Christmas 2020 is going to be unlike anything anyone has ever experienced and as an online retailer, you are going to need to start your preparations now. The forecasts are mixed. The potential for further lockdown restrictions and increasing unemployment may impact both consumer spending and purchasing habits. More optimistically, for eCommerce, there is going to be a significant shift in Christmas shopping from bricks and mortar to online stores. In this post, we’ll explain six things you can do to help your online store survive Christmas 2020.
1. Get the right stock for Christmas
Stock may be a complicated issue for eCommerce stores this Christmas. Rises in unemployment and the fear of becoming unemployed will certainly affect consumer spending and this may impact the quantities of stock you need to order. Additionally, social restrictions put in place to prevent the risk of the virus spreading are also likely to influence what people spend their money on. Who’s going to want Christmas party outfits if there are no parties? Who’s going to buy a pack of 12 crackers when, this year, there’ll only be four people sat around the table? The pandemic is going to change what consumers buy and businesses need information on those trends to ensure stock is purchased wisely.
Another concern is the supply chain. Even if you have identified the stock you need for the Christmas season, you will need to ensure that you can procure it and that shipping times can be met. Volatility in the supply chain is likely given increasing demand and the potential for disruption due to the virus. Early purchasing might be a necessity.
2. Spread the cost of Christmas
Another reason to acquire Christmas stock earlier than usual is that, with consumer finances stretched, people might start shopping earlier to spread the cost. Rather than a Christmas rush, 2020 might be more of a slow burn.
One way to maximise sales and help customers out would be to offer payment by instalments. The easiest way to do this is to open a PayPal business account through which you can offer flexible financing options that make purchasing easier for your customer. Alternatively, you could set up a savings scheme where customers pay into your business each month in order to spend what’s in credit nearer the time.
3. Get your shipping sorted
eCommerce sales have already grown significantly during the pandemic and Christmas is likely to see a further surge as shoppers stay away from bricks and mortar stores. This could affect the capacity of the carriers you use to deliver the products on time.
The challenge for online stores is to ensure that you get the product to the customer when and where they want it. While consumers have been relatively understanding about longer delivery times during the pandemic, six months down the line, they now expect retailers and carriers will be able to deliver as advertised and are likely to be much less happy when products arrive late – especially when shopping for Christmas.
4. Cut costs
The global downturn means there will be less money for people to spend this Christmas. While social distancing measures means bricks and mortar stores are likely to face the brunt of the decline, it may still affect eCommerce: people may buy more things online but spend less overall.
To keep the business viable, eCommerce companies may have to look at ways to cut costs, especially if lack of demand causes a discounting war and drives margins down. Those in the best position to achieve this are the companies which make use of the cloud. While the cloud itself is a substantially more cost-effective solution to an in-house datacentre, its ability to deploy data gives companies the insights needed to cut costs effectively over their entire operations. At the same time, the cloud enables businesses to make valuable use of automation, such as with sales assisting chatbots that reduce human involvement.
5. Widen the market
Maximising sales is going to be critical this winter and this means making sure your stock is highly visible. This starts with strengthening your digital presence: promoting Christmas stock earlier on your website, advertising online and increasing your seasonal-themed social media activity. For retailers with online and physical stores, benefits can be made from offering omnichannel shopping, click and collect and moving products from stores under local lockdown restrictions to those which are not.
Additionally, there is always the potential to sell your items on third-party websites, like Amazon or eBay, which have a wider reach and high levels of consumer trust when it comes to availability, delivery and consumer purchasing protection.
6. Don’t let your website go down
The likely surge in demand for online shopping means that companies must ensure that their hosting package is capable of handling increased traffic. Too many visitors at the same time can impact the performance of your website if you don’t have enough server resources, i.e. storage, RAM, CPU and bandwidth, to handle them. Unexpected surges can cause your site to perform slowly or even crash. If this happens, visitors will abandon the site, reducing the number of sales, and your reputation for online reliability will be damaged.
Christmas 2020 presents eCommerce businesses with opportunities and threats. The challenge is to put your online store in the best position to avoid the threats and maximise the opportunities. Hopefully, this post has shown you the different things you will need to consider and the importance of starting preparations early.