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Holiday Shopping Online: Preparing Your E-Commerce Business

We’re past Halloween now, which means people are gearing up for holiday shopping!  The next couple of months are the busiest times of the year for most merchants as people scramble to get everything on their holiday lists and look for the best deals.  With expectations for a sudden influx of orders, here are some things you should do to prepare to keep up.

Plan out your promotions and marketing

With all of the deals and advertisements coming out at this time of year, and more and more people just shopping online for better deals, you have to stand out from your competition.  So plan out your mailings and coupons strategically for the days when they’ll get the most attention from your customers.

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Make sure you back up your data often.  That way if something happens, you can restore most of your data without having to be afraid of losing all the orders that were placed.  This means backing up both your website and any external order management systems you use.  Have a plan in place to restore quickly should something happen to minimize downtime.  This applies most of the year, but the effects will hit harder than usual in the holiday season if something happens.

Have plenty of Inventory

Obviously it will hurt sales if more people want something than you have of those items.  If your items are something you consistently sell every year, consult reports from prior years to determine how much you should order from your vendors.  If you don’t have any past sales, order more than you think you need.  It’s better to have too much and sell it off after the holidays than lose sales during the holidays because you don’t have enough.  Customers will remember your site if they receive good service during this busy time and will be more likely to order again if they can get their items without hassle.

Freeze putting technical changes into production

This includes things like major upgrades to your website or order management software.  If there’s a glitch or problem with the change it could negatively impact your sales more than usual at this time of year.  The best thing to do is freeze putting all changes into production until after the holidays.  At the same time, this is the best time of year to have developers work on larger, more time-consuming projects in their dev environment because no one is going to want production changes.

Discuss the holiday plans with employees

This is especially important for new employees, but everyone should be aware of how much business will increase and how they should handle their jobs to be the most efficient.  Go over problems that happened in previous years and make sure any training necessary to avoid them happening again is done.

Return policies

Make sure return policies are easy to find on your site and that your customer service reps are well-versed in them.  Customers will want longer return policies this time of year so that after they give their gifts, the gifts can be returned if necessary.

These are some important things that you should do to prepare your e-commerce business for the holiday season.  What other things have come up for you that merchants should account for heading into this busy time of year?

This post was originally featured on November 6, 2013.

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