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Holiday E-Commerce Tips For Businesses: Fix the Basics

Oct 20, 2021

E-commerce companies have spent most of this year getting ready for the busy holiday season that’s now fast approaching. It takes time to get the right technology, processes and infrastructure in place to support the heavy workload that the holiday season entails for e-commerce businesses.

This is the time of year when many system integrators and platform vendors get to flex their digital muscles and make humble-brags like "Yeah, our platform managed (an enormous number) in traffic and helped raise the conversion rate by this and that." By January, retailers hope to draw a sigh of relief that they made their numbers.

The truth is that this season is more and more about the coming year than making numbers for the current year. In fact, the holiday season is a chance to heavily increase the number of e-commerce customers in your database - and build loyalty for a solid revenue stream in 2022.


How to Optimize Your E-Commerce Business for Black Friday

By the time you read this it will be too late to add new, cool features or implement new payment and delivery options for the upcoming Black Friday and holiday e-commerce season. What you can do is – fix the basics. It might not be what is on top of your e-commerce roadmap, but it can make a significant impact on your holiday sales performance.

In fact, it can be the difference between red and black numbers for your business long term. We expect another uptick this year in online sales as the pandemic continues.

So, what do we mean by the basics? It’s all about three things:

  • Site performance
  • Customer experience
  • Business processes

We’ll use a real-life example below to illustrate how important these three basic e-commerce tactics are and why getting this right is critical to your long-term commerce success.  


How to Prep Your E-Commerce Business for the Holidays

A high-end fashion retailer that we work with experienced some amazing e-commerce sales results during the Black Friday week of last year:

  • 7 million visits in one day
  • 4 orders per second
  • 90K new customers acquired during the Black Friday week
  • $25 million sales revenue generated during the Black Friday week

Let’s play with those numbers. What would happen to this e-tailer if their online store was unavailable for just one minute? The math says they would lose around 1200 visits and 325 orders. With an average order value of $30, that means nearly $10K in lost sales per minute.

With an average order value of $30, that means nearly $10K in lost sales per minute.

And that’s only the short-term loss. Experience tells us there’s so much more at stake here. A bad first buying experience will affect customers' willingness to come back to this store. That means one minute of downtime during the holiday season will imply:

  • Revenue loss – no orders coming through during downtime
  • Loyalty loss – all visitors experiencing the downtime should be seen as lost long-term, loyal customers.
  • Customer acquisition loss – the marketing dollars spent on driving traffic to your site during that downtime is basically money down the drain.

Make sure to test your site performance thoroughly before the holiday craziness begins. It is better to have it fail when you have 0.3 orders per second than 5.4 orders per second.



How to Optimize The E-Commerce Customer Experience Prior to the Holidays

Above we discussed the loss due to poor site performance. Now add this to a generally bad customer experience cost.

When it comes to customer experience, set your focus on convenience and simplicity in every step of the buying journey. Customers should be able to easily find what they’re looking for, and checking out should be like a playground slide. They should be out and away before they have time to blink.

There’s obviously a ton of analytics that you continuously look at to learn how customers browse your site. However, at this late stage you may want to complement that with some qualitative research to capture some last-minute optimization needs.

If you’re wondering just how to conduct that research, It’s actually pretty simple. Ask some of your customers for feedback.

Identify your “target buying persona” in your customer database and offer them an attractive discount on one order in exchange of their input on what they find annoying during the shopping journey. The cost of such an effort will for sure be much lower than the cost of acquiring 90K new customers after Black Friday.


How You can Streamline the E-Commerce Buyer's Journey for This Holiday Season

Walk through your business processes related to each and every step of the buying journey.

Identify where you are dependent on external partners and systems.

Load test your e-commerce site along with any supporting systems, such as payment engines, customer support ticket system and order management. Will these be able to scale and handle the volumes you are expecting during the holiday season?

Study your process flow charts in detail and identify any steps that can be removed or accelerated to optimize the customer experience. Can you speed up the curbside pick-up process? Add dynamic content to your customer service FAQ? Fine-tune order packaging?

It’s important to remember that consumers today expect the same level of service and convenience online that they do in person. This may seem challenging, but the reward is worth it. Customers who experience a smooth and convenient buying journey are more likely to become loyal and return for repeated purchases.