The end of the year is an incredibly important time for most retail businesses, whether they’re storefront brick-and-mortar companies or entirely online. The industry often relies on holiday shopping and gift-giving to get companies out of the red and start turning a profit before the year comes to an end.
People want to spend money during this season more than any other time of the year, and you can get a piece of that commerce. However, you need to be prepared to make the most of the holiday season and truly take advantage of the money being channeled into the market.
If you run an online store for your small business, you need to ask yourself some serious questions. How does your online retail infrastructure size up to the competition? Have you been putting off critical fixes to your website? How is your inventory? If you want to be ready for the holiday season, then the time to prepare is now.
Here are six tips for setting your e-commerce business on the road to success this holiday season.
1. Streamline Your Checkout Process
If your shoppers are in a hurry, the last thing that should stand in their way is your website itself. When a customer has already decided to make a purchase, they shouldn’t have to click through tons more pages just to get to the payment stage. It’s time to revisit your sales funnel and ensure the whole process is smooth, especially the end.
Every delay or extra page asking for an email address gives the shopper another reason to reconsider and take their business elsewhere. Allow the shopper to get in and get out as fast as they want to and let your product speak for itself.
2. Clearly Outline Return Policies, Shipping Costs, and Shipping Timelines
Customers need clarity. You need to make sure they’re fully informed about your shipping policies and costs and then trust them to make the right choice.
Holiday shoppers may be operating on tight budgets in very narrow time windows. That’s why it’s essential to give them clear information upfront on the costs and timeframes for shipping.
Return policies are also essential to explain clearly, as most purchases may be gifts bought for others. People might receive duplicate gifts, or they might simply receive something they didn’t want. Under what conditions will you accept returns, and on what kind of timeline?
3. Promote Special Holiday Offers
Although many shoppers are looking for gifts during the holidays, there is also a lot of competition. Now is the time to roll out special discounts or offers that might appeal to the gift-purchasing crowd.
What goods or services do you sell that would work best as gifts, and for whom? Your customers want to find the perfect thoughtful gift for their loved ones, so help them come up with an easy solution! Find ways to promote these or to come up with other holiday package deals.
4. Stock Up On Inventory and Get Organized
Once the holiday rush begins, it doesn’t stop. If your business isn’t prepared, you could quickly be overwhelmed with orders. Pretty soon, you’ll be disorganized and behind. In the best-case scenario, you’ll have upset customers receiving products late. At worst, you’ll make big mistakes with delivery or accounting or even run out of inventory.
If you need extra staff to help you deal with business as it picks up, don’t wait to bring on that additional person. They’ll need time to figure things out before things get busy. You’ll also want to stock up on everything you need and ensure your bookkeeping and shipping processes are smooth and efficient.
Inventory management for small businesses can be difficult and complex. You may have a lot of costs to cover and very narrow margins to do it with. You don’t want to go into debt just to acquire inventory you might not even sell, but neither do you want to disappoint customers and lose out on the opportunity for some significant holiday business.
5. Ensure Your Site Is Optimized for the Mobile User
A lot of business will go through your website. You depend on that site to dutifully retain customers as it guides them through the whole purchasing process. More and more these days, however, people are visiting your site on a mobile device. Your business needs to be prepared for a mobile world.
If your site isn’t optimized for mobile access, all the time and money you put into your website won’t pay off with these customers. The user interface will suffer, and you may lose a lot of customers discouraged by the poor user experience.
6. Plan Out Your Email Campaigns
It’s never a good idea to endlessly bombard people with marketing emails. That’s a recipe for quickly turning off a lot of people from your company all at once. However, there’s a time and a place for email marketing campaigns.
You want to plan out your campaigns to show your customers valuable deals and remind them of your products right as they prepare for and go about their holiday shopping. Plan these campaigns out in advance and time them carefully.
A Professional Accountant Can Save You Time This Holiday Season
There’s a lot to do, and there’s always more. The internet marketplace is continually evolving, and you have to adapt if you want to keep your business healthy and growing. If you’re not ready for the holidays, consider enlisting some help to save you some time with your bookkeeping and make sure you’re set up for a successful season.
You’ve got to be organized and prepared, or you’re going to wake up in January with a big problem, both in cash flow and accounting. If your books are a mess now, they’re not going to look any better after a busy holiday season. Think ahead and do yourself a favor for the future by hiring an accountant now.