Smart preparation is how you have an epic holiday season in your eCommerce business without ripping your hair out! This is episode 2 of the 2020 Holiday Campaign series and we’re walking through all the things you want to start working on NOW to make sure it’s smooth sailing right through Q4.
Get your customer service team armed and ready, make sure you’ve got your tech ducks in a row to ensure no hiccups during your peak shopping time, and make sure your customers can find everything they’re looking for when they hit your website.
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Welcome to episode two of the Holiday Series where we’re covering the 3 Ps of Campaign Execution: Planning, Preparation + Promotion! This episode covers Preparation. We’ll discuss your business operations, technology, shipping, and customer service.
But first, check out episode 22 to get the lowdown on planning. It’ll give you a good foundation so that you can continue to build your holiday campaign with this episode.
Don’t forget to keep the Holiday Checklist by your side while you’re planning out your holiday season.
Adjust your holiday business operations
While you likely have your operations already dialed in for your business, you might need to make some adjustments during the holiday season.
For example, it’s pretty standard practice to extend your return policy to January 15th for gifts. If you don’t want to give a full refund policy you can also offer store credit only. Whatever you decide, make sure you’re communicating that CLEARLY to your customers and add it to your policy pages, update your order confirmations and add it into all of your emails.
Remember: people need to see things MULTIPLE times before it clicks and that includes your policies and procedures. Seriously, you can’t say these things too many times so don’t be afraid to repeat yourself.
Keep up with demand
In previous years you may have had to consider the need for more hours and more people, but this year you also need to consider rotating shifts more regularly to keep everyone socially distanced.
If you traditionally only do fulfillment during the week, you’ll likely want to add people to the weekends, especially for Black Friday weekend so you can get everything shipped out in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, most customers were quite forgiving at the height of the pandemic, but don’t expect that to be the case for the holiday season.
Don’t forget to stock up on supplies. There’s nothing shittier than running out of bubble wrap on black Friday, believe me — I’ve been there!
Ultimately, whatever systems and processes you already have in your business, it’s likely you’ll have to tweak them to accommodate the holiday increase. Start brainstorming now about how you can make adjustments, don’t wait until the last minute.
Take an active approach to technology
Technology is often something that we set and forget, but taking an active approach during the holiday season ensures that you’re set up for success.
Tracking and integrations
Set up all of your tracking and double-check all of your integrations to make sure data is passing as you expect it to. If you’ve never set up Google Analytics or your Facebook Pixel, now is the time.
Check your capacity for third-party apps and adjust to the next level plan if necessary. For example, Justuno is limited by impressions, so if you’re using that third-party app to collect email addresses and you reach your limit, it will stop serving your pop-up.
If your email platform limits the number of emails you can send per month, bump up to the higher plan to avoid scheduled emails not getting sent out.
Check for broken links on your site. You should be doing this on a regular basis anyway, but it’s good practice to do a sweep before the holiday season. You can never be too sure about what is indexed in search engines and how customers are going to find you, so use Google Search Console or broken link checker and redirect any 404s on your site.
Like seriously, everything. From discount codes to your promotional banners and even the checkout on your website. Weird shit happens sometimes and you want to catch it before it’s too late!
Be prepared for shipping delays
This is going to be especially important this year because all carriers are still experiencing delays and it’s likely to continue throughout Q4.
The first thing you need to do is figure out your shipping cut-off dates. In last week’s episode we talked about mapping out all the important dates on a calendar including what might be happening in your life outside of your business, like spending time with the family, holiday get-togethers or vacations.
Depending on the amount of support you have in your business, you might have to move up your shipping cut-off date. The most important part is communicating this very clearly to customers. Include the actual time of day and the time zone that you stop shipping orders.
There are a lot of consumers who don’t completely understand how shipping works — these are the people that place an order at 10pm with overnight shipping and don’t understand why it’s not on their doorstep the next morning.
Communicate it in a way that a 10-year-old will understand and put that information everywhere — your shipping policy page, in your emails and even on the announcement banner of your website. You can’t over-communicate this.
Free shipping threshold
Now is a great time to review this aspect of your business. Make sure it’s at least a few dollars more than your current average order value (AOV) to encourage people to buy more.
Even if you’ve done this before, it’s possible your AOV has shifted recently or it traditionally shifts during the holiday season. Look at the average price of your products to make sure they only have to add one more item to their order. That’s a much easier sell than adding three items or asking them to double what they were already planning on spending.
Create a kick-ass on-site experience for your customers
Gift guides are awesome not only for SEO, but for your customers. The search engine’s number one goal is always to create a great experience for the user. Focus on that and you will be rewarded.
Creating your gift guide depends on both your product and your customer, so you’ll have to brainstorm the perfect gift guide for your brand or product.
Too many choices will lead to analysis paralysis so don’t go overboard when deciding on your categories. Get really clear on your customer, who they are and who they might be buying for.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- You could gather small items as stocking stuffers
- You can curate by relationship, like mom or sister
- You can curate by personality, like the music lover or the bookworm
- A white elephant group is always good as those are notoriously the hardest to buy for since the gift has to appeal to a lot of different people
- You can and should target various price points. Many people go into their holiday shopping with specific budgets for specific people.
Use holiday terms like best gifts for, best gifts under, etc, when you’re creating these pages.
Not only do wishlists give you insight into your customer’s favorite products, it gives them an easy way to share their lists with their loved ones. My husband’s family still does Christmas lists for all the kids even though they’re all adults. It felt silly at first, but it’s the best thing ever.
If you’re on Shopify, make sure your customers understand that there are no true registry apps where the shipping address is hidden. It’s important that they don’t share their Wishlist with anyone they wouldn’t want to see their address.
Customer service is key
Great customer service or lack thereof has the power to make or break your business.
Bring on extra help
We already discussed adding extra pairs of hands to the shipping and fulfillment side of your business, but it’s likely that you will need additional support to manage increased customer service inquiries as well. At a minimum make sure you have someone, even if it’s you, replying and engaging with customers in the evenings and over the weekend when your sales are likely to be the highest.
Whoever you bring on for extra help, make sure they are well versed in your products and policies. There’s nothing worse than a customer service agent who doesn’t really know much about the business and is just there to check updates on orders.
Add a live chat functionality to your website
This is a great option, especially if you find yourself repeating responses. You can create automatic responses to commonly asked questions. Or if it works through Facebook messenger, the inquiries come to your Facebook Business Page and you can answer them on the fly without having someone waiting around on chat all day.
Go above and beyond for your customers with holiday packaging
This can be something free you offer like printable gift tags or if it makes sense offer gift wrapping for a fee. If you did want to offer something like this I would use a cross-sell app that pops up when they go to checkout so they can add the items to their cart.
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Next week: We’re talking about the final P in our Holiday Campaign series Promote, which includes your email marketing, holiday graphics + promotions.
Listen to the Episode
Other Holiday Planning Episodes
EP. 22: Holiday Campaign Series #1: Planning