Here are the 12 key steps to making sure the fourth quarter will be the best time of the year for your ecommerce business.
1. Know your Ecommerce calendar
“In the US, the Christmas season usually tips off after Thanksgiving, but as retailers grow more aggressive in taking on ecommerce, they are introducing holiday promotions and advertising for the holiday season as early as September—a phenomenon the industry pegs the Christmas creep.” – Bisnow reports.
Q4 Ecommerce sales holidays calendar 2020:
- Halloween – Oct 31 (4th largest online sales holiday)
- Thanksgiving – Nov 26 (getting as big as Black Friday with equally good deals)
- Black Friday – Nov 27 (in 2018 record online sales from mobile at 33.5% of all ecommerce revenue)
- Cyber Monday – Nov 30 (2018 average order values up 8.5 percent year over year at $146)
- Green Monday – Dec 14 (largest online sales day in Dec)
- Free Shipping Day – Dec 15 (free delivery by Christmas Eve)
You probably should be preparing for those dates weeks ago! It’s not only about discounts and promotions. It’s also about making the most of the season and avoiding any spectacular crashes or customer care failures.
2. Buying user flows audit
Review last year’s analytics and metrics for various devices. Draw conclusions. Pay attention to tablet and mobile sales. Rethink how you present promotions throughout the customer decision journey – highlight those CTAs. Improve all buying userflows. Contact us to get it done on time.
Mobile traffic dominates over the holiday season but desktop conversion rates are still much higher. Ecommerce industry still has a long way to go in terms of optimizing the mobile shopping experience. It’s worth the investment with the Thanksgiving weekend a time of especially intensive mobile shopping.
Be where your customers are while traveling, spending time off, and thinking about getting some gifts for the family – using their mobile devices. Improve your Responsive Web Design (RWD).
3. Load testing
Traffic spikes are coming. More importantly, orders spikes are coming and these are far more difficult to handle.
Caching static content pages is easy. Just utilize any CDN and implement full page or fragment caching. Handling ten fold order volume on the checkout requires preparation and advanced engineering. It will take a few weeks to get right. Prepare early. Better safe than sorry.
“I would be interested to hear how retailers’ earnings were affected by site crashes late Cyber Monday — Eddie Bauer and Nordstrom, for instance, didn’t seem to have enough front-end capacity to serve all their visitors. I was able to hit the homepage of both sites but no product pages, and I’m sure they weren’t the only two retailers affected by lack of capacity planning.” a WSJ user Thea Domber comments.
“EB seemed to make right by extending their promo through the day, while Nordstrom had lots of apologies through its social media channels but no extra time for their Cyber Monday promotion” – Thea writes.
Time is the most precious resource. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Contact us to get it done on time.
4. UX & Performance fixes
When you factor in user flows audit conclusions and load testing results you’re likely to get a list of UX and performance fixes.
Your primary motivation and incentive should be maximizing mobile conversions during Q4 but sometimes UX fixes fall to the end of the to-do list. Holiday shoppers will test your UX and infrastructure in great numbers. Maybe avoiding UX mishaps and minimizing Customer Care workload is a motivation booster.
Keep it usable, keep it simple. Empower mobile users.
5. Ecommerce SEO
Get some of that Google search results real estate. In ecommerce, it is still location, location, location. Meaning screen space. Getting users’ attention. But getting it takes time.
In ecommerce Google Structured Data is probably the most effective tool for getting the most Google real estate and differentiating your search results from the competitions. Use it.
RetailMeNot found that 70% of retailers started promoting Black Friday offers before Thanksgiving and that the average duration of the offers was 10 days.
What sells? Electronics and appliances were the best-performing categories on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, with sales up nearly 27% from a year earlier, First Data found. Clothing and accessories grew 10%, as did sporting goods, while health and personal care were up nearly 8% – WSJ reports.
Pay attention to weather patterns – Suzanne Kapner of WSJ advises. Last year sales in the Eastern U.S. were helped by a cold snap, while sales in states west of the Mississippi were hurt by warmer than usual temperatures, according to Planalytics, which analyzes historical weather patterns and industry sales data. For instance, sales of women’s boots were up 12% in Hartford, Conn., but down 19% in Denver, Planalytics found.
7. Ecommerce marketing automation
Surely not every user will complete their shopping journey over the busy weekend.
Automate abandoned cart recovery. Sign those users up for a newsletter or an automated product recommendation. Dig that traffic gold to maximize your returns on ecommerce investments. Or lose out on over 90% of the traffic which does not convert into sales.
Capture those lost orders or say bye-bye to lost profits.
8. Bulletproofing fulfillment integration
Automation is key to handling sales peaks. The only problem is that no fulfillment integration is 100% bulletproof.
Identify any re-occurring issues. Fix them. Anything you can handle in the low season will backfire during high season and swamp your merchandising and customer service with customer inquiries and extra work. Not mentioning customer frustration and bad press.
Contact us to not let any orders slip through the cracks.
9. Shipping transparency
Are you informing your clients about the expected delivery dates? Any extra shipping costs? Transparency is key!
As pointed out by WSJ “surging levels of web orders will test retailers’ fulfillment and logistics operations and put added pressure on shipping companies like United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp.” Some of the delivery companies are introducing extra charges for their services.
Let’s get crystal clear on what customers should expect.
10. Code freeze & systems Monitoring
Code freeze ahead of and for the shopping holidays might be a good idea. You’ll have enough work on your hands without the additional distraction of new features or fixes rolling in.
Know your platform health at all times and keep historic data for future analysis. If you don’t have any metrics in place, you cannot manage your business continuity or prepare for traffic and order spikes. You are flying blind.
Google Analytics is not enough. Monitor your backend performance. Monitor your 3rd party integrations health.
Monitor early, catch all anomalies, fix them. Q4 is hardly the time for debugging, maintenance or downtime.
Contact us to get it done on time.
11. Dev & DevOps on standby
Have someone on standby during the busiest sales days and hours. Q4 is not over after Black Friday. Fail elegantly and learn from past mistakes.
Improve during night time to be ready for daytime shopping bonanza. Minimize maintenance periods during your customers waking hours.
Make sure to set it up ahead of time.
12. Customer Service channels available
Allow for Multi Channel Customer Service. It’s quite easy with cloud services such as Zendesk.
Think ticketing system. Think email, online chat, searchable FAQ lists. Think catching social media comments or praises.
If you’re only thinking about it now, you’ll probably be late to the party.
Contact us to set it up on time.
So much to do, so little time till Black Friday.
Spark Solutions is a software house that specializes in Ecommerce web application development – online stores, multi-vendor marketplaces, B2B platforms, headless ecommerce platforms.
All our ecommerce applications are based on Spree Commerce open-source framework since we are the core team behind this project. Spark Solutions also coordinates efforts of hundreds of developers all over the globe to make Spree the best ecommerce platform in the world.
Contact us to have a serious discussion about your ecommerce project.