Online Shopping Will Be Red-Hot This Holiday Season. Is Your Business Ready?

Shipping companies are predicting that this holiday season will be a big one for them, which means small businesses need to step up their e-commerce strategy.
October 30, 2014

The United States Postal Service, UPS and FedEx expect a collective 14-percent jump in parcel deliveries this holiday season. It’s just one more sign that online holiday shopping will be huge this year.

For small retailers, it’s also a wake-up call: You must ensure your e-commerce operations are ready for a potential big uptick in traffic and embrace consumers’ growing preference of buying gifts over the Internet. Retailers that aren’t prepared might find themselves struggling to keep up—or worse, miss the boat completely.

Another reason to care about online shoppers: The Deloitte 2014 annual holiday survey finds that “omni-channel shoppers”—those who shop via online, mobile and in-store—spend 66 percent more on gifts than shoppers who just buy in store. 

Small-business owners and retailers can prepare for booming online sales this holiday season by doing the following:

1. Don’t make your website an afterthought. Make sure your website makes a great first impression—one that shoppers will want to keep coming back to. Use the website to promote in-store events and specials, and give your online customers a unique, but carefree shopping experience, just like you try to do in store. Also make sure it’s easy for online shoppers to find and buy gifts online. (Use these tips for how to maximize your web presence on Small Business Saturday as a starting point.)

2. Make sure people can find you online. People won’t shop on your website if they don’t know you have online sales. Promote your e-commerce site to in-store shoppers by slipping postcards into their shopping bags, placing a sign next to your register or promoting it via social media or email campaigns. Also ensure your website shows up in online searches for key products you sell and when shoppers type your business name into a search engine. (Chicago Style SEO offers tips on how brick-and-mortar retailers can improve their SEO.)

3. Consider low-cost shipping and gift wrapping. Big-box retailers are upping the ante online this year. Wal-Mart will match online competitors’ prices and Target is offering free shipping throughout the holiday season. Surveys show that shoppers look for low-priced shipping and will even abandon online shopping carts if they get sticker-shock from shipping costs. Small retailers may also consider offering their online buyers complimentary gift-wrapping around the holidays, particularly if that’s a perk they get in-store.

4. Know when online holiday shoppers are out. A recent study by Google Analytics identified the busiest e-commerce holiday shopping days, which includes obvious standouts Cyber Monday (the first Monday in December) and Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) along with other days in December. Consider targeting any online marketing or pay-per-click ad campaigns you do to the busiest online shopping days to get the most bang for your buck.

Read more articles on sales.

Photo: iStockphoto