How to plan for holiday cyber sales: Don

How to plan for holiday cyber sales: Don't drown in Black Friday volume

The holiday shopping season may seem far away, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about how to make the most of it for your ecommerce business.

During last year’s holiday season, shoppers spent $108.15 billion online, a 14.7 percent increase over 2016, according to research from Adobe. That was for the period of November 1 to December 31, which includes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday — huge holidays for ecommerce.

For many retailers, this is an incredibly important time of year, so it literally pays for you to be prepared for these sales in order to capture every purchase you can. And getting your business in holiday shape — and keeping it there — gives you an advantage all year round. Here are some tips on what to do to get your ecommerce business in fighting form for the holiday onslaught.

Learn from experience

Planning ahead starts with looking back at previous periods of big sales. What was your biggest sales day? What were your pain points? What kind of inventory levels did you have last year and how can that data help you plan to stay fully stocked this year? With the right information, you can build on your previous successes and come up with solutions to prevent past problems from recurring.

Check up on your checkout system

During the first quarter of 2018, 75.6 percent of online retail orders were abandoned before purchase, according to Statista. That’s a lot of missed sales opportunities. While there’s always going to be a certain amount of shopping cart abandonment because people are just window shopping or they change their minds, many carts are abandoned because customers get frustrated with the checkout process.

One way to solve this is by making registration and checkout as simple as possible. This means offering the option to check out as a guest rather than creating an account thereby minimizing the number of fields that a customer must fill out. The more time it takes to get to the purchase, the higher the chance of abandonment.

You should also make sure there are no unpleasant surprises for customers as they check out, such as lack of transparency about shipping, or the absence of certain payment options. Customers want to find the item they want, buy it as quickly as possible, and be on their way. It’s your job to be sure your process doesn’t place barriers in their way.

Ensure a smooth sales tax process

The last thing you want is to have sales tax surprises pop up when you’re slammed with holiday sales. Long before the holiday crush, you should make sure you’re complying with your sales tax obligations and that you have a process in place to ensure that collecting sales tax is a breeze.

For one thing, you’ll need to be certain that you’re registered to collect sales taxes in all the jurisdictions where you have nexus. Keep in mind that a recent Supreme Court decision opened the door to states expanding their definitions of which out-of-state businesses must collect sales tax. This means that some states may be changing their rules before the holiday season — and in the long run, you may have nexus in more states as they take advantage of the ruling to capture more sales tax revenue.

You’ll also want to be sure you’re caught up on the latest tax rates for the jurisdictions where you’re collecting tax. Again, rates could change by the time the holidays roll around, so it’s integral to have a good system for keeping tax rates up to date so you’re always charging the correct amount. It’s also important to evaluate whether your sales tax system as a whole can accommodate the kind of volume that holiday demand can generate.

Avalara’s automated tax solutions can help your business handle anything the holidays throw at you. Avalara’s cloud-based AvaTax software is updated with the latest rules, rates, and boundaries so you can be confident you’re charging the right sales tax rates. And with more than 600 prebuilt integrations into ERP, ecommerce, and other systems — plus an advanced API — it’s easy to use with your existing systems. Avalara can also help you identify where you have nexus with a nexus analysis performed by Avalara tax experts.

Make sure your mobile game is on point

More customers are doing their holiday shopping on their mobile phones every year. Sales on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, totaled $35.9 billion for the 2017 holiday season, an increase of 28 percent over the previous year, according to Adobe. Simply put, if your site is not optimized for mobile, you’re going to lose out on customers.

Clean up your site

Long before the holidays, you should take a careful look at your site to make sure it’s as good as it can be. This can include removing old images or content, fixing broken links, and optimizing your site speed. This can also be a good opportunity to fine-tune your listings by refreshing photos and descriptions.

Proactively reach out to your customers

You should have a plan in place on how you’re going to communicate with customers about holiday sales. Whether it’s via email, social media, or other means, you want to let them know what you have to offer and get them excited about doing their holiday shopping with you.

Shopping with you should be a great experience

Ultimately, you want to make sure your customers have a great experience from beginning to end. This includes making it easy for customers to use your site and find what they’re looking for as well as making it simple to complete purchases. Offering extras such as a liberal return policy or across-the-board free shipping can create a better experience for your customers and keep them coming back.

Paying attention to the details and testing with the customer in mind can help you make sure you’re offering a great experience long before the holiday rush hits — and help you take full advantage of holiday opportunities.

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