16 Experts Reveal How To Crush This Ecommerce Holiday Season

By |2017-05-16T11:47:34+00:00November 9th, 2016|eCommerce Best Practices|

Championships aren’t won by accident or by chance. Neither is the ecommerce holiday season. It’s a ton of hard work. In order to win online, you must think ahead, prepare, hustle, analyze and forecast to get a leg up on the competition.

So, are you prepared for the anticipated holiday demand of Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

We’ve curated the following e-commerce experts to give us their take on what YOU need to know to crush it this holiday season

 

Here’s what you need to execute on immediately.

 

✔ TIP 1:  Get your Inventory Ready! Forecasting is Crucial

Just in case you haven’t heard, it’s always a major sales rush during the holidays and if you know any better, you need to prepare you stocks early.  There’s nothing more painful than missing out on more sales because your stocks ran out.  Take it from James Thompson and Mike Brown.  Both of them can relate that the biggest mistake to commit is to run out of stock early, while Mike shared his own strategy during and after the season.

 

James Thomson – President and Co-Founder, The Prosper Show

james-thompsonWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“Accurate inventory forecasting, Enable FBA replenishment every 2-3 days, and ensure inventory into FBA by mid November”

What is the biggest mistake you see companies making during the holiday season?
“Run out of stock too early / not have inventory available for the first 2 weeks of January”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?  

“Unload all stale inventory during this time, as customers will buy practically anything if you show it to them.  Have adequate stock in place to ensure no stockouts through end of January (distributors often close right after Xmas, so replenishment of PO’s takes a lot longer than expected, resulting in stockouts after Xmas)” 

 

Mike Brown – Owner, Death Wish Coffee

mike_brownWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“Plan way ahead of time.  Send in you inventory early.  Take advantage of all the designated shopping days with great deals.”

What is the biggest mistake you see companies making during the holiday season?
“They run out of inventory.”
What is something a business can do to capitalize on the holiday season that they probably haven’t thought of?  “Participate in free shipping day and reach out to gift guides to try to get your product featured.”
What new trend/strategy/tactic will have the biggest impact this holiday season?
“The gift that keeps on giving…. subscription boxes.”
What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?    “Have a big EOY sale.”

 

✔ TIP 2:  Prepare Killer Marketing Campaigns

Gone are the days when the holiday season is just a two-month affair.  In 2013, shoppers start to go through their shopping lists starting in early September, according to Time, and retailers  would initiate pursuing these customers earlier before summer ends. By the end of December, consumers will most likely spend more, even after Christmas and New Year’s Day celebration. And so, getting your share of those holiday shopping budgets means planning earlier than ever.

Let’s look at how you can plan a marketing campaign strategy that brings an increasingly advanced holiday crowd to your business. Our experts, Jeff Cohen, Mike Griffith and Pat Patriello shares their own must-do’s and strategies that will definitely keep your customers itching for more even after the holidays! Better late than never!

 

Jeff Cohen – Director of Business Development, Seller Labs   Jeff-cohen


What are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?                                                
   “Message your customers to ensure a high quality customer experience and generate product reviews.  Be ready for the final rush. In 2015 Amazon sold 3 Million Prime Subscriptions that week before Christmas. With Amazon, the Holiday Season isn’t over until after Christmas. Manage your inventory. With Amazon’s new pricing model, inventory management is critical to profitability. 

What new trend/strategy/tactic will have the biggest impact this holiday season?
Use your data to find your problems. For instance, if you see high impressions for search terms and your sessions are low, then you need to work on your search optimization. But if your sessions are high, consider looking at your conversion rate. A low conversion rate means that buyers are finding your products are they just choose to buy something else. If this is the case then you need to work on your page content. Your numbers will tell you where your problem is.”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?   “The most effective thing a business can do to take advantage of the post holiday season is to have inventory ready. Amazon sells millions in gift cards and those sellers will start hitting the site hard on December 26. Also, remember that Hanukkah is late this year meaning that these buyers could be buying into late December.”

