As small online business owners start preparing for the holiday season, it can often seem overwhelming on where to get started, especially when there is so much at stake.
For the 2013 holiday season, Volusion projects 20% online sales growth for small-to-medium sized businesses. This means that online merchants need to make the most of the remaining time left before the holiday rush begins. In other words, now is the time to make necessary preparations for success.
Winn also advises online merchants to focus on these four areas now to help make the holiday season even more profitable:
Create a promotions calendar: Online shoppers expect discounts, particularly during the holiday season. To keep up with the competition and stay top of mind with customers, online merchants should create and finalize their promotions calendar first, as several marketing and merchandising activities are built around said promotions.
- Decide which promotions will be offered and when
- Create start and end dates for each promotion and/or discount
- Determine how and when these promotions will be marketed
- Email, social media, website updates – plan for when these will be sent
- Try to utilize promotions that increase average order value
- Try to only provide discounts at a certain threshold – for example, “Free shipping with $50 purchase,” or “Get a $10 gift card with a $100” purchase – this encourages shoppers to spend more
Organize necessary design assets: Just like retail stores decorate their locations to create a more festive atmosphere, so should small online merchants. This can be done by changing the colors of a website background, adding festive treatments to one’s logo or sprucing up email design to include holiday cheer. This work, however, requires planning:
- Schedule website design changes
- Know exactly what day to implement any design changes on the website. From there, plan backwards to ensure all assets are completed on time.
- Create a full list of design needs
- From email to social media to website, aggregating all design needs now will help plan project needs accordingly.
- Check with design vendors on timelines and requirements
- The holiday season is busy for graphic designers, so place any orders for custom work sooner than later.
Establish an email schedule: Big and small merchants alike heavily increase their email frequency during the holidays, up to 50%. This means that business owners should establish when their sends will take place.
- Reference the promotions calendar
- Most holiday emails are designed to tout new products, promotions and discounts – plan these sends alongside a promotions calendar
- Segment email lists
- Send different messages to different customers, based on their purchase frequency, types of products purchased, etc.
Prepare for an influx in customer service inquiries: As more shoppers visit a merchant’s website, the number of customer service inquiries also grows. To help prepare for the influx, business owners should:
- Post customer service hours on the website
- Shoppers need to know when customer service is actually available, whether it’s via phone, live chat or email
- Install live chat software
- Live chat software allows customers to interact with a customer support in real-time, helping boost conversions and satisfaction
- Provide proactive customer support
- Look back at the most frequently asked questions from a support perspective and turn those into an FAQs page to help reduce the number of service questions
The 2013 holiday season is expected to be a big opportunity for small online merchants. In the coming weeks, an ounce of holiday preparation is worth a pound of golden profits.
Matt Winn is Volusion’s Marketing Communications Manager