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73. How to Prepare for a Smooth Holiday Season in Your eCommerce Business

73. How to Prepare for a Smooth Holiday Season in Your eCommerce Business

Step 2 in the process of planning a kick-ass Holiday campaign is all about preparation. Now that you know what you’re doing… It's time to prep for it. We’re talking all about how to set your team up for success, how to create a kick-ass experience for your customers, and how to avoid any major tech headaches that might derail your overall success.

Today, we’re talking about preparation, which covers your business operations, your technology, shipping and customer service. This is part two of the Holiday Series, where we’re covering the 3 Ps of Campaign Execution: Planning, Preparation + Promotion!

If you haven’t checked out episode 72 of the podcast where we talk about planning, listen to that first as these are all going to build on one another. I structured this in a very specific order to make sure you have a super successful holiday season!

If you haven’t already, download the checklist for this series. Keep it by your side while you’re planning out your holiday season so you don’t miss anything. 


Adjust your business operations for the Holiday season

While you likely have these already dialed in for your business, you might need to make some adjustments during the holiday season. 

Consider an extended return policy 

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, add it into all of your emails, etc. 

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. 

Do you need more staff?

In order to make sure you can keep up with the increased demand, you’re going to want to look at your staffing. Not only will you potentially need more hours or people, but you might have to rotate shifts 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 I wouldn’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, you’ll likely have to tweak them to accommodate the holiday increase. Start thinking about that stuff now and brainstorming how you can adjust. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Update the technology you use in your business

This is very often one of those things that we set and forget, but we want to take an active approach here and make sure we set ourselves up for success. 

Link data tracking apps and integrations 

Make sure you have all your tracking set up. If you’ve never set up Google Analytics or your Facebook Pixel, now is the time to get that done. A quick Google Search will bring you tons of walk-through videos showing you how to do this. Double-check all your integrations and make sure data is passing as you expect it to. 

Check your capacity for 3rd party apps

If you’re using Justuno to collect email addresses, for example, that is limited by impressions. If you run out, it will stop serving your pop-up and you won’t be able to grow your subscriber list. If you have any tools that bill you based on your traffic or impressions, look at where you fall on average and jump to the next level if necessary. 

This goes for email too. If the number of emails you can send per month are limited, bump up to the higher plan so you don’t risk having any emails you schedule in advance not getting sent out. 

Check for broken links on your site

You should do this regularly 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. 

If this is something you don’t know how to do, check out my Badass Holiday Planning eBook. Honestly, it’s more like a mini-course and includes a video walk-through of exactly how to do this in there along with a bunch of other supporting 

Test everything! 

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!

Prepare for holiday season shipping (and it’s 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. 

Clearly communicate 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 here is to make sure you communicate this very clearly to your customers. 

Don’t forget to include the actual time of day you stop shipping orders and the time zone. There are a lot of consumers who still don’t completely understand how shipping works. Like if they place an order at 10pm with overnight shipping and don’t get why it’s not on their doorstep the next morning. 

Communicate it in a way a 10-year-old can understand it. And put that information everywhere! Update your shipping policy page, include it in your emails and even on the announcement banner of your website. You can’t over-communicate this. 

Do you need to up your free shipping threshold?

If you haven’t reviewed it lately, now is a great time. You want to make sure it’s at least a few dollars more than your current average order value to encourage people to buy more. 

It’s possible you’ve done this before, but it’s also possible your AOV has shifted recently or traditionally does during this 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 3 items or asking them to double what they were already planning on spending. 

Create a kick-ass on-site experience for your customers

Create gift guides 

Gift guides are awesome not only for SEO, but for your customers. The search engine’s #1 goal is always to create a great experience for the user. When you focus on that, it will reward you. 

When it comes to creating these gift guides, it’s totally going to depend on your product assortment and your customer, so you’ll have to brainstorm this, but 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
  • And you can and should, of course, have some price points if it makes sense. Many people go into their holiday shopping with specific budgets for specific people. 

When you’re creating these pages, make sure you’re using holiday terms like best gifts for, best gifts under, etc. 

When you’re deciding on your categories, don’t go overboard. Get really clear on your customer, who they are and who they might buy for that makes sense for your product. Too many choices will lead to analysis paralysis.

Add a wishlist function to your website

Not only does it give you insight into your customer’s favorite products, but 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 we are all adults. It felt silly at first, but it’s the best thing ever. 

If you’re on Shopify, know that there are no true registry apps where the shipping address is hidden, so it’s important your customers understand that and don’t share it with anyone they wouldn’t want to see that information. 

Is your customer service up to scratch?

Great customer service or lack thereof has the power to make or break your business. I already mentioned the potential for needing extra help for shipping and fulfillment, but it’s likely that you will need additional support during this time to manage the increased customer service inquiries as well. 

Keep up customer engagement 

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. 

Add a live chat function to your website 

Another great option here is to add live chat functionality to your website, especially if it’s something that you can create automatic responses to commonly asked questions or if it works through Facebook Messenger. This way the inquiries come to your Facebook business page and you can answer them on the fly vs. having someone sit on chat all day. 

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. 

Go above and beyond 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 wanted 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. 

A quick reminder: if you want to dive deeper and get extra support to plan your holiday campaign strategy, you need to get your hands on the Badass Holiday Planning eBook. More than just an eBook, it comes with additional video content, worksheets and checklists to virtually hold your hand through the entire process. It’s only $47 dollars and with lifetime access, you’ll get new updates every year! You can get your hands on that here.

Next week we will look at the next holiday planning step, promotion, which includes your email marketing, holiday graphics and promotions.

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Episodes Mentioned

Episode 72. How to Plan for Q4 in Your eCommerce Business

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Hey, I'm Jessica

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. 

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