 

Mike Griffith – VP of Marketing Services, BVACCEL

mike-griffithWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“Frontload your promotions and ad spend – Customers are shopping earlier every year which means that companies can take advantage of less competition by attracting customers to their site and offering discounts starting in October.  Pixel everyone and make sure your retargeting/retention campaigns are ready – Customer are bombarded by thousands of companies during the holiday season. It is important that you pixel all visitors for later retargeting campaigns to maintain brand awareness. You can further take advantage of the front-loaded ad spend from #1 to focus a larger percentage of your ad spend during November and December on retargeting audiences that have already shown an interest in your brand.  Automate your email campaigns – by automating several customer lifecycle campaigns, you can automatically engage with customers throughout the holiday season without having to lift a finger once the campaigns are set up. We recommend setting up a welcome series to intro new customers to your brand and offer them upsell and cross-sell promotions. You can also automate your holiday messaging by creating one-off emails that branch based on customer interactions with your content.”

What is something a business can do to capitalize on the holiday season that they probably haven’t thought of?
“Re-engage lapsed customers. A lot of the focus for holiday campaign planning goes into acquiring new customers, but it is likely that a large portion of a company’s past customers have not made a purchase recently. The holiday season is the perfect time to reach out to them again and try to win them back. It is often much cheaper to win old-business than new business and this tactic has been extremely beneficial for our clients in the past.”

What new trend/strategy/tactic will have the biggest impact this holiday season?
“Personalized messaging that is synchronized across channels. Companies can now personalize ad messaging based on the actions that visitors take on their websites and then synchronize this across channels. This allows for brands to offer discounts to discount-hungry customers while focusing on new product launches or product value props to other customer segments that are less price sensitive. This prevents cross-messaging to happen and allows companies to develop sequential messaging tools as well that help call out different benefits of their brand.”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?  “We’ve seen companies maintain or even increase their sales during the January after a big holiday push. The most effective thing to do is to keep your foot on the pedal with all the effective channels your company used during the holiday. Some may no longer be effective after the holiday season, but others will be primed for scaling spend now that competition has died down.”

 

Pat Petriello – Senior Marketplace Strategist, CPCStrategy

pat-patrielloWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“Execute an advanced Sponsored Products strategy which comprises of automatic campaigns, manual campaigns, negative keywords, varied keyword match types, and a rule based bidding system to optimize campaign performance.  Stay in stock in FBA throughout the entire holiday season.  Be aggressive in getting your products to rank high for valued keywords before the peak holiday selling season and try to maintain that position through the end of the year instead of trying to use the holiday season to move up in rankings.”

What is the biggest mistake you see companies making during the holiday season?
“The biggest mistake we see is companies taking a “set it and forget it” approach with their Amazon channel and not using data to make strategic business decisions.”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?   “Use the increased volume during the holiday as a chance to engage with your Amazon customers through e-mail outreach tools and repeat purchase promotions. Most Sellers think they can’t interact with their customers on Amazon, but they can as long as they stay within the terms outlined by Amazon.”

 

✔ Tip 3:  Unleash the Best Customer Support

With more sales comes more inquiries or customer interactions so make sure your team is ready to take on a LOT more of these during this season. Whether they are handling fulfillment, returns, exchanges and other crucial things, a well-trained staff ready to take on anything will definitely come in handy.  Some companies may opt to try to automate their customer support but nothing beats a good old “personal touch”  especially during rush sales.

Josie Grant and Tim Werkley included these in their Must-Do’s and strategies this season.  Whether you’d be automating your customer support or handling each inquiry personally, a boost in sales and in positive customer reviews wouldn’t hurt!

 

Josie Grant – Head of Partnerships, Xsellco

josie-grantWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“Ensure that your Customer Support team is prepared for the increased workload by preparing responses to the most common holiday questions ahead of time.  Measure your busiest times and schedule your support team accordingly to manage the volume of requests.  Take a look at your returns policy and consider extending it to be more generous over the holiday period, it will reassure and build trust with buyers. Ensure that your policy is clearly visible on your webstore and marketplaces.”

