The shop-till-you-drop season is upon us. While consumers are gearing up for long lines and cyber sales, small and mid-sized retailers are scrambling to prepare for the holiday rush. We get it – as a small business, you’re worried about having enough inventory, your ability to quickly fulfill orders and how you’re going to maximise sales during the busiest time of year.
Here are five tips to help you optimise your marketing efforts and streamline your operations for ultimate profitability this Black Friday and Cyber Monday – #BFCM!
1Get your ecommerce website on the nice list
Many businesses assume simply having a web presence is enough to attract and retain visitors, but most websites don’t automatically make it onto Santa’s nice list. Ecommerce websites need to be optimised for search, performance and usability in order to reach and engage online consumers.
Cyber Monday sales alone last year totalled $2.3 billion in the U.S., but if Google and other search engines don’t know your site exists, you’re missing out on your chunk of that market. And once people can find your site, you need to make sure you’re providing a great user experience to keep them there. According to Radware research, 57 percent of consumers will abandon a website that fails to load after three seconds.
Go through this quick checklist to ensure your web efforts aren’t getting lost in the white noise of the worldwide web:
- Can Google and other search engines properly index and crawl your site?
- Is your site targeting the proper keyword for your target audience?
- Is your site optimised for mobile devices?
- Is your site easy to navigate and search through?
- Are you leveraging images to engage visitors?
- Are your securing customer payment information?
- Is your site integrated with social media platforms?
2Remember: Social selling is everyone’s Secret Santa
Social media campaigns may seem like an obvious marketing suggestion, but these networks with millions of built-in, active audiences often go under-utilised by small and mid-sized business that don’t always have the time, resources and budget to support them. Yet, social media is increasingly used by consumers to research, discover and purchase products online – particularly during the holiday season.
Shopify reported ecommerce orders coming from social media in 2014 increased by 202 percent, and Vision Critical data revealed 40 percent of consumers made a purchase (either online or in-store) after favouriting a product on social media platforms.
The true beauty of social promotions is that you don’t need a budget to establish a presence and gain an audience – although a having a budget wouldn’t hurt. Here are some easy social activities you can do to start enjoying this gift that keeps on giving:
- Determine the best social networks for your target audience
- Develop branded accounts on your targeted social platforms
- Regularly share your products and branded content (Pro Tip: Use relevant and timely hashtags like #BFCM)
- Follow and engage users and fans
- Try promoted posts
- Experiment with Buy Button offers on sites like Pinterest and Twitter.
3Implement a centralised inventory management system to rival Santa’s Workshop
In today’s connected world, retailers don’t only need to be on multiple social platforms, but also need multiple marketplaces. If you’re a small ecommerce retailer, you’re likely selling on marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, as well as your own branded shopping cart sites on Shopify, WooCommerce, Bigcommerce, or Magento.
In fact, our Stitch Labs data shows businesses that use a single marketplace in addition to their branded shopping cart site make an average of 38 percent more revenue. And those leveraging two marketplaces see an average revenue increase of 120 percent.
While it certainly pays to utilise multi-channel selling, it can quickly become unmanageable from an inventory perspective. Who’s going to help you manage and track holiday orders across all your various sales channels? Not everyone has a workshop full of elves to help them.
No elves? No problem! With a centralised inventory management solution, you can sync all your sales channels into a single integrated system, automating order tracking so you can avoid overselling and delayed fulfillment. With your inventory management under control, you’ll have more time to focus on other business needs, like thinking up more winning marketing and sales strategies.
4Fulfillment that’s faster than a reindeer sleigh
Your ecommerce site is optimised, your social campaigns are a success and your inventory is under control – all leading to record holiday sales. But with increased sales, comes a spike in fulfillment demands. And no other time of year is shipping expediency a bigger customer demand. I’m looking at you, last-minute shoppers!
To keep up with crazy delivery demands, make sure your holiday fulfillment strategy includes:
- Organised and well labeled storage facility
- Ecommerce shipping partner like ShipStation or ShipEasy
- Defined customer shipping price strategy (i.e. free shipping, flat rate, full charge)
- Clear tracking and constant communication with your customer
5Customer service that brings Christmas cheer
While fast fulfillment is an important factor in ensuring great customer service, businesses need to create a positive overall shopping experience to truly win big with customers.
Holiday sales and promotions attract a greater number new customers, and you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to convert one time shoppers into life-long customers. Cultivating and leveraging strong customer relationships is also an advantage smaller retailers can have over the larger, big-box stores.
Here are some tips to help you provide exceptional customer service this holiday season:
- Develop consistent branding across online and in-store channels.
- Provide an easy-to-navigate website.
- Bundled product offers
- Streamline the checkout process.
- Communication order status
- Facilitate fast shipping and fulfilment
- Follow-up with emails for special offers and product recommendations
- Offer rewards points and loyalty programmes.
With these last-minute strategies in place for the #BFCM weekend, your small or mid-sized retail business can boost sales, speed delivery and improve customer service so you have more time to eat, drink and be merry!
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.