Get Ready for the Fall Holiday Shopping Season
Do you want to increase your sales, ad revenue, and ultimately your profits in a short period of time? Was your online storefront or website ready last year when the holiday selling season rolled around? The time to prepare for the Christmas holiday season is right now. Many retailers can sell as much in the few weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve as they sell all year long. Don't have an online retail store that sells a product? Well, don't think that eCommerce storefronts are the only websites that see an increase in traffic over the Christmas season. If you run a commercial, non-product based, website (like a blog) you can also take advantage of the increased online traffic that often starts when the weather gets colder and visitors are hunting around for good deals. Don't be caught unprepared and leave revenue lost between being unprepared, no inventory, and bad customer service.
A recent article on the specifics for your online store from JennyHow titled, 8 Tips To Boost Sales For The Holiday / Christmas Season Immediately, talks about important customer service steps to take during the holiday season. In this article I will take a look at a few other ways to take advantage of the increases in online traffic.
Just take a look at Amazon for example. Right after Halloween was over, they moved to to logo with snow and changed the look of their site for the holiday shopping season. Amazon has Amazon Gift Central, along with great Gift Lists and Wish Lists, Amazon Gift Certificates, and many other great ideas that work. Of course, we all can't be Amazon with their resources. So what do you need to do to be prepared when the big buying starts?
Ramp Up Your Inventory Levels
One of the criticisms of online retail businesses when the tech boom first started was they did not have the inventory on hand to fulfill the orders they received. They are as many different ways to manage your inventory as their are ways to paint your house, but you can minimize some issues up front and prepare for others.
To state the obvious is to say, have enough inventory on hand to fulfill all your orders between November 21st and December 31st, but that isn't as easy as it sounds for a small business. You have to carefully plan your cash flow needs to be able to buy additional inventory over the holiday selling time period. Cash flow for small businesses is usually as tight as it can be, so make adjustments as early as you can, before you need the inventory and can't fill all those orders.
There are other methods for increasing your inventory counts for the holiday season like drop shipping, see How to Make Money Drop Shipping on Amazon or eBay, but you don't want to risk your good customer service and reputation for a last minute deal with a company you don't have a previous relationship and can't guarantee a positive outcome for your business.
Have Quality Articles Ready to Publish
If you are running a blog, you have inventory to keep on hand as well. Make sure you are publishing high quality content (your inventory) for those new visitors you might only see during the holiday season. Make sure you have a good supply of quality articles ready to publish when you don't have time.
The holiday season can be filled with family and fun (or something like that) but it can also take a lot of time you might normally use to post, do research, and everything else you do to maintain your blog. Trying to do tech writing while your in-laws are visiting can be challenging at best, so be prepared in advance and ramp up your inventory levels.
Use Gift Certificates, Gift Cards, and Coupons
As buyers have become more Internet savvy they have come to expect to find some good coupons or specials, especially around the holiday season. You don't have to give away the store, but get a few promotional coupons ready to send out to your mailing list, or make them readily available on your website.
In addition to a few different coupons you should create some kind of gift certificate that your visitors can buy to give as a gift for later use on your storefront. You see these gift certificates everywhere because they are guaranteed revenue, cost almost nothing to produce, and each year a certain percentage go unused.
Use a Blog Contest or Door Prizes
The use of contests is rampant among the blogging community for many reasons but there are good ways and not so good ways to generate traffic through blog contests. I could probably do an entire series on the pros and cons of blog contests but you want to make a good first impression to those holiday visitors, so use your blog gift certificates and door prizes in an intelligent manner.
I recently came across a blog contest that I did not enter, AhTim.com 1st Blogging Online Contest, and I almost didn't make it to the end of the post because the first part of the "contest rules" were so confusing and complicated I wasn't sure even the owner would know who won. Nothing personal, he is trying to develop his blog and build traffic like the rest of us, I just think a blog contest should be VERY easy to understand. Great site, just a little confusing to me.
If you are going to use a contest that has a limited prize or value (say something under a $500 total value), make it as simple as possible. One rule, one way to win, one prize offered, something that even a casual visitor can follow and become engaged with on your blog.
Provide Good Customer Service
This is probably the most important for customer acquisition or retaining those valued customers for future purchases. The issue of customer service is a standard item among small businesses but it shouldn't be overlooked. Just plain good customer service can go a long way and much of the time is one of the lessor expenses of the fall season.
Answer your business email as soon as you can, return customer phone calls promptly, ship your products quickly, and offer a clear return policy your customers can understand. These are common issues but can quickly become out of hand when multiplied by a higher volume over the holiday shopping season. You provide customer service with your blog as well. Make a good first impression with new visitors and you can make the holiday visitors regular subscribers long after the holidays are over.
With a little bit of planning you can have a successful Christmas selling season and still keep some of the increased traffic next year when the hype of the holidays has died down. Get those articles written now if you can, think about what coupons, door prizes, or other promotions you might use over the next few months, and get ready for the traffic to show up at your door.
How is your company preparing for the holiday season? Are you planning for any new promotions over the next few months? If so what are they?