The 2021 holiday season is shaping up to be unlike any we’ve experienced before. Worldwide supply chain hiccups are leading to bare shelves even before the holiday shopping season begins. Staff shortages are forcing stores to offer limited hours. Delivery companies are stretched thin.
In order to better prepare for holiday shoppers, businesses need to plan early this year. Here are some things you can do to make this holiday season a success for your store or online business.
Track and update inventory in real-time
If you sell physical products online, make sure to add a system to monitor inventory in real-time. This year, there will be many product shortages due to the supply chain woes, and sites that have items in stock may face sudden surges as people share information about availability online.
Most e-commerce platforms allow you to track inventory. It gets more complicated if you sell the same products online as you do in a physical store. Your point of sale system might track inventory across all of your sales channels. If not, make sure to update your “live” inventory numbers frequently so you don’t have to disappoint online customers.
Provide shipping cut-offs
Shortages are also impacting shipping companies. As people do their holiday shopping online, they will appreciate knowing shipping times in advance. Check your preferred shipping provider to see their last shipment dates for guaranteed deliveries, and provide this information to shoppers. You might want to pad these by a few days to prevent disappointment and unhappy customers.
Be smart about your promotions
It usually makes sense to promote all of your products and capitalize on increased gift-giving demand this time of year. But it doesn’t make sense to sell things you don’t have.
Major food companies have told grocers to cancel promotions for popular holiday items, even things like Rice Krispies! It will be hard enough to supply enough of these products to meet normal demand, so why spend money promoting them?
You should think the same for your business. Be strategic about what you promote and when you promote it. Perhaps target your promotions to get shoppers to buy early, well ahead of shipping cutoffs.
Shoppers are getting the hint. They’ve been warned that store shelves will be sparse in the weeks leading up to Christmas. They won’t wait until Black Friday to start shopping this year.
Set up in-store displays early. Consider sending sales emails early. Begin staffing up the shipping department. Be ready for demand to pick up earlier than normal.
Sell gift cards
One thing that never runs out of supply is gift cards. Holiday shoppers will turn to gift cards when they can’t find items in stock.
If your business already sells gift cards, make them prominent on your site, especially after shipping cutoffs have passed.
If you don’t sell gift cards…well, you should. Even if you have a service business like a yoga studio, you can sell gift cards to fill the demand from your existing customers and their friends.
If you already sell gift cards, adding e-commerce capabilities to sell them online is a cinch. And if you don’t sell gift cards, consider a “minimum viable product” approach. Take payments online through a simple payment gateway such as PayPal, and then email (or snail mail!) gift cards to buyers.
Promote gift options
Make it easy for website visitors to see that you offer online ordering. If your site isn’t just an online store, put a banner at the top that directs people to where they can purchase online (whether it’s your products or gift cards.)
Provide gifts ideas that will make it easier to shop. For example, suggest gifts in various price ranges or for different types of people. Steer them to products that you are unlikely to run out of before Christmas.
Display holiday hours
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, update your site with your holiday hours. This should include special times for Black Friday and the days leading up to Christmas.
Sites like Google have made it easier to update hours for shop listings as stores have changed in response to the pandemic. Be sure to add your holiday hours to online directories.
Make these holidays happy
The past two years have been difficult for retailers. From surging and then falling demand for basic products, to shipping delays, to stock-outs, it’s been a rough ride. Hopefully, things will return to normal next year. But for this year, it’s important to be savvy and prepared.
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How to get your store ready for holiday shoppers .