investments, countless hours of managing inventory or months of web development. New technology is enabling retailers to launch eCommerce websites quickly & easily with minimal investment and resources. Reaching out to your technology provider now will ensure you are ready to serve all your customers this holiday season.
Expect Increased eCommerce Demand
In many parts of the country non-essential retailers were forced to close their doors for a period of time due to COVID-19. This closure drove many new consumers to eCommerce websites, even those who had never shopped online before. Because more consumers are now shopping online, most experts agree eCommerce sales will surge this holiday season; much higher than the normal 2-3% year over year growth we’ve seen in the past.
A recent Forbes article wrote that Target has seen an increase of high spending, loyal customers as they have created more convenient ways for people to shop. However, you don’t need to be a multi-billion dollar retailer to offer these new ways of shopping. Advancements in technology have made convenient shopping options such as virtual stores, curbside pickup and BOPIS accessible to even the smallest mom & pop shops. Jumping on this trend will help boost the success of your holiday season, especially eCommerce performance.
Plan For Possible Delays
Armed with these recent statistics, it’s time to plan ahead for the upcoming holiday season. Online orders will start pouring in before you know it as customers try to beat the rush that will slow deliveries. Your customers will be anxious to learn about your special deals, new products, and shipping policies.
Start creating your holiday plan by marking important dates on your calendar. These dates will help your plan have the structure it needs to succeed. You may have these dates already in place from previous years, but bumping them up can give you the cushion you need to make sure you fulfill orders on time. Once you know the dates when you will be launching your holiday campaigns, plan to market to your customers so they know about these sale periods and can plan for them as well. Prepare to start placing orders with any of your suppliers. Anticipate possible delays, and take measures to counteract them. Having inventory on hand early helps protect against supply chain delays, increasing chances of successful eCommerce during the holiday season..
Anticipate Order Fulfillment Difficulty
If you already have an eCommerce business, you may already be experiencing an influx of orders because of the pandemic; it’s likely that this will only increase during the holidays. This is a fabulous opportunity for small businesses, as long as they have sufficient support and preparation in the order fulfillment department. If you are new to shipping online orders, providing curbside pickup, or other new methods of delivery, you’ve probably already felt the growing pains these methods bring. While they are great for your business and attracting new customers, now is the time to get all of the issues ironed out and solved. There’s just too much competition out there. If you are struggling and a customer gets frustrated, you probably just lost their business.
Enhance Your Communication With Customers
In addition to increased orders and page views, businesses are experiencing a 32% increase in customer reviews as compared with April 2019. Customers are also posting more questions about products on eCommerce websites. This increased customer activity is a sign that it’s time for businesses to engage with their customers more than they ever have in the past.
Take your communication with your customers to the next level by replying directly to customer comments and concerns. Publish personalized, relevant, and useful content on your social media channels and in your email marketing campaigns. Use the increased online traffic created by COVID-19 to your advantage by directing it to your website through online communication strategies. Your digital marketing and SEO efforts are crucial in attracting and retaining new customers, a key perfomance indicator of eCommerce success during the holiday season. Most customers won’t buy something from you on their first exposure, so getting your name in their mind now sets you up for better returns in the long run.
Upgrade Your Tech
With the anticipated large increase in online traffic, your website might experience lags or downtime. Unfortunately, impatience is in human nature, especially during the holidays. You cannot afford to lose customers due to a slow or out-of-date website. Start upgrading your website to process the requests of a large number of customers, especially if you plan to do time-limited sales and promotions. Make sure your website has the ability to avoid long loading times with shopping carts or inefficient checkout/payment processes.
This is also a great time to take a look at your point of sale system. An inefficient POS or one that isn’t integrated to your eCommerce website can lead to inaccurate inventory and lost sales, which is the opposite of what you are looking for. In order to avoid frustration and to work out any transition issues, now is the time to begin upgrading your systems.
If you start now to anticipate a unique holiday season, you will be better prepared to handle uncertainties and difficulties. Make a plan for how your business will handle the holidays, and you’ll glide through the holidays disaster-free.