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Have online retailers left it too late for this year’s peak Christmas trading period?


There’s never been a greater imperative for online retailers to be ready for peak trading periods than is now the case.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday at the end of this month and the subsequent Christmas sales, most eCommerce businesses have been preparing for the seasonal onslaught for months.

But what can those retailers do who’ve left it until now to prepare?

Rachel Blackburn has both worked in the retail sector and is currently a social media executive at Manchester-based agency Digitl.

Founded in 2015, Digitl specialises in providing eCommerce, web design and consultancy services to a wide range of national clients.

Here, Blackburn gives her professional opinion on the topic.

What’s the best advice to companies selling online when it comes to getting ready for peak periods?

Firstly, it’s important to make sure your website hosting is adequate.

Your website is the pivotal point of your online strategy, so it needs to be able to handle an additional influx of traffic without crashing.

Slow load times really affect your bottom line. More often than not, if a customer has to wait more than three seconds for your website to load, they will give up and take their custom elsewhere.

Using a cloud-based hosting system means you can easily increase your hosting capacity around busy periods.

Secondly, you need to make sure your customer service is up to scratch.

An increase in sales during this period means that you’re likely to experience an increase in returns.

Your processes need to be smooth sailing, otherwise you risk getting a bad reputation.

Check that you have enough stock to last this busy period, and your stock satisfies your quality control standards.

Do you have the resources to deliver every order?

Can you maintain reasonable shipping times during busy periods?

Don’t overpromise and under-deliver to your customers and make sure customer service inquiries are dealt with promptly.

Manchester Christmas markets
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

If companies aren’t ready now – with Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner – what should they do?

Start by thinking about what deals you want to offer your customers.

Use email marketing campaigns to announce these deals to your customers and build suspense around your discounts.

To maximise your conversion rate your emails should showcase your products using high-quality imagery and language that creates a sense of urgency.

You may also want to consider giving something extra to your loyal subscribers, such as an exclusive email discount or pre-sale.

Focusing on customer loyalty will help to extend each customer’s lifetime value and ensure they’re with you for the long haul.

Will 2020 bring any innovation in eCommerce to ensure customers are even more efficient when it comes to being ready for peak periods?

(Image: SCU)

 

Next year we can expect to see Chatbots reach their full potential.

This area has been growing steadily over the last couple of years and will continue to grow in 2020.

Chatbots help to remove friction from the customer journey by answering questions, offering product recommendations and resolving customer complaints.

Unlike human customer service operators, Chatbots are available 24/7 which means customers don’t have to wait around to get the answers they need.

We’ll also continue to see innovation with augmented reality (AR). This can help with customer satisfaction as consumers are more aware of what to expect from their purchases.

IKEA’s AR, for instance, can help customers to visualise how items of furniture will look inside their homes.

With customers fully understanding what they’re purchasing, AR has the potential to positively impact returns rates.

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