What new trend/strategy/tactic will have the biggest impact this holiday season?
“Customer support through social. It’s the easiest and quickest point of contact for your customer. Customers are becoming accustomed to contacting brands on Facebook Messenger and Twitter, both for sales and support. Most customers will expect a response within the hour. You will need to respond quickly to maintain a great reputation and repeat sales.”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?  “Follow up on your holiday sales with a personalized Happy New Year message to buyers and subscribers, thanking them for shopping with you over the holiday period. This can lead to positive feedback on marketplaces and most importantly, repeat custom. Also, the January sales can be an even busier time than the lead up to the holidays, so be sure to tell your buyers when you’re running special promotions. Online sellers will need to align their customer support resources to manage a high volume of support requests.”

 

 Tim Werkley – President, Swan Packaging Fulfillment

swan-fulfillment-packagingWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?                     “Have sufficient trained staff to meet order demand, have automated & streamlined software to facilitate efficient operations, forecast inventory needs effectively so you don’t go out of stock at crunch time.”

What is the biggest mistake you see companies making during the holiday season?
“Not learning from their mistakes from the last holiday season.”

What is something a business can do to capitalize on the holiday season that they probably haven’t thought of?
“Include a holiday themed gift in every order.”

What new trend/strategy/tactic will have the biggest impact this holiday season?
Reasonably priced expedited shipping.”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?  “Document the shortcomings experienced and establish a plan to avoid them in advance of next year’s holiday season.”

 

✔ Tip 4:  Provide Information on Shipping, Returns Policy Upfront

Consumers had been cautious about buying online and who can blame them?  One of the downsides of being an e-commerce seller is not being able to deal with your customers in person, unlike in a retail store where they can go up to any staff to ask the usual questions.  

By providing solid and clear information upfront that can be found on your site, you will not only eliminate any hesitation, but it also shows your confidence in your product and how you stand to provide them with an amazing customer experience.  It’s never too late to create that “wow” factor that will turn a visitor into a lifetime customer!  Plus, looking out for your customers is just good for the business. 🙂

 

Afshin Mousavian – VP, Business Development and Partnerships, Demac Media

afshin-mousavianWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“Make your shipping terms clear. It’s important for your customers to know when they can expect their orders to arrive – pressure to deliver is higher than ever during this season. “Will be delivered by Dec 23rd” AND make your returns and exchanges terms and process as clear as possible. You don’t want to take on the admin work that may come with unclear terms.  Highlight your incentives, stand out from the crowd. Everyone has “sales”, what can you bring to the table that is unique to your consumers. Make your sales about your brand.  Create incentive for your valued customers. Pull reports on customers that have been loyal to you and offer them exclusive deals. If you have proper tracking systems in place, you can also pass on specific discount codes to them to pass on to their family and friends. You can then track those and identify your ambassadors for future campaigns.”

What is the biggest mistake you see companies making during the holiday season?
“Introducing new operational processes that have not been validated.”

What new trend/strategy/tactic will have the biggest impact this holiday season?
“Get back to the old school – identify high value customers who have had purchases over an ideal amount and give them a call. Ask them if their order was up to their expectations, thank them for their business, and ask them if there is anything else they’d like to learn more about. This creates a unique experience that they won’t get from any other competitor.”

 

David Wolfe – Founder and CEO, Merchandise Mecca

david-wolfeWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“keep inventory in stock, promote, staff properly.”

What is the biggest mistake you see companies making during the holiday season?                                 “Bad promotions, bad customer service”

What is something a business can do to capitalize on the holiday season that they probably haven’t thought of?  “Run thru online business directories to ensure all your company information is correct.”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?  “Analyze their total business and business practices so that when attracting business is more difficult you can still achieve success. This means looking at inventory, people and processes and being efficient as you can be all year round.”

 

Steve Weiss – Chief Executive Officer, MuteSix

Steve-WeissWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“Add shipping time (and possibly return policy) content to your ad copy.  Create unique deals and value propositions for popular products specifically for the holiday season.  Use UTM retargeting on Facebook to create a dedicated holiday shopping funnel with a consistent message.”

