Most people have plenty of time before they have to start thinking about the holidays, but you and other online sellers just have a few more weeks to get ready for that jolly time of year.
“Hopefully, you have already purchased and planned your holiday season inventory,” says Larry Phillips of 4stampsales.com when we asked him for advice about what e-merchants should be doing to get ready. Anyone who takes on the role of “holiday provider” will tell you that the first step is planning. The next step is getting the house in order.
Trusting that you already stocked your shelves, we’ll turn our attention to ordering and structuring those shelves—and every other part of your operation—in this 2-part series. Let’s get started.
First, the physical
“Go through your inventory,” recommends longtime eBay seller Cie Bay. “Make sure everything that is listed can be quickly and easily found. Make sure your listings are up to date.”
With your inventory in order, Cie Bay recommends focusing on shipping supplies and processes. “Stock up!” she says. Boxes, tape, poly bags, whatever items you use to get your items to your customers should be in your house very soon if they aren’t in your home already.
“If you use inserts, thank you notes, etc., make sure you have plenty on hand,” she continues.
Dimira Teneva of Metrilo.com offers consulting services to online retailers. She recommends planning the details now.
“Make arrangements for guaranteed shipping with your partners well in advance,” she suggest. “Get on the same page about the absolute latest time possible for placing an order and getting it delivered before the holiday.”
Cie Bay also suggest looking at your staffing. “If you’re able, hire an assistant,” she continues.
If you bring in help now, you’ll have weeks of experience working together when the rush hits and you’ll know if you have enough support, or need more help.
“The holiday season is extremely busy, and once those ‘cha chings’ start rolling through, you won’t have time for anything but getting those goodies packed and shipped,” Cie Bay tells us.
She also suggests letting your postal carrier and local post office staff know how much you appreciate their extra workload during your busy season. That added touch could prove helpful when you start shipping like crazy.
Look at the details
With your inventory, shipping supplies and staff at the ready, it’s time to market your business, so shoppers remember you when they’re looking for that perfect something for their special someones.
“Create a content calendar for both your social media and blog,” recommends Mallory Musante of Boldandpop.com.
Selling expert John Lawson agrees. But his recommendations go a little further.
“Start making your marketing calendar,” he advises. “Detail what offers you plan to make on what days going into the holiday sale cycle.” And be sure to “review last year’s data, specifically pay attention to inventory velocity, time frames of the season, best sales days, and slowest days.”
With the information in hand, you can come up with a plan for your most-likely busy and slow weeks. “Finally, be sure not to forget the lesser-known shopping days like Small Business Saturday, Free Shipping Day, Green Monday, etc.,” he adds.
Linking your promotions to already established “special” sales days, gives you free advertising and reinforces your image as a professional business.
Ensure the important stuff works
The final detail to address has to do with the mechanics of your payment mechanism and ordering process.
“Now is the time to make sure everything is working properly,” Phillips notes. “Go through the motions of purchasing something from yourself, up to and including the checkout.”
Some sellers stop when they’re asked for payment.
“That is the most important part!” he reminds us. “Remember, an abandoned cart means that a buyer took the time to commit to buy and stopped after that commitment.”
By making this purchase for yourself, you can see first-hand if there is a problem with your process that you, as the seller, would be unlikely to discover.
“Next, ask 3 friends or relatives to make a purchase from you,” he continues. “Have 1 very novice Internet purchaser, 1 occasional user and 1 experienced purchaser shop. Get their feedback, and then make any changes necessary.”
Or contact the marketplace where you sell (eBay, OpenSky, Amazon, etc.) and mention the problems your friends encountered.
Part 2 of this series will look at ways you can make your site, listings, packages, and customers feel the holly, jolly holiday spirit! Stay tuned.