The Nightmare Before Christmas: How to Make Next Year’s Holiday Shopping Season Less Horrible

Overwhelmed by the rush this holiday shopping season?

Ah, Christmas. That magical time of the year when the trees sparkle with snow, lights twinkle on rooftops, and more than a few online retailers experience a full-blown Yuletide meltdown. From supply shortages and shipping congestion to site crashes and frustrated customers, it seems that everything that can go wrong will go wrong during the holiday rush. If you’ve found yourself in the midst of your own merry misadventure this year, you’re not alone—even the biggest players in the industry are finding this holiday season especially challenging.

The good news is that there’s a better way to handle the holiday shopping rush. Here are a few things we suggest doing to make next year feel more like a warm sip of Christmas cocoa and less like a stale fruitcake to the face.

Keep the Lights On

Tis the season for sleigh bells, sugar cookies, and site traffic spikes. While a holiday surge in traffic and sales is great for merchants on scalable eCommerce platforms, those that are not could be in for a bit of a disaster this December. Sudden and drastic traffic increases can put merchants at risk of crashes and downtime, causing them to lose both sales and customer trust (as Amazon experienced first-hand this past Prime Day). If you’re seeing any Christmas crashes, make sure you have the following in place by next year’s holiday rush:

  • A scalable eCommerce platform. The last thing you’ll want to deal with when holiday shoppers begin to descend on your site is a platform that can’t handle your growth. A scalable platform will accommodate your growth over this next year, giving you plenty of time to prepare for the holidays.
  • Completely native functionality: Plugins make your site vulnerable to breakages, while a completely native site doesn’t depend on any third parties to function. The latter is the way to go if you want to ensure constant uptime by next December.

Beat Holiday Shipping Deadlines

This year, the ongoing 2-day shipping battle between retail giants like Target and Amazon threatens to congest holiday shipping lines even moreso than usual. For online retailers who want to get packages shipped in time for pre-Christmas delivery, time is running out. For some shipping services, the Christmas shipping deadline has already passed. If you miss this year’s holiday shipping deadlines, you risk late delivery, customer dissatisfaction, and a potential torrent of angry reviews from disappointed customers. Here’s how to fix your shipping in time for next year’s holiday season:

  • Find a better warehouse management system. If you’re struggling to keep up this holiday season, you can take action to make next year better by overhauling your current online order fulfillment processes.
  • Get strategic with your shipping. Review your pick-pack-ship processes to detect and eliminate inefficiencies. Optimize your shipping station, stock up on your top sellers, and get to know your carriers for ultimate holiday shipping success.

Manage Holiday Promotions

Without the right tools, running a successful holiday promotion can be a bit of a nightmare. Can that 40% off discount you’re offering be used multiple times? Are existing customers included in your latest “Sign Up and Save” deal? Will you be extending free holiday shipping to international shoppers? Promotions are sometimes too easy to mess up, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday rush. Next year, make sure your holiday promos are airtight with the following:

  • A solid shipping integration. This can help you establish custom shipping parameters so you can exclude certain locations from free shipping, adjust shipping cost by weight, and more.
  • A data-driven promotional structure. Use your customer data to create promotions that are both hyper-targeted and easy to stay in control of, limiting the risk of promo code abuse and accidental shopper inclusion.

Relieve Customer Anxiety

Christmas has a way of turning even the most laid-back of shoppers into a nervous wreck. Merchants regularly field questions like, “When will it be back in stock?”, “Is my package on the way?”, and “When will my gifts arrive?” all the way up to Christmas Eve. Sound familiar? Here’s what to do for next year:

  • Integrate your warehouse management system with your eCommerce platform. This will keep your onsite catalog synced with your inventory, so shoppers can see what’s in stock and what’s going fast.
  • Provide package tracking. Online shoppers have become accustomed to total transparency. Regular updates on the status of their orders can put them at ease during those nail-biting days leading up to Christmas.

While this season might have its fair share of mishaps, there’s no reason next Christmas can’t be better. With the right tools, strategies, and a fair amount of planning, online retailers don’t have to dread the holiday season.

Now that you have a plan for next Christmas, let’s talk about this one. Learn how to protect your holiday shoppers from fraud.

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