|EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2423 - November 29, 2010 - ISSN 1539-5065 2 of 4|
Indications are that consumers are back in the game this holiday season. Business is already up, and shoppers are ready to spend - at least more than they spent last year.
On the other hand, competition is greater than ever among online sellers. And big retailers are rolling out free shipping and other promotions that small companies can't match. The challenge will be not just making sales, but maintaining profits. Last week, I presented tips for saving money on shipping. This week, two ecommerce experts weigh in with tips of all sorts for sellers hoping to stay successful this holiday. Here's a selection of smart selling practices that will help you come out of the holiday rush with money in the bank (or PayPal account).
Tip #1: Dress up your store for the holidays.
David Mamane, owner of several ecommerce businesses including the largest discount jewelry retailer, MyJewelryBox.com, advises online entrepreneurs to be tasteful and restrained in their use of holiday designs, however.
"Merchants should always add holiday style to their store," he says. "However, you can have too much of a good thing. Holiday graphics should never distract the consumer from finding what he or she is looking for or inhibit him or her from making a decision about the purchase. Add holiday colors or graphics to increase exposure to a sale or call attention to a collection."
Tip #2: Hold special sales and offer coupons.
Tip #3: Make your inventory available to mobile shoppers.
"We do see a lot of mobile shoppers this season - but not a lot of buyers, at least until digital wallets on phones are a standard part of the phone/browser stack," comments DiViesti. "Every one of our 5,000 stores has a mobile counterpart at m.domain.com. The sites run on virtually all mobile phones including Google Android, Apple iPhone and RIM Blackberry. We are in the process of integrating PayPal's new Express Mobile Checkout, which was released at their developer conference a few weeks ago, and hope to have that generally available during the last few weeks leading up to Christmas."
Tip #4: Create holiday collections of your merchandise.
Consider grouping related items into collections such as "classics," or basing such collections on a color, he says. "Making new collections based on a color such yellow diamonds and black diamonds or beautiful blue topaz collections offers the consumer an easy way to browse your catalog and find the right gift quickly and easily."
Tip #5: Strengthen your return policies.
In addition, he says, when someone asks to return an item, make sure you have access to historical data: Is this a customer with a high return rate? A customer who has bought a lot of product in the past and now has one dispute? Based on past history, you might decide to handle the return request a different way.
Finally, DiViesti recommends, know what the return policies are for the market you are in. "For example, if you are in a space known for higher than average returns (clothing, footwear), what are your top 3 competitors doing?"
Tip #6: Sell via your blog as well as your store.
"Blog posts are an excellent way of letting out some hot deals and offering customers a less aggressive softer sell before any holidays period such as Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the Christmas season," says Mamane.
Tip #7: Know what's popular this year.
DiViesti, for his part, believes that "Smartphones and tablet devices such as the iPad and Samsung galaxytab and their accessories are really going to see a lot of traction through the end of year." He says it's still not too late to prepare for the holidays by ordering extra inventory or securing extra help with shipping and other labor-intensive back office functions.
"Early reports indicate this is going to be a great holiday season," he says. "Several of our clients have reported that their normal daily order velocity starting two weeks before Thanksgiving had well exceeded their peak season order velocities from last year - so that early news has been very encouraging."
One good rule of thumb in the ecommerce field is to anticipate the high seasons for your product and lock down inventory at least six weeks in advance, he adds. Another is to partner with an ecommerce platform that can help you handle heavier-than-usual demand.
"New data has shown there is a trend of more holiday shoppers buying earlier than before. You can see verification of these trends as holiday season displays are going up earlier each year and pre-Black Friday sales are now almost as common as actual Black Friday events. Overall spending is up this year vs. last year. That is the good news. The bad news is the margins on many items are lower than last year. A cohesive marketing strategy and a robust ecommerce platform can allow for a 30 percent increase over other ecommerce warehouse shipping solutions."
About the Author
About the author:
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
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