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Holiday Season: How to Make the Most out of Your E-Commerce Store (and Not Die from Work Overload)

8 min read
Oct 23, 2018
Holiday season for ecommerce tips

You’re an eCommerce store owner waking up on Black Friday morning. You’ve been preparing the promotional campaign for a few weeks or months ahead. Now it’s the time for busy weeks to come, likely with a few additional part-time employees hired. So how does this period look in real-life for an e-commerce store?

According to Ned from Not Another Bill, an online store selling gift sets:

"Our normal day is pretty chaotic, we do all the fulfillment in-house so during busy days/weeks its a melting pot of stamp licking, customer service, monogramming, papercuts, packing and high fiving the postmen coming to collect the daily parcels."

Is running a business much different during the Black Friday season?

"Black Friday season is much much busier as people tend to save their shopping until then! We did 25-30% off sitewide last year for the weekend and I think it will be similar this year."

But Black Friday is only the beginning to hectic time for e-commerce business owners between November and December.

What are the most common business problems during Holiday peak season?

The total US retail e-commerce sales have already reached more than USD 125b each quarter. To give you a rough idea of the scale, it’s close to the whole GDP (Gross Domestic Product) generated by a well-developed country, like Sweden.

Ecommerce retail sales in the US 2016-2018

According to RJMetrics, November and December drive 30% more e-commerce revenue than non-holiday months and this Holiday period supplies 50-100% more revenue compared to the shopping days throughout the rest of the year. Knowing this, we could say that there are 4.2m average cars sold during this period.

This sales seasonality impacts whole retail and online space industry with the period being the busiest time for entrepreneurs.

Busy, booked, not enough time...

Let’s see how Black Friday season looks like for one of e-commerce store owners:

“Black Friday Sales weekend is one of our busiest weekends of the entire year. We offer special discount pricing this weekend that allows the consumers to purchase items that they would not normally consider. We take the time to give back to our returning customers and also new customers that are using our service for the first time. It’s no different during the time between November and December. Generally, we see a sales growth of about 50% when compared to other time periods.” Tim Corona, National Sales Manager, LiftKits4Less (Magento Store selling automotive parts)

The most often quoted problem by entrepreneurs is too little time to handle the higher volume of sales during this period. This increased work demand impacts the part-time labor market, with many students finding a part-time job within e-commerce businesses.

According to Tim from LiftKits4Less:

“We also have more part-time employees packing staff during the Black Friday period.”

Tip: Start hiring early, the more time you have for training your part-time employees, the better job they’ll be doing for you during Holiday Season.

Increased traffic and more customer support needed

It shouldn’t surprise you that Holiday season drives even 28% higher traffic to online stores. This impacts the support needed to the customers at your online store. If you fail to deliver, customers will likely buy from another online store.

How does it look like in real life?

“We see the traffic doubles during our peak season, this, however, is supported by our extensive knowledge base materials and live chat option available on our website.” Henry Reith, Infiniti Telecommunications (Online store based on Magento selling phone systems)

Increased customer support efforts have a major impact on the businesses focused on delivering individual service.

According to Henry:

“For service and maintenance, there will be a spike around any national Holidays (Easter, Christmas/New Year, Long Weekends) where we will receive multiple inquiries about how to change out of office messages and greetings. Also, twice a year about half the states in Australia change the clocks from winter time to summer time, and we will receive a lot of inquiries about how to change the time on people's phone systems.”

TIP: Use additional tools for your business like LiveChat's ChatBot extension to maximize efficiency or automate some of your manual queries.

Delayed deliveries, supply shortage & returns’ handling

Logistics companies work day and night to make Holiday season as smooth and efficient as possible. Still, you’re surely familiar with the delays of your packages coming your or your customers’ way.

How did it look like during last year’s Holiday season?

“Amazon is already expecting delay problems — we know this from UPS and certainly from our own flight problems — and we’re expecting that it’s going to get worse in the next two weeks leading up to Christmas.” Robert Kirchner, a pilot for Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings

It’s not uncommon to see these types of quotes during Holiday time which makes it twice as important to plan your supplies and logistics in advance.

