5 Mistakes Merchants Need to Avoid this Holiday Season

Well, we’re just about there. It’s now October and the holidays are creeping up fast. And while this can be an exciting time of year for merchants, it can also be a very stressful one in which certain things may get overlooked. So as you’re gearing up for the holidays, here’s a list of what not to do to help make your season bright.

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Multichannel Merchant
Multichannel Merchant
Multichannel Merchant
O+F Operations and Fulfillment

Mistake 1: Maintain the status quo
The first thing to avoid is keeping everything exactly the same with your website and advertising. Right now there may be a lot of things working well for you, such as certain advertising channels or offers. This is not to say you can’t keep doing those things, but it’s important to add a holiday touch where you can.

For example, you may add a holiday-themed header or graphics to your website. You may develop special holiday promotions, such as free shipping or gift wrapping, and call them out in your advertising and on your website. You could offer holiday gift cards for unsure gift buyers. You may even go as far as updating calls-to-action by making them more prominent, or by adding new calls-to-action, such as “Add to Your Santa List.”

By implementing holiday themes and promotions, you will build buyer confidence by conveying to them that your website is well managed and up to date. The more relevant and personalized you can be, the more sales you’ll make.

Mistake 2: Assume your website is working fine
The last thing you want to have happen is lose would-be customers because of technological shortcomings. So while you’re adding holiday touches to your website, go through it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure nothing’s broken. Talk with your webmaster to ensure your site can handle a sharp increase in traffic. Test the checkout process using several payment methods and browsers, and double check that all required form fields are working properly. It’s also a good idea to actually make a purchase using a live credit card to test your payment gateway.

Mistake 3: Wait until the last minute to communicate with vendors
You’re going to be busy during the holidays, and that means your vendors will be, too. Now’s the time to be communicating with those vendors and stocking up on inventory and supplies, including paper, boxes, filler, labels, and anything else you need to keep operations running smoothly. If you outsource your order fulfillment, talk with your provider ahead of time to coordinate inbound freight shipments and discuss any special bundling or kitting jobs. If you expect any inventory shortages or back orders, make sure to either remove those items from your website, or communicate delayed delivery times to your customers.

Mistake 4: Bury your shipping & returns information
Online merchants often lose sales because they don’t prominently display important shipping and returns information, including shipping costs and promotions, ship methods and delivery dates, as well as your returns policy. It’s also critical this time of year to let your customers know the last day that they can place an order to have it arrive before Christmas. This season, make sure to not only communicate this information to shoppers, but also do it up front to avoid surprises, rather than waiting until the final page of the checkout process.

Mistake 5: Ignore post-holiday sales potential
Christmas shouldn’t mark the end of the holiday sales season for merchants, as many consumers have come to expect post-Christmas deals. As a seller, though, it can be difficult to solidify those deals prior to Christmas as they may be dependent on what you sell and what you don’t sell. Nevertheless, they can be advertised ahead of time with generic messages to inform consumers that they should expect special promotions after the holidays. And for those shoppers who visit your site but don’t make a purchase, it is a good idea to remarket to them both before and after the holidays.

Stephen Bulger is marketing manager for eFulfillment Service.