Get Your Ecommerce Store Ready
for Holiday Success w/ BigCommerce
Reed Hartman is a Content Marketing Manager at BigCommerce, where he uses his years of research, writing and marketing experience to help inform and educate business owners on all things ecommerce.
Start planning for the busiest shopping season of the year! Read on to prepare your ecommerce store for the holiday rush.
The holiday season is one of the most important times of the year for food and beverage companies. Businesses big and small see demand spike during the holidays, and need to start preparing early in order to ensure the season is a success. Why? Because shoppers are starting earlier, too. According to a recent study, 42% of customers plan to start shopping earlier this year because of inflation. And when they start shopping, you’ll want your business to be ready.
In order to help your business succeed over the holidays, we’ve compiled a short list of things you can do to make this season the most successful yet.
Optimize Customer Experience and Checkout
By the time a customer reaches the checkout page, they’ve already decided they want to make a purchase. Optimizing your checkout page means making the process as smooth as possible, so the customer doesn’t get frustrated and abandon their cart altogether. Here are some tips on optimizing your checkout experience to ensure your customers are making it all the way through the funnel to purchase.
1. Simplify checkout to a single page.
Having all of your checkout-related fields on a single page makes the process easier and quicker for customers. Loading a single page versus waiting for multiple pages to load — especially on a mobile device — can be a game changer.
2. Enable guest checkout.
Anonymous checkouts are especially important for first-time customers. Online shopping requires trust in the merchant, and many customers don’t feel comfortable saving their contact information during their initial visit to a store. In fact, a study from the Baymard Institute found that 24% of shoppers abandoned their carts because they were forced to create an account.
3. Offer several payment options.
When a customer is ready to enter their payment information, the last thing they want to see is that you don’t provide their payment method of choice. Consider offering more payment options such as PayPal, Venmo, Amazon Pay or Bolt. Providing as many secure payment options as possible is convenient for the customer and they’ll appreciate being able to pay in a way they’re comfortable with.
4. Let customers select different shipping options.
With some shoppers waiting until the last minute to place their orders and others who buy gifts months in advance, you’ll want to offer a variety of shipping options. And making sure you have that selection in checkout can make the decision to purchase much easier.
5. Give shoppers peace of mind with shipping insurance.
Don’t let porch piracy dampen your customers’ holiday. By offering them shipping insurance, you can ensure they’ll get their order — and have a great customer experience.
Plan Shipping and Fulfillment Options Early
During the holiday season, you’ll likely experience an increase in orders. For many ecommerce businesses, that means padding shipping time to account for the busy season. For food and beverage merchants, that delay can mean the difference between a satisfied customer and a melted box of chocolates. Add to that shipping restrictions on certain goods like alcohol, and merchants have a lot to consider when it comes to shipping during the holidays.
To prepare for the heightened traffic, you’ll need to determine how you will handle shipping. There are three primary options:
- Handle shipping and fulfillment in-house.
- Outsource shipping and fulfillment with a third-party logistics provider (3PL).
- Outsource shipping and fulfillment with a dropshipper.
In-house shipping and fulfillment.
In-house shipping and fulfillment means you’re managing the inventory and the shipment for all of the orders. For many businesses, this method is convenient and works just fine; however, once the volume of orders reaches a certain point, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with managing all of the steps it takes to get items safely out the door.
Lammes Candies, a BigCommerce merchant, utilizes Shipper HQ to help solve some of the unique challenges they face when it comes to shipping.
“We rely on Shipper HQ, and this makes the process so much easier,” says Lauren Cevallos, Ecommerce and Mail Order Manager at Lammes Candies. “During the hot summers, I set up specific shipping rules using ShipperHQ to offer certain options to our customers, and it’s all executed for us on the backend. For example, if a customer orders a chocolate item or anything that could melt, and it’s going to need more than two days to ship, Shipper HQ will automatically retrieve UPS second-day shipping for our customers, helping to minimize any delays or blockers.”
Outsource shipping and fulfillment with third-party providers (3PL).
Working with a third-party provider (3PL) for shipping and fulfillment means that another company will take care of this part of your business for you. With a 3PL, you’ll be able to take advantage of bulk shipping discounts and advanced tracking technology.
Utilizing a 3PL also means customers can receive their packages faster. If there are any questions or issues regarding shipment, they can reach out to the 3PL. All of this frees up you and your team to focus on the most important aspect of your business: growth.
Outsource shipping and fulfillment with a dropshipper.
With dropshipping, products are sent directly from your wholesaler to your customers. Outsourcing shipping and fulfillment with a dropshipper cuts down on time and money spent shipping each item. Since products only leave the warehouse one time, there’s less costs involved and you don’t have to keep track of inventory, shipment or returns.
The Post-Purchase Experience
Ecommerce shops don’t just have a “brand,” they often have a deeply rooted story. This story reminds shoppers why they aren’t buying the item from a discount store or a large marketplace, but are instead going directly to a business for their products. Yes, it is critical that you tell this story on your website, email communications and social media channels, but there is no denying the power of physically seeing and reading a message to make it stick.
