Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Christmas is now only around six weeks away. (Apologies if we should have started this article with a spoiler alert!) For some businesses, that means a welcome opportunity to wind down and complete any outstanding projects before 2018 draws to a close. However, other firms will be entering their peak trading season, where bad weather, growing customer enquiry volumes and a congested delivery network create a perfect storm of challenges.
It’s not just the Post Office and the Highways Agency who struggle to meet their obligations in December. Ecommerce websites are often overwhelmed with orders and enquiries, too. From elongated page loading times to outdated stock information and lengthening dispatch dates, the sudden spike in ecommerce demand may be difficult to manage. However, with a little advanced planning, you can ensure that customer expectations are met, as well as being able to lay the foundations for a smoother festive trading period next year.
Below are some of the best ways to manage ecommerce demand in the weeks leading up to Christmas…
1. Learn from 2017.
Psychologists claim that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, and they have a point when it comes to ecommerce demand. Study last year’s sales histories for trends or patterns. If bulk order sales trebled in the month before Santa’s sleigh flew overhead, you can feasibly expect similar order volumes this year, so prepare accordingly. Look at industry-wide trends for inspiration as well, from payment methods to related purchases. A toy retailer might upsell batteries, for example, as a way of boosting profits and adding value.
2. Ensure stock levels are raised.
There will be industry-wide pressure on certain product lines, so don’t assume a drop shipping partner will be able to bail out your ”just in time” inventory management system if reserves run low. The words “out of stock” are familiar at this time of year, but they’ll drive your loyal clients into the welcoming arms of rival platforms, building brand loyalty with them, not with you.
3. Streamline the delivery process.
Courier firms like DPD have apps which enable customers to track their orders in real time, indicating the number of stops before delivery alongside an ETA. As the final – and most important – stage of the order fulfilment process, tracking visibility is essential in today’s market. It minimises loss and fraud, and reduces complaints by telling customers what’s happening in real time.
4. Maintain channels of communication.
Customers generally prefer to use social channels for communication in lieu of emails or phone calls. If you don’t have a Twitter account, now’s the time to create one. Ensure that direct message notifications and tweets – including your @ identifier – are pushed to a constantly monitored device. Respond promptly, politely and professionally to any queries or complaints.
5. Brace yourself for returns in January.
From clothing bought in the wrong size/colour/pattern to duplicate presents, there’ll almost inevitably be an increase in the number of returns immediately after Christmas. Prepare a contingency plan for returned goods – can they be vacuum-packed away for next year, or sold at a discount in the January sales?
6. Switch to the host with the most.
At UK2.NET, we’re familiar with the traffic spikes caused by seasonal ecommerce demand. That’s why we provide unmetered bandwidth to every website hosting customer, alongside unmetered website space. Our MySQL databases are robust and endlessly expandable, while redirects are handled seamlessly. Our tech support teams are also available 24 hours a day – we recognise that you may have some late nights and early mornings over the next month…