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3 Things Online Retailers Should Be Thinking About Now to Prep for the Holiday Season

August 12, 2013 | Posted at 5:00 am | By The ChannelAdvisor Team

In a recent Amazon webinar, a poll revealed that
85% of attendees consider the holiday season
to be the most important time for
their online businesses.

BowcashFrom
the years of experience we have partnering with retailers to grow their
businesses online, we’d say that’s pretty spot on. The holiday season Q4 sales
spike isn’t an anomaly; it’s the standard of the industry.  With all of e-commerce trending upward in
terms of sales and consumers adopting online shopping, the opportunity to have
your best quarter yet could well be up for grabs in the upcoming 2013
holiday season
.

Every year, we see
the full gamut of holiday preparedness with our retailers: for some, it’s their
very first holiday season; others have expanded to an additional channel within
the year and are hoping to capitalize, and the more seasoned crowd takes the
phrase “Christmas in July” quite literally and have campaigns, stock and back end
operations buttoned up and ready to trigger by the middle of summer.

Regardless of experience, there’s a foundational list of processes
and tasks that must be considered by all online retailers who want to
capitalize during the holidays.  Below
are 3 important things you must consider, but if you want to learn
more about how to prepare
for the holidays in 2013, watch this on-demand webinar to learn
The 3 Megatrends You MUST Capitalize on This Holiday Season
.

For now, enjoy these holiday prep tips!

1.
Don’t Underestimate Order Volume

When it comes to sales, you’ve set your expectations high for the holidays.
Truth be told, they might not be high enough. Every year we see retailers who miss
the mark estimating how many orders they’ll receive from October through
January. As a result, inventory, especially that of hot products, runs dry
before the Thanksgiving turkeys even get sliced across the US.

To properly estimate the order volume during this high time, look back at
last year’s holiday season and review high-converting products from the first
half of the year. Also, consider what holiday/seasonal items might be important
to stock up on.

 2.
Prepare fulfilment Operations

People want packages fast. And if they’re buying a gift for a friend or
family member, they’ll want it delivered even faster. fulfilment is an
indispensable component of e-commerce business operations year-round, but
during the holidays, your reputation lives or dies by your ability to deliver
on promises.

To address seasonal spikes, you may want to consider outsourcing
fulfilment during the holidays. This is an advantageous strategy to implement
year-round, but if you fulfill in-house or through a drop shipper, a hybrid
fulfilment strategy during the holidays can help reduce the workload from the
influx of orders.

Consider leveraging Amazon’s global network of fulfilment centres
through fulfilment by Amazon (FBA). Sellers who use FBA ship their inventory
to Amazon, who then “picks, packs and ships” the item to its consumer. Also, Multi-Channel
fulfilment by Amazon can be
used to fulfill orders for your products placed via Amazon, your website and a
number of other places your products are sold online.

3.
Get Your Website Ready for Traffic

Website downtime is bad anytime but, during the holidays, it could really
cost you. Make sure your servers are prepared for the influx of traffic during
peak traffic days. In tandem with this, don’t perform any critical system
updates during the holidays. If you must make updates, execute them during
off-peak hours.

To decrease the risk that website issues arise, test page load times and
identify any speed bumps, like image sizes, that could be causing the slow
pace, and QA your entire website to make sure all links are active. And, don’t
forget, mobile has emerged as a game changer for
e-commerce research and conversions
, so be sure you’re doing everything you can to reach those
customers. You’ll want to take on these heavier tasks long before the holiday
season so that you can focus on updating website messaging and content with
holiday themes when the season gets closer.

These tips are evergreen tips every online retailer should
consider and return to year after year in preparation  for the holiday shopping season!

Ready to get started preparing for this year’s holiday
shopping season? Check out our on-demand webinar, “The 3 Megatrends Retailers MUST Capitalize on This Holiday Shopping
Season.”

Blog Post by Natalie
Sink, Digital and Content Marketing Strategist, ChannelAdvisor