Make your physical stores beacons of your brand If the product’s alive, shoot it!

Deck your e-stores with some candy!

Consumers look forward to the holiday season with a lot of anticipation as this season spells big and good deals. As someone who is trying to get the maximum bang for the buck, this is a blessing. For many stores, online or otherwise, this is definitely the time to build customer loyalty.

There is an important step prior to this, and that is getting your business ready to handle the spike in customer interest, sales and support. While most organizations do take steps to prepare for this season, not all of them entirely do what needs to be done. Sites go down, prices aren’t consistent, deliveries are slipped up, and things in general don’t go the way it should. Potential customers are no longer interested and loyal customers are forced to change their favorable opinion of your company. It’s never pretty.

So we decided to have a look at what an eCommerce store would need to do to minimize the chances of having a holiday fiasco. Here are some things that should help prepare for what should be the most wonderful time of the year:

  • Hanging the e-store mistletoe: Your customers are ready for the sales, but what about your store? Many a vendor has been gung-ho about the holiday season, and then faced the perils of poor planning. So here’s what you should do:
    • Facelift: A staple requirement, and probably one of the simplest ones, is giving your site a makeover. If you have a B2C business, this step means you make things flashy; but if you’re a B2B business, a subtle approach with some minimal decorations in your sidebar and header would be a better approach. Maybe throw in a couple of banners or sliders that announce different sales for good measure.
    • Maintenance: While regularly checking your site and products for missing information is routine, it’s important that a more thorough check is conducted before this season arrives. This includes load and volume testing of your servers.
    • Weightlifting: A very important aspect of getting your e-store ready is making sure you are well connected to the internet, and that your servers can handle any surge in traffic you’re expecting and more.It’s happened to countless vendors that they prepare for 5 times the traffic and get 7 times the traffic. The internet bandwidth they were sure of earlier slows to a crawl; the extra servers they had ready are overwhelmed and become unresponsive or crash.
  • Decorating the physical store: Your physical stores, if any, need to be prepared for a surge of customers to come in and try out the products. Make sure they are well stocked and have clear directions to where each product can be found. Also, the availability of a product, its variation, etc. on your eCommerce site, so that customers can immediately place large orders, or find something that you don’t have a physical store. Here it’s also important that inventory across your offline stores be synced with your online store, so that customers can’t order a product you just ran out of.

    During this season, neither the customer nor you want them to stay for longer than required. This season is about making quick decisions and getting what you need; don’t let it become the hunt for ‘red staplers not blue’.

  • Getting your sleighs and elves in shape: While you get the online and offline stores in shape, there’s still the delivery to consider. If you offer one-day deliveries, you’re in for a rush.If you deal with an agency to handle your deliveries, make sure you get them prepared for the increase in work.Any delivery vehicles in your control should be prepared for the weather, especially if you’re in for snowfall. The weather is not your friend in most cases, and as such prepare for damage control. Get your support staff ready to handle a greater number of calls and complaints about late deliveries.

The holiday season is the time for the best sales and customer relationships; be well prepared and make the best of it.

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