The 4 Biggest Mistakes Ecommerce Companies Make Before the Holidays

Believe it or not, the busiest shopping season of the year is nearly here. Since 2012, about a quarter of total annual retail ecommerce revenue has been generated during the holiday season.

Cyber Monday 2018 was the largest online shopping day in US history, with spending close to $7.9 billion. And 78% of ecommerce brands saw up to 30% growth in Cyber Weekend 2018 sales compared to 2017, with an additional 11% ecommerce brands seeing up to 50% growth in revenue.

Oh, and 2019 is projected to be even bigger. With so much opportunity, there is a lot of room for error. But no worries! We’ll help you avoid some common mistakes.

Missed our 2019 Holiday Accelerator Summit? We brought together the leading minds and DTC brands in ecommerce that have been through it all to make sure you — and your customers — have your best holiday shopping season yet. Watch all eight sessions on-demand by following the link below.

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Holiday ecommerce mistakes you can’t afford to make

Is your ecommerce store ready for an influx of website traffic, orders, customers, and even returns? Every part of your business, from your supply chain to your marketing team, must be on the same page. Here are the four biggest mistakes ecommerce merchants make leading up to the holidays.

Mistake #1: Assuming your website is ready to go

Gift givers and bargain hunters alike make for great potential customers during the holiday season. But if you aren’t able to give them a best-in-class shopping experience, it can be hard to convert browsers into buyers. Preparing your website for the holiday rush can help keep your conversion rates high and your customers happy.

Since 47% of online consumers expect a website to load in under two seconds, it’s critical to make sure that your website can handle the busiest shopping season. Keeping your user experience simple can decrease load time. Regular load testing can determine how your website will react under anticipated peak load conditions, as well as which elements might be causing a slowdown. In other words, load testing can help you figure out whether your website can handle holiday traffic.

Another potential ecommerce website downfall? A bad checkout experience. If your checkout is clunky or confusing, shoppers will abandon their carts and look elsewhere. Cart abandonment is an issue faced year-round by ecommerce businesses of all sizes, but with such a big sales opportunity during the holiday shopping season, it’s more important than ever to keep your conversion rates high.

You can improve conversions and decrease cart abandonment by removing unnecessary form fields, optimizing for a good mobile experience, encouraging customer trust by showcasing security, and offering affordable and fast delivery like free 2-day shipping.

“It’s paramount for people to feel confident that they will receive their products in the shortest amount of time possible. We’d hate to see our customers go somewhere else because we don’t offer 2-day shipping, so during our third holiday season with ShipBob, we used their 2-Day Express program.”

Francesca Cavallo, Co-Author of Rebel Girls

Mistake #2: Neglecting marketing and promotions

When it comes down to the wire, it doesn’t matter how festive your website looks, how seamless your checkout is, or how quickly your website loads if you aren’t bringing visitors through the (virtual) door. By strategically offering and advertising seasonal promotions, you can maximize your holiday site traffic and create customer loyalty.

One great marketing channel to use year-round is email. Email marketing can be a hugely effective tool to bring customers to your site during the holidays and get the word out about holiday promotions, but in order to send out emails, you need a list of shopper email addresses. Begin collecting customer emails as soon as possible — if you wait until the holiday shopping rush, your marketing may get lost in all of the seasonal promotional noise.

Let your email list know about Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales ahead of time with an announcement email hinting at certain deals, then a reminder email the day before or day of. Consider offering an additional exclusive discount or presale code for email subscribers to build a sense of exclusivity and encourage customer loyalty.

[Related article: 4 Emails That Improve Customer Retention for Your Online Store]

Social media is another great way to spread the word about holiday sales and promotions. Over the holidays, you can offer social media promotions as an incentive for customers to share your website with their social circles. For example, offering either 10% off the entire purchase or a free small gift when a customer retweets a specific tweet.

Similarly to email marketing, offering social media-only promotions can help customers feel like they’re part of an exclusive group, making them more likely to purchase. These are just two of the many ecommerce marketing techniques your store should be leveraging to make the most of the holiday shopping season — just make sure you have time to dedicate to these important tasks.

“ShipBob lets me outsource the things I’m not good at, nor want to be good at, and frees up my time for those at which I excel and can make an impact on my business like marketing. The fact that I don’t have to think about my shipping integration, do anything when someone orders from me, or worry that something might not get to them makes it more hassle-free.”

Tracey Wallace, Founder of Doris Sleep

Mistake #3: Not ordering enough inventory

The holidays are a season of high demand, and more demand requires more inventory. However, too often ecommerce businesses find themselves scrambling to stock their stores adequately for the holiday season, especially for big sales days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Stockouts can create unhappy shoppers — especially potential new customers who are visiting your store for the first time to do some holiday shopping. Make sure to communicate early and often about the status of inventory with your supplier or manufacturer. Share specific figures around predicted order volume so that you can make sure to produce and order enough product for the holiday rush.

Ordering too little inventory can cause stockouts, while too much can lead to a low inventory turnover rate and high spend on an inventory storage system, products becoming obsolete, and/or too much capital tied up in inventory. If you were in business in previous holiday seasons, you can use historical data to predict sales levels this year, allowing for a more strategic ordering of inventory.

Keep an eye on inventory levels throughout the season as well. Working with a third-party logistics or 3PL provider that offers complete inventory management can help.

Within the ShipBob dashboard, for example, you can track how much stock you have available at ShipBob’s fulfillment centers at any given time, sync your holiday inventory with your online store, and set reorder notifications that remind you when it’s time to send more product.

“Over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we will release many new products and we anticipate selling two months of unit volume in that weekend alone. It’s really easy to create new SKUs and restock existing ones using ShipBob’s technology. I feel confident that ShipBob will make the holidays a success for us, live up to our customers’ expectations, and deliver on time.”

Carl Protsch, Co-Founder of FLEO Shorts

Mistake #4: Waiting too long to get started with a new 3PL

It can be harrowing to handle peak season order fulfillment on your own or with a small team, which is why we recommend outsourcing fulfillment to an established 3PL provider like ShipBob as soon as possible.

“Right before Thanksgiving in preparation for Cyber Monday and our Business Insider launch, I received my inventory. A day later, the inventory was in ShipBob’s fulfillment center, and a couple days later, we were successfully shipping orders out to customers. Looking back, I’m still not sure how we pulled everything off, and I have no clue what I would have done without ShipBob.”

Steve Staffan, founder and CEO of Brummell Co.

Whether this is your first holiday season at a quickly-growing business, or you need to switch 3PLs before the holiday rush, the sooner you get in touch with a new 3PL, the better. There is a definite sense of urgency when it comes to choosing a solid ecommerce fulfillment partner in time for the holidays.

If you think you’ll need more staff or outside help to handle the increase in orders, make sure you get it squared away by the end of October at the absolute latest to ensure you meet customer expectations around holiday shipping.

Fulfillment centers are likely to experience delays in receiving inventory during the holidays, as thousands of other customers are also sending more product, more frequently. Remember, this is the craziest time of year for anyone in the logistics space. If you are looking to work with a new 3PL for holiday fulfillment, be as proactive as you can.

Learn more

Overall, the holidays can be daunting for any ecommerce business. With online sales expected to break records again this holiday season, your business can’t afford to make the mistakes listed above. The best way to meet customer expectations and finish 2019 strong is to start preparing for the holidays now.

To learn more about conquering the holiday rush, download “The Ecommerce Retailer’s Guide to Preparing for the Holidays.”

Download the Guide