Create an unforgettable unboxing experience.
One important thing to remember about holiday shoppers is that they might not be buying your product for themselves. In fact, chances are your product is going to be given to someone who’s never heard of your brand before. The unboxing experience is a great time to introduce your brand and encourage new shoppers to check out your business.
One BigCommerce merchant, Silk Road Teas, prints clear brewing instructions on their packaging, so even if you’ve never purchased from the company or had a specific type of tea before, you’re ready to indulge in a taste of the far east right out of the box.
Here are some tips to improve your packaging and make the unboxing experience unforgettable.
- Add goodies to your packaging like stickers or brand cards that explain your brand story.
- Instead of the plain brown box with bubble wrap, try adding some flair to your packaging with a branded box or packing materials.
- If you’re selling high-value items, don’t add logos or pictures to the packaging. That’s just an advertisement for porch pirates, and can also cause challenges with shipping insurance.
Also, don’t forget about tracking. Customers want to follow their order from the moment they hit purchase until it’s delivered to their door. With Narvar, you can deliver an engaging, on-brand shipment tracking and messaging experience to your customers — and help to remove any anxiety about lost or delayed shipments.
Have a clear return policy.
One survey found that 96% of consumers will go back to companies who made returns and exchanges as seamless as possible. How can you build the dream return process during the holiday season?
- Prominently display your return policy on your site.
- Include instructions on how gift recipients can reuse the original shipping package for returns.
- Consider adding a return label to each shipment that can be given to the gift recipient.
If your return policy is too strict during the holiday seasons, you risk losing the sale. The holidays are a time when you should be a little more flexible and provide convenience for your customers when it comes to returns — simply because things happen. Wrong sizes are ordered, a product is faulty, expectations weren’t met, etc. The important thing for you to do is build trust by making sure your return policy is fully transparent and fair.
Execute Holiday Marketing Campaigns and Promotions
Whether it’s new technologies or promotional strategies, merchants have had to adapt their stores to meet lots of unexpected changes this year in order to sell their products in the most efficient way. That’s why it’s important to make sure your store is fully optimized and ready with its campaigns and promotional strategies before big holiday spending periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Here are some key planning points on what you can do to make sure your store is fully optimized and equipped for the frenzy of holiday selling.
Start early and plan ahead.
Marketing is often a long game, so it’s important to start getting your ducks in a row long before your customers are even thinking about shopping for the holidays. When considering a long-term marketing strategy, search engine optimization (SEO) will be something you need to plan well in advance for. Start planning holiday content and any promotions you’ll want to coordinate with it early on.
Integrate your marketing efforts.
Keeping a constant stream of content flowing is an essential part of planning a marketing strategy for the holidays. This can be done with social media channels, blog posts or video content. Any web search traffic directed to your business is good traffic. When your content is original, up-to-date and relevant to the holiday season, chances are customers will be directed to your store and boost your holiday sales.
For example, if you create a blog post on how to properly decorate for the holidays and feature a variety of your products, you have a higher chance of making a sale from customers visiting your blog. This example can be translated across many different brands, as long as the content is relevant to not only your brand but also the holiday/season you’re promoting.
Reach your customers on social media.
Posting to your store’s Instagram story, making Facebook posts promoting deals and discounts, and tweeting a product campaign with a #hashtag slogan are just some of the various ways you can use social media during the holiday season.
This is where your brand needs to be unique and creative to gain consumers’ attention. Ensuring that your social media campaigns and marketing techniques are in place before the holidays will help you boost sales and get the word out about why shoppers should visit your store.
Spiceology, a BigCommerce merchant, leverages their social media accounts to increase brand awareness and partnerships by promoting giveaways and deals. Here’s a post from their Instagram highlighting their “12 Days of Deliciousness” giveaway:
Merchants can leverage Meta for BigCommerce to easily sell products across channels. This tool makes it easy for businesses to list products and offer service appointments across the Meta family of apps, find people likely to buy, and measure results.
Plan your email strategy.
Sending promotional emails is an essential part of holiday campaigns. If you have specific holiday sales, discounts or special offers, don’t wait until the last minute to get those promotional emails out.
By capturing the attention of your customers beforehand, with the help of automated email features, you can get the word out early about any holiday promotions that will increase conversions when you need them most.
The Final Word
The holidays present an amazing opportunity for food and beverage ecommerce businesses to grow. Shoppers aren’t just buying for themselves — they’re buying for friends and family. By creating a positive experience from the moment they discover your brand to the time their package arrives safe and sound, you’re getting a customer that will return time and time again.
To create that kind of experience, focus on the customer. Give them a seamless checkout process that won’t take too much time or surprise them with hidden costs and fees. Find a shipping solution that will get your product there safe and intact. And leverage marketing and sales channels that will help create a cohesive experience for customers, like email, social media and search.
Ready to learn more about how BigCommerce can help make this holiday season a success? Head over to our Ecommerce Learning Lodge to find plenty of holiday resources to make this holiday season the best yet.