TIP: Diversify your logistics suppliers to make sure you’re able to switch between them during a busy time.

How to make things work during Holiday Season

You already know about the issues you experience during a Holiday period. I’m sure you love seeing the impact of Holiday season on your sales results. But going through this time doesn’t need to be full of stress and anxiety. Let me show you a few tips entrepreneurs use to maximize their store’s performance and not die from work overload.

Plan ahead your social media campaigns

Holiday Season Buffer

Posting on social media is fun. But it takes a lot of time and resources. In today’s world, social posting is something that can be automated and done in advance.

Holiday period is not the best time to think about another Facebook or Instagram post you’d like to publish. Instead, you can use social media scheduling apps like Buffer or Hootsuite to plan whole social media campaigns in advance. Design your graphics with DIY design tools, like Canva or Stencil, set up the publishing schedule, from time to time adding a few photos of your team working at the office during Holiday Season.

This will save your time for other work to do, at the same time keeping your fans engaged and more likely to buy at your store.

Hire additional support representative

It might not be the case for each e-commerce store out there but it’s likely you will experience a significant increase in the customer support queries during Holiday time (with LiveChat’s staff prediction functionality, you get instant data about the estimated number of support reps needed to handle the chats).

You need to make sure your customers get the right and timely answers to their queries. Hire an additional customer support specialist (if your budget is tight, it can be a part-time employee), do the short training and save time for other tasks like logistics. Maybe the person you hired will become your full-time employee after the Holiday time?

Set-up a bot to automate responses to the most common queries

Holiday Season ChatBot

Communication with customers provides you with a huge amount of data about the most common issues. If you find yourself repeatedly answering the same queries, it’s time to automate things. E.g. why not set-up an automated chat response telling a visitor about the estimated delivery time, when the question arises?

With LiveChat and ChatBot, you can set-up your custom automated conversations based on the gathered data. Use it to create pre-defined chat scenarios for most common questions at your store. For example, if you tend to get a lot of questions about the payment methods available at your store, you can simply set-up an automated message whenever the visitor asks about payments at your store.

This is how chat customer support works at Infiniti Telecommunications:

“A lot of the time we can direct general website visitors to the support articles about changing the clock on the phone systems if needed. These extra inquiries are not sales related at the time, but by being there to support current customers and maybe non-customers, when businesses are looking for a new phone system they will remember we gave them some helpful advice when they had to change the settings on the phone system.” Henry Reith, Infiniti Telecommunications

Plan your logistics and divide responsibilities

Nobody can prepare for every problem or issue that arises during the Holiday Shopping season. There are simply things we’re not able to predict, like an electricity outage, massive products’ default or delivery delays. Still, make sure you’re in control of the issues which can be managed.

This means planning ahead some of your activities and dividing responsibilities wisely. To plan specific actions, you can simply use Google Calendar. If you’re looking for more advanced ways to manage your projects, you can use project management tools, like Trello or Asana.

Focus on what really matters

It’s easy to become tired and unmotivated when you have so many things on your mind. And while the advice to focus on the main thing might seem obvious and non-sophisticated, it’s often a nightmare, especially to smaller e-commerce businesses.

Handling many things at once, it’s easy to forget about the most important ones - our customers who are there in need of the best customer service possible. To make your customer support work, it’s not only worth to equip ourselves with the best possible customer service tools but also to keep ourselves motivated. So make sure your team gets a good sleep. After all, these are the people on your team who will decide about your Holiday’s campaign success.

Maximizing the profits, minimizing the effort

If you still believe the amount of work you put into your business during Holiday time translates into more profit or sales earned, why don’t you test another approach? Sometimes shifting your efforts towards planning ahead of time and optimizing your work might make you and your team more productive.

So equip yourself with any additional resources you need, plan your work ahead and maximize your Holiday Season’s efficiency. LiveChat, integrated with your online store is one of the customer support tools to help you but it’s you and your team who will handle the tool and will need to provide an excellent customer service.