What is the biggest mistake you see companies making during the holiday season?
“Website revamps/technical changes/major updates during the holiday season are very avoidable mistakes that I still see companies making. During the holiday season, ecommerce businesses should minimize potential variables and uncertainty and dedicate as many resources, both technical and non-technical, to ensuring a smooth and profitable holiday season.”

What is something a business can do to capitalize on the holiday season that they probably haven’t thought of?   “It’s surprising to see how few online businesses leverage the tactics that are so effective for physical retail stores during the holiday season. Everyone wants to buy that perfect gift for someone, and the fear of missing out when an item goes out of stock is on everyone’s mind during this time of year. Capture that emotion and stress scarcity – copy like “Only a few left,” “Limited quantities available,” and the like play to the same parts of the brain that drive people to crowd outside retail stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Test different copy and headlines in your ads to find what works best.”

 

✔ Tip 5:  Make the Most out of it!

If you’ve reached this point in the article, you’re probably contemplating on how stressful this season is going to be for your business.  One key component is to be proactive when it comes to the demands of the season, but with all the planning that you do, let’s not forget that this season also opens the door to a lot of opportunities!  

Just like the old saying goes, “strike whilst the iron is HOT!”, check out how these industry leaders brought their game faces on in attacking the holiday season!  If you’re not reading this, you’re missing out BIG TIME! 🙂

 

Lucy Marshall – Sales Executive, World First

lucy-marshallWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“Run your sell through reports from last year to know what your best sellers volumes are. Don’t forget to factor in growth from this year.  Read the BuyBox bible from Feedvisor (http://feedvisor.com/r/resource-center/ebooks/2016-buy-box-bible-2/).  Use a repricing tool to make sure you’re remaining competitive with other sellers.”

What is something a business can do to capitalize on the holiday season that they probably haven’t thought of?  “Less competition! Selling in Europe means that you could have anywhere between 50% and 100% less competition*. For those selling internationally, consider booking a forward contract during this time. This can help to protect your profits against rate volatility during this high transacting time.”

What new trend/strategy/tactic will have the biggest impact this holiday season?
“Expand your presence globally. Internet Retailer says there’s $3.1 billion of sales up for grabs in Amazon’s European markets. Selling in Europe means that you could have anywhere between 50% and 100% less competition.”

 

Nathan Hirsch – Founder and CEO, FreeeUp

nathan-hirschWhat is something a business can do to capitalize on the holiday season that they probably haven’t thought of?  “Raise prices as you get closer to Christmas, especially on high demand product. Many business owners think that prices have to go down to sell during the holidays. The opposite is in fact the truth. There is so much demand during the holiday season that products will sell when they are marked down, left at normal price, and even marked up.”

What new trend/strategy/tactic will have the biggest impact this holiday season?
“Omnichannel retailing and mobile will continue to play a huge impact on the holiday season. Consumers are becoming more and more comfortable with shopping on their phones. When they can’t get the product delivered fast enough, they’ll purchase it on their phone and pick it up in the nearest store. This is going to continue to drive up e-retail sales for the holiday season.”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?  “Create a strong plan for handling returns and exchanges. In January, customers will seek to return and make exchanges. If you aren’t prepared, your customer service team will drown in the requests and could lead to further issues with customers.”

 

Jordan Schanzer – Head of Marketing and Sales, Appeagle

jordan-schanzerWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“Number one, monitor your prices carefully or use automated repricing software to do it for you. Holidays typically mean discounted prices and many competitors with different pricing strategies, so you have to make sure you don’t charge below your minimum profitable price. Unfortunately, sellers do this by accident all the time. Know your costs inside and out so you don’t wind up selling at a loss. Second, stay on top of your inventory so you never run out of product at key times. Stock-outs and overselling because of improper inventory management are worst-case scenarios during the holidays, as you’ll lose out on sales and you’ll surely disappoint potential buyers, turning them off from buying from you in the future. Last but not least, save some of your best-selling products to sell AFTER the biggest sales. People will inevitably miss out on scoring the best holiday deals, and you can capitalize on that by saving some of the most popular products to sell at higher prices as the end of the year approaches.”

