Just over 50% of online shoppers begin their shopping as early as October. Sadly, less than 15% of merchants are prepared for this. Almost 90% of shoppers surveyed use the Internet to do a bit of comparison shopping. Some end up making their purchases at conventional stores. But fret not owners of online only stores, because 53% of those surveyed revealed that they would buy online. If you own both offline and online stores: lucky you!
This is the period when top website ecommerce hosting shopping cart providers report an increase in sign-ups as well.
So what do you need to do to get ready for the virtual holiday crowd?…
Before we go into store preparations per se, here are a few more interesting notes about holiday shopping:
- Men outspend women by as much as 15% during holiday shopping
- Rural shoppers are more likely to visit online stores than urban shoppers
- Consumers search for characteristics rather than prices
Keep those points in mind as we go on to store preparations.
Product & Packaging
It seems boring, but it’s really true: consumers usually look for gifts this time of the year. Now, you can’t change your products but you can change they way you package and market them to suit customer needs. Portable MP3 players, digital cameras and watches make wonderful gifts and are usually hot sellers for the holiday season.
But what happens if, for example, you own an online shoe store? It gets a bit tricky because shoes don’t actually come across as natural gifts, and different brands measure sizes differently, making shopping for shoes for someone else a bit of an art. So how about selling special holiday gift certificates, complete with holiday packaging? Make sure the designs for men and women are different but equally appealing.
However, most shoe stores do allow exchanges for different sizes. In such cases, you can still work on making the packaging as appealing as possible so that you are able to market your products as bona fide holiday gifts.
SEO & Marketing
Once you have an idea of what the market wants with regard to your products, you need to make sure your site is fully optimized with all the necessary keywords (What does this mean? We’re not going to go into this here, but check out our other posts about keyword research and usage for more information). Needless to say, you should go all-out with your marketing campaign to take full advantage of this once-a-year buying phenomenon (well, of course there are other holiday periods throughout the year, but the year-end holidays are still when most shopping is done).
Make sure you make full use of the tools your hosted shopping cart has to offer such as newsletter broadcasting, a basic piece of shopping cart technology. Many top website ecommerce hosting shopping cart providers offer this feature for free. Start the ball rolling with your existing customers by enticing them with early bird promotions, invitation-only discounts, recommend-a-friend deals and tie-ins.
And just because the holidays are over does not mean the shopping season is over. The only thing shoppers love more than holiday sales is post-holiday sales. According to statistics, over 60% of shoppers make purchases during this period. So make sure you are ready for that. In fact, if you were a bit late with your holiday prep, you can still make up for it by preparing your store for post-holiday sales.
With all the excitement (and maybe even panic while you ruminate over the points presented above) in the air, its easy to overlook one very important factor – the inventory level. Make sure the items you are heavily promoting are adequately stocked. If you are using the services of a drop shipper, ensure you have enough stock during this period. You must give this special attention because your drop shipper might be shipping the same products for other merchants as well. Not being able to deliver what your customers have ordered before the holidays will cost you customers and any hope of future sales, so make sure you have enough inventory.
Have you started on your store’s holiday preparations? What are you doing this year that’s different from last year?
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