6 Ways to Whip Your Business Into Shape Before the Holidays (Infographic)
Before the deluge of activity, strategize about carriers and packaging. Then help your customers prepare for the rush season, too.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Summer is almost over, and it's already time to start thinking about the holidays -- otherwise known as the biggest spending season of the year. Before going into full-blown panic mode, take a deep breath. Here's a simple six-step plan to prepare an online business for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season:
1. Anticipate which products may be bestsellers.
Start building an inventory of products now. Analyze sales results from past years to anticipate which products may sell out quickest and keep a surplus of such products on hand during the rush period.
2. Plan promotions.
Begin brainstorming about different promotions for the business. Whether it's free holiday shipping, special deals of the week or a holiday contest on social media, map out sales and steals early on.
3. Don't let the online shop crash and burn.
Last-minute holiday shopping means that an online store might be flooded with increased web traffic and transaction processing. Get ready for the onslaught of shoppers by being sure to have a reliable web host for the company website. It's even better if there's a near 100 percent up-time guarantee.
4. Know the holiday shipping deadlines.
Keep an eye out for holiday shipping deadlines (typically released in October and November) and post them to be visible for customers. That way, customers will know to shop early and won't be shocked if an item doesn't arrive in time. There's nothing worse than unhappy clients who haven't received their gifts in time for the holidays.
5. Add flair to packaging.
To stand out from the competition, consider infusing a bit of seasonal spirit into packaging. Customized packaging and a festive holiday image or message on a shipping label add a little something extra and customers will take notice.
6. Reassess shipping tactics.
As of Sept. 7 the U.S. Postal Service lowered its Priority Mail rates. Its service is now a cost-effective alternative for packages weighing 5 pounds or more and offers savings of as much as 42 percent over private carriers (like United Parcel Service and Federal Express). Re-evaluate which carrier to use for heavier weight packages.
The holiday season typically means an increase in product returns but these need not be a major pain point. Provide a return label in the shipping box or email one on demand. (Software developed by my company, Endicia, allows for printing U.S. Postal Service return labels that are not prepaid.)
Check out the infographic created by Endicia below.