The 2018 Online Holiday Shopping Season: Is Your Ecommerce Site Ready?

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No matter how hot it is right now where you live, it’s time to start thinking about the winter holidays. That’s because you have several weeks to set the stage for strong Black Friday weekend sales.

Now’s the time to make your site more mobile-friendly, plan your holiday-sale merchandise offers, hatch a gift wrap plan, and find out how your small business can offer same-day delivery.

Make Your Store as Mobile-Friendly as Possible

We write a lot here about the importance of mobile-friendly websites because the mobile channel is a large and growing part of e-commerce success.

Most shoppers use their phones to browse and they’ll complete their purchases on their phones if checkout is user-friendly enough. Otherwise, they’ll move on to more mobile-friendly competitors or (maybe) switch to their computer to finish their order.

How can you streamline the checkout process to keep shoppers from abandoning their carts?

Offer the online payment methods your customers like most and don’t make them key in a lot of data during checkout.

PayPal is the best-known payment method for this type of convenience and popularity, but Amazon Pay and Google Pay are other options to consider. Now’s the time to research and compare payment methods in terms of processing fees, ease of use, and popularity with your customers so you can get everything set up, tested, and ready for Black Friday sales.

Create Exclusive Black Friday Weekend Promotions

Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday are the biggest US shopping days of the year. What do people buy? Everything. Electronics, toys, clothes, and video games are always popular.

But your customers are going to be looking for deals from your store, so you need a custom game plan.

Think about what sells well all year long and what’s been most popular with your customers during past holiday seasons.

  • How much of a discount can you offer—or do you even need to offer—on popular items?
  • Can you create limited-time-only product bundles?
  • Is it possible to debut a new product similar to your bestsellers for Black Friday weekend or offer a bestselling item in a new color or style only during the sale?

Plan your offerings in detail now so you can have your products and promotions ready to go well before Black Friday crunch time arrives.

Consider Adding a Gift-Wrap Option

When your customers snap up your Black Friday deals, they may want them gift-wrapped. Offering gift wrap for a small charge, or for free on expensive orders, is a way to set yourself apart from the competition.

Both online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores have been dropping their gift wrap services, leaving shoppers to deal the task themselves. However, before you commit to offering gift wrap, it’s important to understand why so many retailers have bailed on it.

First, gift-wrapping orders takes time and can create holdups in fulfillment—no small issue when so many shoppers want same-day delivery (and we’ll look at that below). Also, gift wrap isn’t free, and it can be hard to estimate how much you’ll need. Run short and you might disappoint customers. Overbuy and you’re stuck storing it.

If you have the budget and space to proceed, think about how you can wrap orders as efficiently as possible. For local orders that you’ll deliver the same day (see below), consider gift bags and tissue paper rather than paper, tape, and bows. Or you can bake the gift wrap into your packaging, delight your shoppers, and skip the wrapping stage—a search for “holiday product packaging” will turn up more than enough ready-to-order and DIY options.

Whatever gift wrap option you go with, remember to promote it along with your Black Friday deals. Show shoppers what their gifts will look like when they’re delivered and show them that you’re ready to help save them time.

Find Faster Deliver Options

In 2017, Amazon raked in 40% of all US e-commerce revenue, according to Forbes. One reason? Fast delivery, including same-day service in many cities.

Because many shoppers are now used to same-day delivery from Amazon and grocery delivery services like Instacart and Shipt, they expect that option whenever they shop. One local-delivery startup found that 78% of shoppers plan to look for same-day delivery when they do their holiday shopping this year. And it’s now possible for local businesses in many cities to give these customers what they want.

Companies like Deliv and Dropoff were founded to help local businesses provide same-day delivery. These companies serve dozens of US cities and help level the playing field between giant e-retailers with their own delivery infrastructures and small businesses. If these companies don’t operate in your area, research local courier services or consider hiring a seasonal employee to make daily deliveries.

Before you write off the idea of same-day delivery as too costly for your business, remember that major carriers may add holiday surcharges again this season, as they did in 2017. The difference in cost between same-day and rush shipping may be smaller than you think.

Whatever shipping options you go with this holiday season, be sure to build the cost into your pricing if you offer free shipping.

When you have a same-day delivery plan in place for the holiday season, make sure your customers know about it well in advance of Black Friday.

  • Create a same-day delivery map and notice for your site. Share the news on social media.
  • Craft an email for the local segment of your customer email list.
  • Have a brick-and-mortar store? Post the news there, too, so your in-store shoppers will know they have options during holiday crunch time.

Prep Now for 2018 Online Holiday Shopping

The more planning and prep work you do now, the more value you can offer your customers during the holiday season.

Source: Hostgator’s Blog

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