What new trend/strategy/tactic will have the biggest impact this holiday season?
“As a director at an automated intelligent repricing company, I firmly believe that price automation will play a massive role in determining the most successful online sellers this holiday season. On top of eliminating the tedious, time-consuming task of manual repricing, automation technology helps sellers manage their prices more effectively and efficiently. Automated repricing also frees up time for sellers so they can stay on top of other pressing matters, like sourcing, product research, customer service, and anything else that automation can’t handle better.”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?  “Restock your inventory with some of the best-selling products of the holiday season. Parents who didn’t act fast enough will have disappointed their kids by not gifting them the “right” presents, so they’ll be looking to make up for it right after the holidays and early into the new year. Sellers smart enough to anticipate this will be able to get a nice bump in sales.  Equally vital for sellers is preparing for the inevitable rush of returns that defines the post-holiday season. Strive to make the returns process as seamless as possible so that buyers are happy and compelled to leave you positive feedback even if they decide they no longer need your product.”

 

Nathan Grimm – Director of Marketing and Product, Zahalo

Nathan-grimmWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?                                               “Review marketing performance data and make optimizations.  Get your inventory projections right.  Get new product lines set up by November 1st at the latest.”

What is the biggest mistake you see companies making during the holiday season?
“They try to add new processes to their fulfillment network. Make sure your normal processes can scale up.”

What is something a business can do to capitalize on the holiday season that they probably haven’t thought of?
“Look at your inventory projections. If you’re going to run out of stock before you can get more in, raise your prices.”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?
“Get rid of overstocks. Bring on health and beauty items for January and February.”

 

 Scott Scharf – Co-Founder, Catching Clouds LLC

What are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period? SCOTT-SCHARF
“Don’t lose track of the business aspects of the business.  Keep track of cash flow.  Watch margins (don’t get discount happy)”

What is the biggest mistake you see companies making during the holiday season?
“Not registering for sales tax ahead of the big holiday sales and increasing their outstanding sales tax liabilities.”

What is something a business can do to capitalize on the holiday season that they probably haven’t thought of?
“Look for opportunities to increase margins (better margins * volume = more profits)”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?
“Review the sales, financials, returns, cash flow, profitability, and document any lessons learned. Identify any income tax or other liabilities before spending the boon of money that just came in on a huge vacation (lots of sleep is free).”

 

Pat Lum – Project Manager, Honest Few

HonestFew_Logo_BroadWhat are three must-dos during the holiday shopping season period?
“For instance, you can instantly 2x your holiday customer reach by shipping to and selling on an international Amazon platform like Amazon UK, for example. It’s counter-intuitive, but British consumer spending increased after Brexit.”

What new trend/strategy/tactic will have the biggest impact this holiday season?
CROSS-SELLING. Average cart sizes will be higher than during the rest of the year because people are shopping for gifts. As a result, companies should: > link their product listings together, mentioning their other products in their sales copy where it’s relevant. > offer public promo codes: on listings, by email, and on social platforms. > actively use words like “gift” and “giftable” in their sales copy to trigger that behavior.”

What is the most effective thing a business can do right after the holiday season (or to prepare for the period right after the holiday season)?
“Most likely, your products will be ranking well post-holiday rush. Selling on Amazon, for example, holiday sales can increase page rank. But then again, the competition got a holiday boost as well. Ride the momentum by selling additional products for review in January (post-holiday), and pull ahead of your competition.”

 

✔ Conclusion

It’s better to be ahead than behind!

If you do have other holiday selling tips that you’d like to share, please leave it at the comment box below.  See you out there sellers!

 

One Comment

  1. Mathew Lewis March 2, 2018 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    It depends on your budget and your goals, but the eBay shop is a good place to hammer out all the issues you are bound to come across when you build / open your own eCommerce site.

Leave A Comment