November / December 2019 Holiday Your Store Wizards Update

Scott SanfilippoThe classic Andy Williams song sums it up pretty well, it simply is the “most wonderful time of the year.” From the electric feeling we experience when the holiday decorations go up, to the rush we get when orders spike overnight and you instantly know the holidays have arrived.

In this month’s update, I’m going to pass on telling you what we’ve been up to. Let’s just say we’ve been busy doing holiday prep of our own making sure we’re ready, willing and available to assist you, should the need arise, during the busy weeks that lie ahead.

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Adding a Dash of “WOW” to Holiday Order Packaging

The holiday orders are going to soon be rolling in and with them a slew of first-time customers either ordering gifts for someone, or treating themselves to an item they’ve been eyeing up and saving all year to purchase.

These first-time buyers can quickly turn into lifetime customers if you wow them from the start by making them feel their purchase was truly appreciated.

Let’s face it, when that box from Amazon arrives on someone’s porch, it’s “just another box from Amazon.”  There’s nothing special about it and there’s not going to be any surprises inside when it’s opened (unless they happened to ship the wrong item!).

But, you can make YOUR packages stand out, show that the order meant something, and delight the person who opened the box.

How?

It’s a lot simpler than you think.

Give Thanks
When was the last time you opened a box and found a thank you note tucked inside with the items you purchased?  That little gesture is a rarity these days but it can mean so much to your customer.

It’s human nature to want to feel appreciated and when you’re spending hard earned money somewhere, that appreciation is warranted even more.

It only takes a second to have someone write “Thanks for ordering from our small business, we hope you enjoy your holiday” on a packing slip or invoice.  No stickers, no stamps, no pre-printed stuff… have a human with a pen in hand do this.

If you want to go an extra step, notecards printed with your company logo can be printed real inexpensively and are great for things like this.

This small, simple gesture is something that should be done year-round, but the holidays are a great time to start something new!

Give Gifts
While your customer may be ordering a gift, why not surprise them with a gift of your own?  Now you don’t have to break the bank or get all fancy here, but tossing in a “freebie” with an order, unannounced of course, makes that customer say, “wow, this is really nice that they did this.”

Promotional items with your company’s logo on it are perfect for surprise gifts like this.  Or, if a manufacturer has a sampling program, samples are great as well and can turn into repeat business.

Gifts inside orders were something my online stores did year round.  Mousepads, free samples of pet treats, pens, notebooks, and one we did every year around the holidays… a magnetic calendar complete with four coupons they could use during each quarter!  The calendar was something that was kept around all year long and the coupons served as a subtle reminder to place another order.

Items like these can cost pennies but the goodwill they provide can lead to years of repeat business.

Give Back
If you’re still using non-eco friendly packing material, now is the time to switch.  There are many viable and affordable alternatives to styrofoam packing peanuts and plastic bubble wrap.

Today’s consumers are savvy when it comes to finding ways to go green in their lives and support businesses that help in that mission.  

While you may not be able to investigate materials and suppliers in time for the holiday, you can start the ball rolling now to make it one of your goals for 2020.  Perhaps one of the easiest and quickest things to change is packing peanuts. Bio-degradable ones made from corn starch are easy to obtain and can quickly be introduced.

If you’re going to introduce green packaging, be sure to let your customers know about it!  They’ll appreciate the effort you’re making to give back to Mother Nature and will share the news with their friends as well.

Don’t Be Scrooge!
If there’s any advice I can give, it’s just that.  Don’t make your customers call you Ebenezer because you make their experience with you so difficult it would make Tiny Tim cry!

Make sure your contact information is clear and easy to find on your website.  This includes a phone number! Yes, I know… nobody picks up the phone anymore, right?  Wrong! You’re a business. Someone is handing you money for things you sell. Let them talk to a human when they need to.  If your site doesn’t have a phone number listed on it, put one on there.

Don’t make customers jump through hoops to return an item that didn’t fit or wasn’t as expected.  Keep in mind how easy it is for someone to return something to Amazon. Making a customer email, fill out a form, or call for a return authorization first just doesn’t cut it anymore.  Make sure your return policy is simple to understand and is hassle free. A few bad reviews about making returns can be a nightmare!

If someone says they can purchase an item for less at a competitor, match it and go the extra mile to make them happy.  Don’t pass up the sale because you don’t want to lose a buck or two on an item. You’ll make that back on return business.

Thanks, come back again
Give your customers a reason to come back.  One of the simplest ways of doing so is by providing them with a coupon they can use on a future order.  Have these offers pre-printed on cards you can toss in with each order or send them a coupon in an email a few days after their order was placed.

Keep it going
After you see the success these small gestures will have, you’re going to want to continue year round.  After all, new customers come around daily not just at Christmas time, so make sure you keep them happy so you can jingle all the way to the bank!

 

Important 2019 Holiday Dates for eCommerce Store Owners

Grab your day planner, whip out your phone, or clear your whiteboard… it’s time to write down some important dates on your calendar!  No, I’m not talking about the next meet-up, conference, or trade show, I’m talking about important dates for the remainder of the year that every eCommerce store owner should be aware of.

