Preparing Your Ecommerce Store for the 2021 Holiday Season

Holiday sign on distressed wooden wall

The holidays are right around the corner, and you might be scrambling to make sure everything is ready. You want to make sure your digital storefront is up-to-date, but you also need to update your inventory levels and track your website analytics. There’s a lot of prep work that needs to be done before this busy season hits us. The 2021 holiday season is going to be like none we have seen before. Here are some tips for getting ahead of the game.

Start Your Preparation Now

If you wait any longer, you are going to be behind the game.

Plan what sales you want to run and when. Do you have the creative assets designed for those sales? Website images? Are ads ready to go? Where are you advertising? Are emails written?

Have you checked your inventory? Do you need to order more? If so, order anything you think you might need or run out of now. Shipping and manufacturing delays are real. If you wait until your inventory gets low, you may not be able to restock before the holiday season is over.

It’s also a good idea to do a deep dive on your results from the holiday season last year. What sold well? What were hot ticket items? What sales worked? What sales didn’t work? Which emails had high open and click through rates? You likely did this at the end of the holiday season last year, but now is a good time to review it and do a refresh.

How Are You Handling Delays?

It’s no secret that shipping delays are touching just about every industry across the country now. Many of these delays are having a downstream impact.

For example, microchip shortages are causing delays in everything from the latest iPhone to home appliances. Even new cars are tough to get, with some delayed 4-6 months or more.

Wood and steel shortages mean that new sectional couch you wanted to get for the family room will not be available until March.

The odds are that at least a few of your customers are going to be impacted by delays this holiday season. Do you have a plan in place to handle these inevitable delays when they pop up? Now is the time to review it and make sure your team is familiar with it.

Communication is key. Companies who do this right this holiday season can win loyal customers for life. Companies that fail to provide a good customer experience and communicate with their customers about delays will lose customers that will never come back.

Prep Your Customers

In addition to preparing your business, it is a good idea to start prepping your customers. This ties in a bit with the above point.

Scarcity has long been used as a sales tactic. Companies have often played on customer emotions and the fear of missing out. However, in 2021, scarcity is probably more real than it has ever been.

Start communicating with your customers now. This is going to be the worst holiday season, maybe ever, to wait to do last minute shopping.

You do not need to scare them, but be open and honest about shipping and manufacturing delays.

It’s worth considering running “Black Friday” type specials now or very soon. You can even position it as a way to try to help out holiday shoppers by giving them your specials now so they can be assured they will receive their orders before the holidays. For some products, Black Friday may be too late to place orders and receive them in time.

You might think this is overly dramatic, but shop around online a little bit and you will see. My daughter wants the new iPhone 13. If I order it right now, the first week of November, its estimated arrival is December 17th. I wouldn’t expect that fulfillment time to get any smaller as we get deeper into the holidays.

That is just one example. There are tons out there. Everything from electronics to furniture to toys are likely to be touched by inventory shortages and shipping delays this holiday season.

Do whatever you can to encourage early shopping.

Audit Your Fulfillment Process

Is your order fulfillment process ready to tackle the increased volume that is about to come your way? Are you fully staffed? Is your team fully prepped?

Are you using an order fulfillment service? Have you had a discussion with them about their preparedness? What do they have in place to handle a spike in orders? What do they have in place to notify you and your customers when either shipping or inventory delays become a problem? 

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