How is it September already? Another year has flown by and as any ecommerce business will know, things are about to get a whole lot busier! After two years of uncertainty and disruption to daily life caused by the pandemic, many consumers are looking to take this opportunity to return to their pre-Covid habits.
There is a cost of living crisis, a crowded market and unusual data from the previous two years, but expectations are high for the run up to Christmas. If you want your ecommerce business to capitalise on the potential opportunities on offer, you need to understand how the battleground has changed and act accordingly.
Preparing for peak trade in eCommerce is essential, and you need to get your brand onto the radar of potential customers. You’ll also need to provide a great experience for them by ensuring that your systems and inventory are all ready to meet the increase in demand.
Ideally, your preparation should be complete by now but more often than not this is not the case. We’re of the philosophy that it’s never too late, so here are some tips on how to get ready.
Make Sure Your Systems and Software Are in Order
Slow site speed will frustrate your customers, increase bounce rate, cause conversion rate decline and ultimately harm your peak success. Now is the time to optimise your website performance, so you need to do the following:
- Monitor site uptime/downtime and fix any issues.
- Optimise your site for speed to ensure a good experience for visitors.
- Review the customer journey through your site, especially your checkout.
- Ensure security is up to date and efficient to minimise the risk of breaches.
If you are running ERP software or other tools for business management, you need to ensure they are all integrated correctly and ready to process the increase in data and workflows. Take stock of what you need and ensure your systems are ready to meet the increased demand that will be placed on your systems.
Increase Inventory Levels
This seems like a no-brainer, but some businesses fail to adequately increase their stockholding for peak trade. Look back over data from previous years to get an idea about how much inventory was sold and try to increase your reserves to minimise the risk of popular items selling out quickly.
Understand which products are most likely to draw the attention of customers and make sure your inventory is ready for the rise in demand. You won’t hit your sales budgets without enough stock because stock is sales. It’s simply a fundamental part of retail.
Consider Your SEO
The basics are a good place to start. People will be searching for products like crazy over the festive period so you need yours to rank highly in SERPs. Consider implementing Christmas-related terms where appropriate so that Google starts picking up on your efforts.
It’s essential that you consider customer search intent when you create content for your products. You don’t need fancy SEO software to do this, just some common sense and perspective. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and think about how you would search for that product.
Create seasonal landing pages and consider special pages for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These types of landing pages are incredibly engaging to customers. They’re also a good opportunity to collect data, for example email signups. A well crafted Black Friday page offering customers early access to your best deals is irresistible to many customers.
Agree Promotional Activity
Content marketing is key. You need to identify the types of marketing materials you plan to use and when they will be deployed, what the marketing budget will be and which products and product categories they will focus on. All content should be SEO-optimised and tick the basic marketing boxes of telling stories, being easy to interpret, being original and backing up claims with reliable data.
You can place your promotional content:
- In Google Search Ads and Google Shopping Ads.
- On social media, both paid and organic.
- In physical locations like your bricks and mortar stores.
- On Affiliate partner websites.
- On traditional platforms like television, radio or magazine.
It’s for your marketing team and the relevant decision-makers to determine the what, how and where of your promotional activity. Get it done early and make a detailed plan, and be prepared to make changes as the data starts coming in. Peak trade can be unpredictable so ensure you are agile enough to capitalise on every sales opportunity.
Analyse Current and Previous Years for Data Trends
It helps to be able to forecast and get a strong idea of customer purchase habits. This is why we collect so much data in the modern world, and your systems should have an abundance of it to draw from. While the past two festive seasons may be somewhat anomalous in terms of data, they are still worth looking at, as is data from the past 12 months. Identify trends and look for ways to capitalise on them.
You can also look at wider market trends to draw insights from data beyond what you have collected in your systems. This is a good way to get a more sophisticated understanding of markets and plan for success during peak trade in Q4.
Review All Channels
This is the time to take a good look at all of your marketing and communication channels to ensure they are ready for what’s coming.
- Paid: whether Google Ads, Facebook Ads or anything else, you need to have content ready to deliver. Assess which channels are working best and consider assigning more of the budget that way.
- Social: prepare your social media channels for the season. Change their appearance to reflect your marketing efforts, have an abundance of content to share, be ready to communicate with your audience and answer questions that come your way.
- Affiliates: get content ready for your affiliates to share and ensure they are fully informed of your plans and expectations of them over this period. Offer some advice, tell them about your products, share some photos and videos with them – anything to strengthen their efforts.
- Email: this is a great opportunity to engage your audience and leverage customer data for targeted emails to capitalise on the interest they have shown in your products.
Research Your Competitors
Keeping up with your competition is vital during Q4, so you need to have an eye on them at all times. Are they offering deals on products similar to yours? What marketing efforts seem to be working well for them?
While you don’t want to copy your competitors, you need to know what they are doing. What’s more, monitoring their activity could provide insight into opportunities to stand out from them.
Maximise Conversion Rate in the Lead-up to Peak Trade
Sow the seeds right now. Users want everything quickly with minimal effort, and this is about to go into overdrive. Start testing the performance of your servers and ensure UX is as good as possible. Test your user journeys as well to identify areas for improvement. You could also conduct A/B testing, user interviews and surveys to get a strong understanding of your users’ needs and modify the experience accordingly.
All of this will ensure conversion rate is at a maximum.
Prepare Your Warehouse for Increased Pick, Pack and Despatch
Your warehouses must be able to cope with the increase in volume. Things like express delivery, free delivery and delivery close to Christmas are appealing to customers, so how can you make them happen?
Do what you need to do to get your warehouse and staff prepared for the increase in volume, but be realistic. Failing to deliver on promises to customers could be harmful to your business.
Increase Your Customer Service Resource
Excellent customer service is pivotal to peak success and can place you above your competition. It can also drive conversions and promote customer loyalty. Just remember that your customer service team are people too, so they will feel this extra pressure during Q4.
Spend some time preparing them for what to expect. Ensure there is enough staff to deliver the quality of service you want and make everyone aware of key considerations like promotions, inventory and timescales.
Make Peak 2022 a Good One
Follow the advice in this guide to prepare for Q4 2022 and you solidify your chances of success. Remember also that you will capture a tsunami of data during this period so prepare to leverage this data for the post-peak period and stretch out that success.
A good experience for your customers is key, so make sure your systems and website are ready for what’s coming. Offer the best possible customer service and try to avoid issues like depleted stock and late deliveries.