While eCommerce sales are still improving year-over-year, traditionally the 3rd Qtr for online sales is the weakest. The summer months can be very difficult on merchants (if you sell pool supplies you’re likely doing ok) due to factors such as the kids being out of school or people allocating funds to take vacations. So instead of throwing your hands up and just hitting the beach yourself, now might be a good time to prep for what is sure to be a huge holiday season.
Here are 10 things you can do to prepare:
- Study Your Analytics – Find out what worked for you last year such as your most popular product or category of products. Be sure to over emphasize the successful product line this year. You can even consider creating a category in your online store along the lines of “Top Holiday Items”.
- Start Stocking Up On New Inventory – Buying product for the holiday season is truly an art form. Look at what worked for you last year and start making educated purchases from your suppliers now. You don’t need to buy it all in July but over the next few months; consider stocking up on what you know will sell during the holidays so you can accommodate the rush. You also need to prepare to mark down and push any left over items. People love the clearance categories/racks.
- Compose Targeted Email Lists – With a powerful ecommerce system you can filter your customer database to find out things like who spent the most? Who placed the most orders? Who shopped at your store in 2011 but not 2012? Find these customers and create some segmented lists therefore when you send out a marketing email during the holidays you can cater it specifically to the appropriate list.
- Consider A Few New Strategies – Gift Card Programs, Text Message Marketing and Registry Services. You can implement and test some of these strategies now to ensure they’re right for your business and operating well during the holidays.
- Try New Online Marketplaces – There are several shopping portals out there so now is a good time to test them out. Find out what it takes to get your products on Amazon, PriceGrabber, Google Shopping, etc., what the associated fees are and what’s necessary to process orders and update data from each channel.
- Review Updates From Your Applications – If you’re using powerful programs such as Nexternal or SalesForce to operate your online business it’s very likely that new features and functionalities are released on a regular basis. Be sure to review and test what’s new to see if can help your online business now and into the holidays.
- Freshen Up Your Design – Do you need a new website, logo, product images? Now is a good time to replace or repair.
- Archive Older Data – Many sophisticated applications including Nexternal will give you the ability to archive older information, which improves the application’s overall performance.
- Hire Good Employees Today – Some companies wait until the holidays to hire extra help but it may be a good idea to think about hiring them sooner rather then later. This gives you more time to get the new employee up to speed as well as analyze their performance prior to the holiday rush.
- Have a “Holiday Business Plan” – This is a bit more complex but if you go into the holidays without a solid strategy you’ll have a hard time gauging your results. Put together a plan with strategies, projections and goals. Next year you’ll be able to review your objectives to see what worked well and what may need adjusting.
There’s no doubt that there are more then just these ten things that you’ll need to do to prepare your business for the holidays. While we’re still just in the beginning of the 3rd Quarter it’s not too early to combine this list with your own “holiday to-do list” and start checking things off. Try to accomplish a few of them then give yourself permission to hit the beach!