Is your business prepared for the holiday stress test?
By David Rastatter, Sr. Director, Product Marketing
The 2021 holiday retail sales saw the greatest year-over-year growth in over two decades, with e-commerce sales projected to rise 15.5% and reach $235.86 billion this year. While this presents an incredible growth opportunity for e-commerce businesses, it can wreak havoc on those who are unprepared to handle a massive influx of sales.
Based on a recent Shopify report, the top five holiday concerns for e-commerce stores are:
- Rising ad spend (80.4%)
- Customer service needs (74.5%)
- Inventory (72.5%)
- Shipping and fulfillment (64.7%)
- Returns (56.9%)
Without the right technology and processes in place, managing these concerns will prove challenging for many retailers this holiday season. But don’t fret: we’ve put together five tips to help set up your e-commerce business for success this year.
1. Define your holiday goals.
It’s impossible to gauge your success if you don’t define it.
You’ll need to analyze previous e-commerce sales and revenue results to forecast this year’s performance, and compare it to what is expected during the holiday buying ramp-up.. Be sure to plan for pre-season and post-season sales outreach, too. A BigCommerce study found that –70% of shoppers intend to shop early to avoid both crowds and items being out of stock. With good data you will be able to personalize communications with customers, which can help you create brand advocates out of your loyal customers.
Identify your growth goals and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will allow you to meet those objectives.
2. Audit your processes.
After you establish your goals, identify all the workflows and process requirements associated with those objectives. Analyze any repetitive tasks that your team completes as a part of these processes and find opportunities for automation to take on that workload so your staff can help customers with urgent matters.
Common processes to audit:
- Order processing
- Order and shipping confirmations
- Package labeling
- Address updates across multiple databases and applications (ERP, marketplace, etc.)
- Purchase order approvals and confirmations
- Order fulfillment
- Inventory reconciliation and counts
Determine if the right applications and systems are connected and in place to eliminate repetitive tasks with automation.
3. Clean up your data.
After your process audit, take steps to optimize data integrity across your systems. It’s critical for sales, marketing, finance, and logistics to be on the same page and have one source of truth. Too often, front-end CRMs define data fields differently than back-end ERPs (e.g., a CRM application defines one unit as a package of 10 pencils while the inventory ERP considers a package of 10 pencils ten units).
If you create a consistent data dictionary across all your systems, it will reduce errors and enable you to automate and integrate systems more accurately and quickly.
Here are few ways to quickly clean up your data:
- Purge duplicate fields and customers
- Correct incorrect or inconsistent records
- Ensure all your platforms are updated and match
- Add an extra accounting SKU data field in your e-commerce store (reduces translations needed)
4. Automate, automate, automate–then, integrate.
Without robust process automation, it’s likely your business will experience unnecessary chaos this holiday season. What may seem like a quick and easy manual process now, could cripple your e-commerce operation during the holiday rush.
As the holidays creep closer, retailers will need to “do more with less.” It’s predicted that the retail industry will continue to suffer from a significant labor shortage, putting small and medium sized businesses at a greater risk since they don’t have the big box companies’ deep pockets to pay higher wages.When you automate simple tasks, you minimize the risk of workflow disruptions due to labor shortages and you’ll be better equipped to process an influx of holiday orders.
To maximize the benefits of automation, make sure you invest in e-commerce integration solutions, like APIs and EDIs, that will automate the synchronization of workflows between your ERP’s and back-end systems. This ensures real-time, consistent data is available to your employees, partners, and customers–saving you time and headaches.
5. Be customer obsessed.
When you automate and integrate your systems with API and EDI solutions for e-commerce, you create a frictionless buying experience for customers.
The best API retail solutions ensure back-end systems and applications are sending and receiving real-time data (order, transactional, confirmation, etc.) so customers get accurate order and shipping information on their terms.