2019 pre-holiday eCommerce preparedness checklist

by | Nov 15, 2019 | eCommerce, Order Management, Retailers

We’re in the last few weeks before the biggest pain points for this year’s holiday online shopping experiences are known. This is the time to batten down the hatches and make sure everything is ship-shape, allowing you to execute as fantastic of a holiday season as possible.

Last year’s holiday shopping season was a time for major growth — and growing pains — as new technologies, new companies, and a healthy economy all led to bigger and more retail buying.

Let’s have a brief review:

  • Mobile orders (including tablet) came in at 53% of total orders – and they were the primary revenue source every day of Cyber Week except for Cyber Monday, on which mobile GMV dropped to 43%. Most people were back to work on Monday after Thanksgiving in 2018, and they were likely close to desktop computers for easy shopping.
  • Online ecommerce stories continued to have the highest AOV of all sales channels. Fashion and jewelry brands experienced the biggest revenue lifts from Facebook, with 70% of total GMV from those brands coming from that channel. Home and garden took 16% and all others fell below 8%.
  • Fashion, Jewelry, Toys and Games verticals saw the highest GMV increases. These are traditional gift verticals for the holidays. Food and Beverage and Home and Garden verticals saw the highest increase in AOV – significantly more than other verticals with double-digit increases on nearly all cyber weekdays.
  • Logistics service providers and 3PL’s learning from past holiday lessons lauded much-improved delivery stats. FedEx delivered 97.6 percent of peak season parcels on time in 2018, up slightly from 2017’s 97.4 percent, according to ShipMatrix, a firm analyzing shipping data. During the company’s quarterly earnings call in December, FedEx Express CEO Raj Subramaniam said 2018 saw “yet another record peak season for FedEx” that featured “record service levels.”

While logistics providers have proven their ability to thrive under rapidly-changing environmental stressors, retailers and suppliers are still giving much focus on the importance of addressing elevated consumer expectations for online shopping experiences. Here are the most important things you should be focusing in on as we approach the busiest consumer shopping weeks of the year:

Increasing your catalog/assortment

Hopefully, you’ve been keeping tabs on what your customers want by analyzing their shopping habits as well as their search patterns.

With point-of-sale analytics, you should be able to see what sold the most, what sold the quickest, and what ran out first. Were these seasonal trends? Consumer fads? Did you run out of some of the perpetual favorites? And what are people looking for throughout the year?

Maybe there are some complimentary items or even new suppliers you can add to your assortment of products, as you stretch toward having an endless aisle of products.

Offering great product content

This is where thorough item descriptions and information-rich product pages can make all the difference in more positive online shopping experiences.

These product descriptions can also have an effect on the search results, whether a customer is searching Google and Bing, an online retail marketplace, or even just an eCommerce site. The more descriptive text and important keywords you can use (without going overboard), the better your results will be.

Automating your inventory updates

Amazon has gotten pretty good at this, letting shoppers know when there are only a few items remaining in their warehouses (or their suppliers). Better inventory management and visibility across sales all channels can help other retailers show their customers what’s available on their websites and even in the stores, which can help save the sale.

Delivering consistent communication about orders

When you order something from Amazon, you get three notifications: when the order was placed, when it left the warehouse, and when it gets left at your front door. Do you provide that kind of order communication to your customers?

Retail buyers love to get purchase order acknowledgments and advanced shipping notifications, and so do your customers.

Order tracking is a must to keep them content during the time the package is in transit. Your customer-facing staff should also have access to this kind of information so they can share it with customers who call or email about the status of their order.

Ensuring order fulfillment accuracy and fast delivery times

There’s a long chain of information stretching from the supplier to the retailer to the shopper, back to the retailer and the warehouse and fulfillment, and then back to the shopper. Having a reliable chain of information that transfers an order through the system, putting the right information in the right hands, and then confirming that everything is happening properly along the way is one of the keys to avoiding unhappy customers due to mistaken shipments.

Amazon has spoiled us with free 2-day shipping, but not everyone can do that. Look for ways your company can offer similar shipping services, cheap/free shipping for higher dollar orders, or even options for intra-store delivery and buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS).

On-time shipping (and good packaging and packing)

Few things will infuriate a shopper more than an order arriving after their holiday celebration. With automated EDI, inventory visibility, optimized processes, and streamlined order management, it’s possible for eCommerce orders to be fulfilled faster than they were just a few years ago.

That means they can be shipped faster, and that means they’ll arrive on time. It’s important to not only make sure your fulfillment is streamlined but that you’re either working with competent drop-ship capable vendors or that your logistics partners can deliver packages on time.

Branded packaging is going to be your best bet in reinforcing your store brand after the sale.

You can do it with branded boxes, branded packing slips and return labels. And best of all, you can even ask your drop-shipping suppliers to print branded packing slips for you. Another thing to ensure is that you’ve selected the best packaging and packing methods, as well as trained pickers and packers thoroughly.

Good order management process (and generous and easy return processes)

Being alerted to problems with a delivery lets you decide how to proceed to ensure the customer is happy. A good order management process includes great communication about orders, capacity for order volume spikes, as well as carrier integration and alerts the keep orders moving along so they can be delivered as expected. Sometimes problems arise, but as long as your internal communication systems are working, you can avoid disaster.

Returns are one of the big hurdles retailers have yet to clear. The easier returns are, the better. Amazon and Zappos have returns down: every shipment gets a return label and free shipping. Refunds show up as either a gift card or the amount is refunded to your credit card.

And some brick-and-mortar retailers will gladly accept online orders in their stores. Returns are still part of the shopping experience and problems here can lose customers forever. Even if you lose money on returns and exchanges, that can be made up in customer loyalty as their “customer lifetime value” goes up.

Find out how our EDIsourcingassortmentanalytics or other retail technology solutions can help your business stay competitive: Contact an SPS representative today.

Order fulfillment is more complex in an omnichannel environment.

Order fulfillment is more complex in an omnichannel environment.

Enlist the help of your trading partners to profitably satisfy today’s consumer. Download our white paper to help you strategize your action plan.

SPS Commerce Blog Team