5 Things You Should Do Now to Increase Christmas Sales Online

Christmas is approaching fast and Black Friday and Cyber Monday are already passed. This year, retailers were keen to get seasonal products and displays out in shops earlier than ever, with online stores gearing for Christmas sales at the same time.

Now is the time to ensure that your back office and online sales processes are ready to handle this seasonal spike in sales. Assume your competitors are already prepared. Over the Christmas 2016 period, online sales were up 19% compared to 2015. Expect a similar uptick in 2017.

Here are a few ways you can prepare to increase online orders now before it’s too late.

#1: Review stock levels

Do you have enough stock of your best sellers? What about any leftover stock you want to shift?

Now is the time to ensure online stock levels are accurate, final orders are put in with suppliers and manufacturers, and the amount of stock showing on your websites stock management system reflects what you’ve got available and ready to ship.

Any anomaly between what is shown on your ecommerce site as available to buy, and what orders your business can actually fulfil can cause further problems down the line. Dealing with refunds for sold but unavailable items, potential chargebacks because of unfilled orders, and reputational damage at this critical time of year, must be avoided.

#2: Ensure your shipping partner(s) are ready

Can your shipping and postal partners handle higher volumes? Have you had any problems with the relationship during quieter periods? Are they good at delivering to the bulk of your customers?

If you have any doubts or questions, now is the time to review the relationship and if needed, find a new partner who can deliver the service you need. Make sure delivery cut-off times are clearly displayed on your website so that customers can’t claim they weren’t aware when they can expect to receive goods, especially if they’re buying things to go abroad to friends or family.

An unreliable shipping partner or incorrect / unclear information about delivery dates can complicate payment processes. Customers may request chargebacks because of non-delivery, regardless of who is at fault, and this can damage a merchant’s relationship with their acquirer. Processing refunds at this busy time of year is also something to be avoided where possible, instead focus resources on sales and fulfilling orders.

#3: Are your payment partners, web host and other online service providers ready?

Website traffic and transaction volumes will increase and therefore you need capacity to handle this extra volume. Don’t assume that 3rd party providers are planning for this spike, make sure they know your predicted volumes and have the capacity to provide a smooth service. You can’t afford your website or payment gateway to go down during peak times, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday; or any other supporting online services.

Review Service Level Agreements (SLA) to ensure that your business is fully supported for spikes in traffic and transactions, and speak to providers to ensure they are ready and have allocated the resources necessary to cope with peak online sales.

Also double check automated online fraud systems and security policies, to ensure high transaction volumes aren’t going to let fraudsters in to attack your bottom line.

#4: Make it easy to pay

Seasonal shoppers abandon shopping baskets when they find it difficult to pay online. In many cases customers have the option to buy the same or similar products elsewhere; or will buy a completely different item from another retailer if your customer journey is too complicated or doesn’t provide the payment options they want.

Requiring consumers to sign up for an account before they can make a purchase can result in abandoned shopping baskets, instead provide a guest checkout with the option of signing up after the transaction.

Make the payment process easier too by offering your customers’ preferred payment methods. Alternative Payment Methods (APM) speed up the payment process by reducing the number of data entry points, and also provide a trusted payment method for customers new to your business and ecommerce site.

Also ensure your website is mobile friendly. This year we will see record mcommerce seasonal sales so retailers will miss out if their website is not optimised for mobile devices. Mobile-friendly is not the same as a having a website that scales to fit different sized screens. Instead it’s a version of your website that provides a different customer experience, making it easier for customers to buy on their device.

#5: Simplify the refund process

Prior to Christmas, customers requesting refunds will want the transaction to be dealt with quickly so they can buy alternative goods. Some customers, particularly if the refund process is not clear, will bypass it entirely and request a chargeback from their card company instead. Chargebacks rates can spike at this time of year so measures should be put in place to reduce the risk.

The first step is to ensure that customers are fully informed of how to initiate a refund. The information should be easy to find on the website, on order confirmation emails, receipts and other communications.

Then the process should be straightforward with clear instructions of how to return goods and receive a refund. The sooner the money is in that customer’s account the sooner they can spend it again, and if your customer service and refund process is clear and stress free they might spend it with you.

For further advice on managing and processing online sales over the Christmas period, or to discuss your specific requirements for online payment processing, contact our team: Call +44 (0)808 159 7217 or email [email protected]