Biz Views

Op-Ed: Planning ahead for a successful holiday sales season

The year-end shopping season has begun for online retailers and if they did not prepare their strategies for the high season on time, they run the risk of losing out to the competition.

Next are some of my recommendations that can help online businesses have a successful selling season.

Excellent customer service
Retailers should take advantage of year-end purchases to provide the best possible service to the prospective customer. Doing so requires planning, so many get ready several months in advance to determine the best way to leverage data, simplify navigation of their website, and generally create experiences to easily display the most relevant content.

It’s also important not to forget gift cards, the option to pick-up shipments at the physical store and other solutions. To fulfill these offers, retailers must use location-based customization to make sure they’re not making regional deals to buyers who are not near one of their stores.

Prioritizing is key
Retailers are busy people, and therefore they need to be organized and know how to prioritize. From ordering inventory to researching market trends, planning exhibitions, training staff and scheduling in-store events, everything must be very well planned.

This also means recognizing that although some responsibilities are nicer than others, all responsibilities should be prioritized to manage a successful business. Scheduling time limits and deadlines can help retailers stay focused, eliminating the additional time spent where it should not be.

Don’t forget the marketing
Marketing is very important to prepare for this season. One of the most momentous things is to run final tests to be ready with the best deals for customers. On the other hand, this is the only time of the year in which you should not be afraid to spend. For many companies, marketing budgets tend to increase.

Plan your budget well in advance and be sure to use the money that has been reserved for this season. You should not forget customer acquisition. This is the season in which channels will receive much more traffic than usual, so it is key to take the opportunity to create a large database which could lead to tremendous growth.

Improve logistics
This is the right time for a business to review their shipping methods. It is healthy to ask ourselves: Is our shipping method is reliable? Have we received many complaints about shipment? Even if you are completely satisfied with the current shipping configuration the year-end season is ideal for communicating with customers, confirm anticipated delivery dates, and obtaining potentially important information on your website, email marketing mail or social media campaigns.

Staff training
Stores spend a lot of money to stay in the market, so having trained staff is key. As employers, we must train employees so that they can be the best ambassadors of their stores. Retailers who recognize the value in their employees and train regularly are the ones who achieve success. You should train staff at all levels, from operational procedures to customer service, products, etc. It is the only way to see excellent results in terms of employees and sales.

Friendly website
To be prepared for tough competition on year-end sales, online retailers must ensure that their website is friendly for the customer. Consumers make many of their purchases online and require easy-to-navigate pages. That’s why you should evaluate the ease of the page and observe how efficient it is to find the item, pay, buy, etc. The idea is to solve any problems that are identified to retain buyers.

Thank existing customers
Customers love to be appreciated, especially those who have been loyal to a business. Some simple ways to show how much their loyalty means is through personalized emails or invitations to fun activities and where they can be honored. Social networks are a quick channel to target loyal customers, while also allowing to announce thematic end-of-the-year contests, new services or products, or discounts for returning customers.

Prevent fraud
Acts of fraud, such as “phishing” and cyberattacks, are conducted mainly during high seasons, to steal credit card information from customers. For example, the last Friday of November is the best time for cybercriminals take advantage of increased traffic volume, knowing that businesses are not paying attention to suspicious activity. Retailers should rely on a secure payment platform with very advanced anti-fraud systems.

Inventory supplies
Finally, being prepared for year-end purchases in terms of inventory is very important for online sales. You never know the demand it will have and if products aren’t available, you will lose a lot of money. If you are an artisan, that means creating many handmade products as you anticipate selling. For other vendors, such as clothing stores, that means ordering additional products from their manufacturers or produce a lot of inventory before the sales days.

The year-end season can be stressful for everyone, especially business owners. But preparing your company for a successful and profitable sales season does not have to be difficult.

Author Lucas Medola is chief financial officer of PayPal Latin America.

In short, retailers should ensure they have a plan to maximize sales, prepare their staff and enable new ways to attract and interact with existing and new customers.

Finally, my recommendation is that companies communicate regularly with their clients, especially after this season with the goal of creating empathy, build rapport and especially understand their needs to create a better scenario and plan for next year.

This will help reduce one-time buyers distinguish the loyal customer from those in search of discounts.

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