Here we go:

  • Wednesday, November 27, 2019 – Breathe deep!  Take tomorrow off for rest and family time, because things are about to get real.
  • Thursday, November 28, 2019 – Thanksgiving.  The family holiday that typically ushers in the biggest season for us eCommerce merchants.  Before zonking out after all the turkey, be sure to schedule your email blast for your Black Friday sale if you’re going to be holding one – and you should!
  • Friday, November 29, 2019 – Black Friday.  While this day is typically reserved as a big shopping day for bricks-and-mortar merchants, it’s also one for online merchants as well.  While you may want to save your best deals for Cyber Monday, shoppers are going to be looking for Black Friday deals from you as well, so put some out there along with a few teasers of what’s to come on Monday too.
  • Saturday, November 30, 2019 – Small Business Saturday.  This is more of a bricks-and-mortar day manufactured by American Express to encourage people to visit local retailers and support the community.  While it’s not really a big event for online merchants, those with a retail storefront should take advantage of the promotion.  If you accept American Express cards, they have promotional material you can request to show your location is a participating merchant.
  • Monday, December 2, 2019 – Cyber Monday.  It’s the day shoppers have waited for all year!  The biggest online sales day of the year has arrived and this year it should be bigger than ever.  Save your best deals for this day and sit back and watch the orders roll in.  In the days leading up to Cyber Monday, be sure to schedule email blasts teasing some of the terrific deals you’re going to be offering.  Then, schedule multiple emails throughout the day reminding your customers of specials and offers as well as “time is running out” to take advantage of them.  Just remember one thing – you’re going to get a lot of orders on this day, make sure you’re staffed appropriately to get as many of those out in time as possible – don’t risk negative reviews and customer dissatisfaction by not being prepared.
  • Monday, December 9, 2019 – Green Monday.  This is what is considered the biggest sales day in December.  Why?  Because last minute shoppers like me realized that I didn’t even think about shopping for gifts yet and I better get moving!  Consider offering a few specials – especially deals that offer free shipping or discounted express shipping so you’re easing their fears about orders not arriving in time for the holiday.  If you have excess inventory that didn’t move, this would be a great time to try to blow that stock out at a discount.
  • December 22 – 30, 2019 – Hanukkah
  • Tuesday, December 24, 2019 – Christmas Eve
  • Wednesday, December 25, 2019 – Christmas Day
  • Tuesday, December 31, 2019 – New Year’s Eve
  • Wednesday, January 1, 2020 – New Year’s Day

One thing that every store owner should do is to alert their customers to shipping cut-off dates.  Nobody wants to place an order, not be told it won’t arrive in time for Christmas and have to deal with a return or complaint.

If you drop-ship items, confirm what cut-off dates with your vendors are and mark those items appropriately.

If most of your items ship within 24 hours, create a graphic, similar to the one below, and place it on a page on your site letting customers know of the cut-off dates based on the various shipping methods.

Finally, let’s talk about returns.  They’re going to happen, so make sure you’re communicating your policy on your website.

Be clear about what items can and can’t be returned and what, if any, restrictions apply (such as must be unworn, must be unopened, must be made in X number of days, etc).  Most of all, don’t make your customers jump through hoops to return something.  Amazon has changed the way merchants handle returns, so you need to adapt but not be unreasonable.  Your return policy should be simple, straightforward and easy to follow.

Have more tips to share with fellow eCommerce store owners, post them in the comments.

October Internet Sales Tax Update – Four Additional States Start Collecting Tax

While confusion still abounds concerning sales tax on Internet purchases, it’s important for eCommerce store owners to remain in the know when it comes to this important issue.

On October 1, 2019, four more states have enacted or updated economic nexus laws according to our partner, TaxJar.  These states are Arizona, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Tennessee.

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An Organized Warehouse is Essential for a Successful Holiday Season

Welcome to October!  Or should I ask, “where did the year go?”  It’s hard to believe we are now in the fourth quarter and before we know it we’ll be ringing in the year 2020.

As we approach the holiday shopping season, it’s time to start getting your eCommerce business ready for the onslaught of orders you’re going to start receiving in just a few short weeks.

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Speed Test: Follow These Steps to Test Your Store & Learn How to Speed Things Up

How fast does your store load on your mobile device?  No, I mean how fast does your store really load on your mobile device?

You may think your store loads quickly, but have you ever asked Google if it’s fast enough?

Chances are, you and the search giant have a different definition of exactly what “fast” is.

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Search & AMP: Two Must-Haves Moving into the Holiday Season

With the start of September, store owners really only have 60 days to make sure their site is ready for the holiday shopping season. Over the past few years, we’ve seen shoppers take to shopping earlier and earlier thanks to stores pushing out sales and promotions before the traditional start of the season – Black Friday.

While most store owners aren’t going to make major changes to their store this time of year, such as a redesign, there are some things worth implementing ahead of the holiday rush that can have an impact on sales.

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