The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and with a predicted 13% increase in online holiday sales from 2013, the competition between online retailers is bound to be fierce. As e-commerce businesses frantically try to prepare themselves for the upcoming peak season, they face several significant challenges.
Below are 6 challenges that online retailers face as they gear up towards the most significant retail period of the year.
Increase in Website Traffic
E-commerce retailers can expect to experience a substantial increase in website traffic over the holiday season. Retailers must ensure that their websites are sufficiently equipped to cope with the escalating levels of activity. With the intense online competition, retailers cannot afford to frustrate shoppers with slow loading websites or possible site crashes. It is a good idea for retailers to co-ordinate with their host providers to ensure that their site is capable of handling the anticipated surge in traffic. Simplifying plug ins and shrinking images can also help in reducing load times.
One thing customers do not want to worry about in the lead up to Christmas is their online orders not being delivered in time. Failure to meet promised delivery times results in disgruntled customers and a loss of trust. This time of year calls for e-commerce retailers to evaluate their shipping options and better meet the needs of shoppers by including additional offers such as express postage, courier delivery and same day delivery. This will boost last minute sales and maximise conversions. Customers will be happy to pay a premium price as long as they are guaranteed delivery before Christmas.
Consumers are increasingly browsing and shopping on their mobile devices. ‘Brick and Mortar’ shops have become similar to showrooms in many cases, where customers will view a product in-store and then jump online to seek out the best deal. It is crucial for e-commerce websites to be responsive across a range of devices, with particular focus on mobile. Online retailers should ensure their website is clear, easy to navigate and overall designed to be ‘mobile friendly.’ The ability to sell seamlessly across devices will lead to an increase in sales and revenue during this peak retail period.
It is common practice for e-commerce businesses to introduce Christmas promotions and offers early. The idea being to generate excitement surrounding the holiday season, sending customers into a shopping frenzy and resulting in an increase of sales. It is important that retailers trial their online promotions to ensure they are working as intended. Shoppers do not appreciate coupon codes that don’t work at checkout or an advertised discount that doesn’t translate. Online retailers should monitor their promotions once launched to ensure that they are operating smoothly and not experiencing any technical glitches.
Maintaining Customer Loyalty
Whilst selling is the main focal point of the Christmas period, e-commerce businesses should also be mindful to maintain customer loyalty during this time. Regardless of previous loyalty, customers are still easily swayed by competitors with better prices, promotions and communication. This is a prime time for online retailers to provide exclusive offers and service to their existing customer base, rewarding them for their loyalty throughout the past year and capturing it for the upcoming year. Implementing personalization strategies during the holiday season will make customers feel extremely valued by the brand despite it being such a busy period.
Maintaining Customer Service Levels
The Christmas period has a deadline, December 25th. This puts tremendous pressure on a company’s resources in the month or months prior, with customers demanding resolution of any issues in a much quicker time frame. It is critical that online retailers keep up a high level of customer service throughout the holiday season, and maybe even beyond to allow for returns. Shoppers who failed to receive their gifts in time for Christmas or received the wrong products will waste no time making their gripes public. Online retailers should be aware of the need for additional resources during the holiday season and prepare accordingly by hiring additional staff and training their staff to keep calm under pressure.
The holiday season is both exciting and daunting for online retailers. The best way retailers can prepare for this chaotic time is by being aware of the challenges that lay before them and implementing appropriate measures to handle the busiest shopping period of the year.