Can Your Business Pass the Back-to-School Test?

back-to-school, retail, online retail, shipping/delivery, shipping, shipping optionsIt seems like just yesterday that schools let out for the summer. Summer camps are in full swing, college students are mowing lawns and businesses are already putting out back-to-school merchandise?

Each year, the back-to-school shopping season starts just a little bit earlier. In 2013, the National Retail Federation found that Americans began researching products as early as June and started back-to-school shopping in July.

This year, back-to-school shopping is expected to reach $74.9 billion. But what’s most interesting is that more than one-third of shoppers expect to make some portion of their purchases online.

That’s where you come in, online sellers.

As we’re in the midst of the back-to-school season, you need to make sure your online store is prepped for the seasonal rush. Here are a few quick tips:

Get Your Inventory Sorted

Determine your customers’ favorite products prior to the back-to-school shopping season. Take the time to research what sold the most the previous year and make sure you have enough of it stocked in your inventory.

If you can keep tabs on popular items and ensure your inventory is ready for the rush, you won’t have to deal with the panic of back-ordered items (or disappointed shoppers).

Keep the Spotlight on Your Website

More than 44% of shoppers will check a retailer’s website for special promotions, so you need to make sure your back-to-school deals are front and center. Keep your website streamlined and neat by featuring bestselling items on the homepage. That way, customers won’t have to dig for their favorite backpacks and binders.

And don’t forget about social media. Facebook and Twitter are great ways to promote back-to-school sales, daily deals and more. This will inevitably help drive traffic to your store.

Ship ‘Til You Drop

Like it or not, shipping is a necessary part of online selling. And since you’ll have a steady stream of orders pouring in, it’s crucial to plan ahead.

Make sure you have enough shipping supplies to last you through the back-to-school season. Most carriers – like FedEx, UPS and the USPS – offer free boxes and envelopes through their websites.

Now is also the ideal time to ensure your shipping mix is optimized for efficiency and savings, which can then be passed on to your customers. Make sure to compare carrier rates to find the best deals, and remember: for smaller items (under 10 pounds) check out the USPS.

Lastly, there’s something to be said for free shipping and free returns. While free shipping has become almost protocol in the ecommerce world, the real indicator of a stellar ecommerce business lies in its return policy.

Consumers rank free return shipping as the most important aspect of the online returns process. Plus, 89% of shoppers say they’ll revisit an online store after a positive returns experience.

When all is said and done, the back-to-school season is a true test of your ecommerce business. Thankfully, if you stock up on supplies, highlight deals on your website and get your shipping in order, you’ll come out unscathed – with a smile on your face.

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