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26Nov, 2014

Checklist for the Post-Holiday Season

Author Matt Category

Holiday season is here (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.) and it is expected to break all sales records yet again. Retailers are all geared up with deals to promote and customers to take advantage of them. But, the holiday season fever is no longer restricted to the brick-and-motor stores and has spread to online businesses as well. Online businesses, like brick-and-motor retailers, invest a lot of time and money in preparing for the season because they understand the difference these few days can make and how the rise in online holiday sales stretches their businesses in various ways.

A successful holiday season can bring a lot of glory to you and your business but can be equally painful if not managed correctly. You have managed to spend all the marketing dollars to attract customers to your store and make them purchase; but imagine what will happen to all these customer orders (and the impact it will have on your brand subsequently) if they are not managed properly. You cannot afford to leave a single customer order, and fulfilling them all is the real challenge. Notably, fulfillment is perhaps the most important aspect of an ecommerce business since it’s the last thing customers recollect about their interaction with your store. This post highlights few things that you must take care of after customers have placed an order, or when the holiday season is over.

Handle Customer Service Requests Efficiently

With rising competition and decreasing product differentiation customer service is an important differentiator which can help you retain or lose customers. After these big shopping days, you will definitely have tons of customer service questions related to the orders, products, etc. Make sure your customer service reps handle them effectively and efficiently. Provide them all the information they need and autonomy to make important calls when talking to a customer. To make things convenient prepare a FAQ page on your website to support your customers’ online, turn on live chat and give your reps ample training to handle strenuous situations. Remember, here lays your opportunity to grow your customer base and make them a repeat customer; make the best use of it.

Manage Customer Expectations of Timely Delivery

Customers are always anxious of the timely delivery of their online orders. The holiday season brings in more uneasiness for them and you need to manage their uneasiness effectively. Convince them that you understand how the timely delivery of the order will bring a smile on the face of their loved one and why that is important for you.

Manage Returns

After the busy shopping days, you face the nightmares of returns. When a product is returned the team has to be prepared with streamlined systems and processes to manage returns successfully. Ensure that your return workflow is not very complex and works fine.

Look back and start preparing for the next year

No matter how prepared you were few issues will always sneak in. While you could not have anticipated those it is important to look back and analyze what worked well for you and what did not and identify things you could do next year to do better.

  • Start Early

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are slowly losing their charm; deals are now the norm throughout the year. Start early, instead of relying solely on sales on specific days declare your deals few weeks in advance and let customers pre-book them or even let them place orders. This will not only spread the traffic over multiple days it will also give you the breathing space to plan things in advance.

  • Leverage Technology

Many small and medium ecommerce businesses follow the process of manually entering customer, product, and order information between systems (ecommerce storefront, ERP, CRM, accounting software, etc.) which is a slow and error prone process. While this can be a problem during any period of the year the scale of the problem is much more during the holiday season. With orders coming in every second the manual process will find it difficult to match the speed.

Imagine the impact manual inventory update can have on your customer experience. You will often find your customers placing an order for a product which is no longer in stock. Also an erroneous update to inventory can lead to massive overselling or underselling of an item.

To save your business during this demanding season, you need a single point integrated robust ecommerce solution that can also streamline information flow across systems. Seamless integration among your ecommerce store, ERP, CRM etc. helps to cater your customer needs in real time and garnish customer-merchant relationships and improve sales.

  • Guarantee Up-Time

There is nothing worse than your site or your backend systems choking up when your customers are waiting to purchase from you. A technical snag is the last thing you can think of in the holiday season as it disturbs both the new and existing orders. All you have to do is to run technical checks to assure that all the interfaces are compatible, and can be successfully run together without compromising on quality.

  • Increase Resources

Holiday season is the major reason that contributes to the seasonality of the business. The scale during this period is difficult to match with during the rest of the year. With huge customer orders to deliver in time, it is good for retailers to increase the number of fulfillment centers for this season as that would decrease the shipping charges and time for delivery and increase customer satisfaction and sales. Simultaneously, hire new employees and train the existing ones to handle extra operational work. Schedule the right number of workers at different steps to streamline operations. Delegate responsibilities, explain goals to your employees and offer them incentives for achieving targets as this would encourage them to take on the hard work.

  • Look at other Options

Get innovative and explore other options that will decrease the overhead on you to deliver. For example the advancement in technology now allows you to let your customers order online and pick up in store. This will decrease the overhead on you to ship the product and other operational issues. You can also explore options like tie-up with other businesses to drop ship items directly to your customers, take orders in advance, etc.

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Checklist for the Post-Holiday Season