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The Christmas rush and how to make sure your ecommerce site delivers

Benjamin Teszner
October29/ 2014

Christmas always seems to come earlier each year and ecommerce site owners should make the most of it. The run-up to Christmas is a highly important time for the retail trade and it is imperative that ecommerce store owners begin preparing for the festive season well in advance. With online accounting for 30% of all sales during 2013, up from 25% in 2012, prepared ecommerce store owners stand to make a killing.

Many of the standard tips apply to anyone looking to optimise their online store for Christmas; these involve making online shop quick to find, easy to navigate and visually enticing. However, the main factor which separates the average store from the star performer, especially during the Christmas period, is often postage and shipping. If a customer receives a late or damaged product, it’s unlikely they will remain a customer for much longer.

When assessing your approach to postage and shipping, there are four key tips to bear in mind: simplify the options available; optimise resources; make special offers; and signpost shipping deadlines clearly.

Consider offering a reduced amount of shipping options and base these on the type of product offered – this will streamline your process. For example, expensive products will require at least one option which offers a tracking ability and insurance, whereas for bulky but relatively products, a flat rate option may suffice.

Although it may sound obvious, ensuring that you have enough resources to meet increased demand is worth bearing in mind. This may involve stocking up on bestselling inventory, as well as postage materials such as bubble wrap, brown paper and card boxes. A wise idea to speed up order processing is to pre-package the items you have identified as potential bestsellers – this will reduce the chances of you being caught out in an unexpected rush.

Another tactic to mitigate against risk of a bottleneck in your shipping process is to provide special offers as early as possible. For example, offering free gift wrapping or free returns during October will encourage customers to place their orders earlier and will spread the resulting workload.

The final tip is to clearly signpost shipping options. This can involve displaying a shipping calendar on your website to announce key shipping dates or simply displaying a countdown clock. Providing this kind of structure and planning reassures customers that your store is making sufficient preparations but also gives them a sense of urgency. Providing customers with a timeline serves as a psychological cue to remind them of any approaching deadlines.

Christmas can be a stressful time for all, especially ecommerce store owners, however, by starting early and by sticking to a plan, this stress can be greatly reduced. As mentioned above, getting the basics right in terms of site design and accessibility are always key, no matter what time of year. However, the defining factor which will help your store standout from the rest will be the customer experience when it comes to shipping. Streamlining and signposting your store’s postage and shipping process will hopefully lead to happy customers and in turn a Merry Christmas for all.

Benjamin Teszner

Benjamin is CEO of global ecommerce solution PrestaShop