How businesses can supercharge their online stores for holiday sales

Big sales targets are coming, and so is Christmas. The festive season is the busiest time of year for retailers – just take the 90% of Australians surveyed by Shopify Australia earlier this month who said they planned to shop during Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM). 

With Shopify merchants around the globe generating record-breaking Black Friday sales this year of nearly $2.9* billion (from the start of Black Friday in New Zealand through the end of Black Friday in California), there are plenty of opportunities for small businesses to sell a large quantity of products in a short period of time. 

But peak seasons like this require specific preparation if retailers want to move sales from the shopping cart to doorstep delivery.

We spoke to Bridget Taylor from Shopify’s APAC Merchant Success team to get her tips for merchants to help meet consumer demands and drive more sales during the holidays. 

Know where your consumers are

There are multiple ways to run holiday promotions, so it’s vital that online retailers choose the right channels, platforms and apps to capture the attention of their target audience.

“It’s important for businesses to engage their customers on their favourite social media platforms, or wherever they are spending the most time or getting the most information from,” says Bridget.

“Good old-fashioned email marketing, for example, might seem boring but it can generate sizable traffic. And with 27 percent of young Australians likely to purchase something through social media, Facebook and Instagram advertising might come in handy to reach those potential customers.”

Social commerce is a rapidly growing trend in the online shopping space and has turned into a hugely important sales driver. According to Shopify’s recent BFCM survey, younger and middle-aged online shoppers are more likely to purchase an item directly from a social media platform – primarily from Facebook (57% and 44% respectively) or Instagram (58% and 31% respectively).

Choose to prioritise the specific channels that have proven more successful for your business in the past. 

Look for ways to enhance your check-out process

When was the last time you added a product to your shopping cart but didn’t follow through to payment? 

“It happens all the time – whether it’s a slow website, overcomplicated check-out processes or simply not being quite ready to part with their money just yet,” says Bridget. 

Apps such as Shop Pay can enhance the checkout experience on your website. 

“It’s 60 percent faster, and allows customers to pay using their preferred local payment methods, including digital wallets as well as multiple currencies.”

Prepare your inventory in advance

Thanks to the ongoing effects of COVID-19, the global supply chain saw big disruptions that have impacted how efficiently goods can be delivered to consumers.

“The global supply chain is in a snarl, which not only means deliveries to customers are more expensive and take longer at a time when many are expecting free shipping, it also means that your inventory planning has to be adjusted as well,” Bridget says.

For retailers who rely on suppliers to source or manufacture products, they need to be clear on what products they would like to promote for peak seasons. 

“Not only are we expecting disruptions in supply chains and logistics this year, but suppliers across the board have been stretched since the pandemic and need as much leeway as possible to get products ready on time.”

One tool that can help businesses with accurate forecasting is Shopify’s Sales by Product report. You can filter by last year’s holiday dates, for example Black Friday Cyber Monday, and see which products sold the most units during this time.

“By leveraging existing tools to accurately forecast demand, merchants can better predict what will typically sell well during the holiday season,” says Bridget.

Have a multi-channel strategy

To maximise the benefits of multi-channel selling, Bridget says retailers should identify which sales channels are most lucrative – and double down during the holiday season.

“Your customer base is probably quite diverse – from millennials to baby boomers, shopping across a wide range of channels, and paying with as many different options,” she says.

“Only focusing your efforts on a single channel or platform is one of the biggest mistakes a small business can make. Find out which sales channels are the best revenue performers for your business and put your marketing spend there.”

If it makes sense for your brand and your audience, retailers should consider online sales channels like Google, TikTok and Facebook to ensure you are not missing out on sales opportunities.

Set up your sales channels as early as possible

In order to ensure optimal performance, Bridget says retailers need to be aware of longer lead times for some sales channels. 

“Google’s algorithm, for example, takes about 15 days to learn about an online store, and to optimise performance so that the right products are shown to the right shoppers.”

To avoid this, install and set up your Google channels as early as possible.

Know your conversion rates

If you’re not sure how your conversion rates stack up against your industry, you could end up overpaying for your marketing leads. Improving this is an essential skill for any online merchant.

“Every industry is different and if retailers know the average for their industry, it can help determine the effectiveness of their sales in peak and non-peak periods. A 1 percent difference can mean millions more in revenue,” says Bridget.

Shopify’s online conversion rate calculator can help you determine how your business stacks up within your industry.

Adopt new order fulfillment strategies

At a time when 69% of online shoppers expect free shipping, retailers should set up a contingency plan to fulfil orders – and to combat any potential delays. 

“By introducing Click-and-Collect, curbside pick-up or even looking for alternative logistics networks, small businesses can better prepare for delays,” says Bridget.

Offer digital gift cards

One of the worst things that can happen during a sale is selling out faster than anticipated and missing out on potential transactions. 

“By offering the option of purchasing digital gift cards, ecommerce brands can capture sales that would otherwise be lost to sold-out items, while giving them time and money to restock before the cards are redeemed,” says Bridget.

Digital gift cards are also great for driving last-minute gift purchases when shipping timelines make it hard to send a timely present.

There are more than 7000 apps on the Shopify App Store to help small businesses capitalise on their discovery and marketing. 

*Shopify’s 2021 Black Friday data is based on sales by its more than 1.7 million businesses in approximately 175 countries around the world, from 25 November 11:00 to 27 November 08:00 UTC.

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Brisbane Business Hub

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