5 Lessons E-commerce Companies Can Learn from the Last Holiday Season

Hand on laptop with ornaments and gifts in background

Last year’s holiday shopping season was an incredibly fruitful time for e-commerce companies, with record-breaking sales reported on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and overall U.S. online sales increasing 10.5 percent when compared to 2015 holiday spending.

The holiday shopping (and shipping) season will be here before you know it. Rather than wait until October and November to roll around, why not start planning now and make you sure have a strong holiday season once again?

The first place every e-commerce business should start is with last year’s data. Here are some areas to pay close attention to:

1. Stocked Inventory

While shopping trends and product popularity may differ from year to year, it is important to have an idea of how your inventory performed during the last holiday season in case those trends hold up in 2017.

Questions to ask:

  • Was there anything you had an excess of at the end of the holiday season?
  • What about top sellers? Were you properly stocked or did you run out of them early?
  • Which items did users purchase instead of unavailable merchandise?
  • Did you have enough shipping materials on hand to get all ordered items out the door or were there shortages there?

2. Holiday-Specific Marketing Campaigns

For some e-commerce companies, it will make sense to keep your marketing and sales pushes going consistently through the holiday season. For others, you may find that your business would do better targeting more particular timeframes or holiday audiences.

Questions to ask:

  • Were there any marketing efforts (such as emails, special pop-up offers, blog posts) that fell flat last year?
  • On which days of the week, times of day, or specific holidays did your marketing campaigns perform the best?
  • Would your consumers benefit from advanced notice through earlier marketing campaign launches?

3. Shipping Strategy

As consumer expectations grow around shipping options, it is up to you to adjust your e-commerce shipping strategy accordingly. For the holiday season, this can be tough as you already have a lot to contend with—preparing now will definitely make things easier as you approach peak shipping times.

Questions to ask:

  • What were the easiest and most difficult aspects of last year’s shipping strategy?
  • Did you find out too late that you paid too much to ship top-selling items when more cost-effective options were available? Be sure to compare shipping rates to determine the best carrier for your needs.
  • Did free shipping factor into your holiday strategy? With 47 percent of customers saying that free shipping was one of the most important things during the 2016 holiday season, this is something that deserves a lot of attention going into this season.

4. Returned Merchandise

Returns are a part of conducting business online. However, with increased sales expected around the holidays, it is nice to look back at what happened with returned merchandise last year. If issues were related to things like poor product descriptions or unclear shipping or returns policies, you could fix those now. Otherwise, it is good to have this information to help you prepare for the post-season onslaught.

Questions to ask:

  • What percentage of items purchased during the holiday season were returned last year?
  • What were the most common reasons cited for those returns? (If you do not have this information, make sure you have a way to track it going forward.)
  • Did you receive the majority of holiday merchandise returns in January and was your team capable of handling them?

5. Customer Service

Just because you do not have a brick-and-mortar store where your associates can assist shoppers in person doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other ways to help customers during the holiday season. Live chat, social media, email, phone—if your customers need assistance, you need to be there for them.

Questions to ask:

  • Did you have enough staff manning your contact platforms last year or were customers left waiting?
  • What were the most common questions customers asked, and do you have a self-service FAQ to address them this year?
  • Did your site run into any performance problems that would require the assistance of a web developer?

Now is the perfect time to think about what worked and what didn’t during last year’s holiday rush. They say hindsight is 20/20, so take that crystal-clear vision and use it to build a better holiday strategy for 2017.

About Endicia
Endicia is a leading provider of internet-based postage services that make it easier and more affordable to ship parcels through the U.S. Postal Service®. We know that shipping can be complex and our goal is to simplify your shipping operations so you can focus on doing what you do best. Visit us at endicia.com to learn more.

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