JH Ecommerce Solution Specialist, Tom Jenkins, has been advising retailers for eight years on how to prepare for peak.
The main thing I advise my clients? Don’t leave it too late to begin your planning.
To stay on top in eCommerce you should always be planning as far ahead as possible. Where possible, marketing activities should be strategically planned up to 12 months ahead, and at the very least, initial plans for Christmas promotions should begin in summer.
That said, even in September/October there’s planning to be done before certain tasks are executed. Now’s the time you should be sharing all your marketing plans with your relevant partners (hosting companies, shipping partners etc) and your primary eCommerce agency – make sure they know all of what’s in the planning pipeline in terms of discounts and other campaigns. This way, they can make all the preparations they need to make sure everything runs smoothly, plus they’re then in the position to make suggestions or amends to your plans, using their specific expertise and experience in their field.
It’s vital you plan for the offers you’re going to run as early on as possible. Think about what your leading USP is going to be for this time, are you going to have a 20% sale, for instance? Or, are you planning to offer discounts personalised for a specific audience?
Plan and prepare so that all your marketing assets can be built with plenty of time, all ready to go. And so that your hosting partner will know when to expect the most concurrent traffic, and what the precise offers are. Plan out all your emails and newsletters to line up with these offers, and make sure every one of them is well tested prior to their launch. Allow time for any development work that needs to happen to accomplish all of these goals, and make sure either your internal team, or your agency have all of these tasks logged.
It’s crucial that you review your previous peak data, and note what extra resources you’ll realistically need at this time. Will you need extra staff for sorting and packing? Warn your shipping partners too, and make sure they’re fully aware of your forecasted increase, and of the shipping commitments you’re making to customers.
Delivery and returns are always major issues in customer reviews on eCommerce sites: State clearly when is the cut off date that people can order and get in time for Christmas, make it clear what charge (if any) there is for returns. Offer clarity at every touchpoint, and there’ll be little room for complaint. Managing expectations is crucial, being open and honest is what online customers need and respect.
Life after Christmas
Don’t forget too, to plan for your business needs after Christmas. It’s all too easy to get slightly lost in the busyness of the Christmas period, and forget to plan for the post-Christmas sales and further into Spring / Summer. Make sure there’s time out for planning the next 6-12 months, scheduling what needs to be done for a smooth and successful 2019.