Tips to Grow Your Business This holiday Season

This is a guest article by Nate Gilmore, VP of Marketing at Shipwire. The holiday season is almost upon us and now is the time to start planning.  In addition to his great tips, I’d add that many business owners utilize e-commerce solutions to achieve better success with conversion on the web.

Tips to Grow Your Business This holiday Season

By: Nate Gilmore

Enjoying the last few summer barbeques and getting the kids off to school are top priorities for September, but what many online sellers forget to consider is that the holiday season and accompanying e-tail rush is already upon us. In fact, 44 percent of consumers have already begun their holiday shopping, opting not to wait for the traditional after-Thanksgiving shopping mall “maul.” Given this new trend, you should take note of simple tips to not only help prepare for these early shoppers, but also to keep customers coming back for more.

  1. Map out the season. Treat the holiday season like a six-month campaign. Map out upcoming hot dates like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Free Shipping Day and use them as an excuse to sprinkle in creative promotions.
  2. Audit your e-commerce infrastructure. Before the end of September, ensure the best tools are in place for a big push. Examine your technology (especially your shopping cart and order inventory management) and processes to make sure you are ready to process orders through the holidays.
  3. The early bird really does get the worm. Every year it seems the holiday shopping season starts earlier. It’s never too early to start the season by reaching out to your past customers and offering discounts for those who buy ahead. Repeat customers should be rewarded for their loyalty!
  4. Gifts: Everyone loves them. Promotions are a great way to thank customers and ensure referrals. Consider offering free or reduced shipping, discount coupon codes, or special offers targeted to select audiences like past buyers or Twitter followers. Consider a free sample insert in every box you ship this holiday season.
  5. Join the 21st Century. Leverage social media to dial into your customers’ lives on Twitter and Facebook. By using Twitter, for example, you can monitor customer feedback and provide responses in real time.
  6. Fine-tune your Web site. Before the holiday shopping onslaught, spend some time search-optimizing your best sellers with promotional free shipping offers and price testing. Knowing your traffic and conversion will provide insight into what works on your site and what doesn’t. And if you syndicate product listings through marketplaces, make sure your pricing is consistent.
  7. Check your checkout, and automate returns. Customers expect a hassle-free shopping experience, which means that the checkout process had better be streamlined, and your return policy seamless and straightforward. Make sure your customers are not unpleasantly surprised by overpriced shipping costs or limited checkout payment options, or you may find a spike in abandoned carts. Use the after-checkout time as an opportunity to up-sell, cross-sell or offer coupons on next purchases. Also, use any product return experiences as an opportunity to grow your customer loyalty.
  8. Your shipping options should scream “fast and free” to attract buyers. Shipping options are a strong conversion tool. Learn to use them without breaking the bank. Consider using a free shipping promotion or upgraded shipping with larger purchases, and house a few best sellers overseas to offer international buyers local shipping costs.
  9. Insert some love; win repeat business. Be creative with your marketing package insert collateral in every shipment. Upon opening a package, your customers will be thrilled to receive both the products they ordered and a promotion such as discount codes for repeat customers and announcements on new features, products and services.
  10. Put a bow on it. Start at the source and think about how product-packaging design can impact shipping. Think about size, weight and packaging; package for maximum shipability and label with care.
  11. Bonus Tip: Be prepared for impulse buys. A recent survey conducted by Shipwire on trends and shipping in e-commerce (2008-2009) shows that while merchants shipped 26 percent more product during the holidays, they sold a smaller amount to each buyer in more orders. This would seem to indicate that online impulse buys are on the rise, so e-tailers should be ready with enough product on hand and reliable, cost-effective shipping resources available. Make a good impression on customers who initially buy on a “whim.” They’ll be back for seconds.

About the Author: Nate Gilmore is VP of Marketing at Shipwire outsourced ecommerce order fulfillment service.

Learn more tips for growing your business at Shipwire