What Retailers Should Add to their Holiday Checklist to Avoid E-Commerce Disruptions

Right now, brands are preparing for another year of record-breaking e-commerce sales during the holidays. After more than a year of lockdowns and shifting masking recommendations, consumers who once preferred the typical brick-and-mortar shopping experience have moved online, solidifying the need for digital retailers to cater to multiple generations of shoppers.

With more buyers seeking the convenience of online shopping, plus a pent-up desire to spend, e-commerce sales are expected to grow an additional 13.7% by the end of the year.

To handle this growth, the keyword for the 2021 holiday retail season is “preparation.” It’s never too soon for retailers to start planning for the critical elements of the transaction process to ensure a successful holiday season and to avoid disruptions. Let’s discuss three items that should be on every online retailer’s holiday checklist:

Strategically Stock Inventory

For e-commerce companies especially, there should be extra resources spent on preparing for potential fulfillment and shipping delays. There continue to be major problems across the different areas of fulfillment, and supply chains are reaching breaking points from this constant demand.

This strain, coupled with an expected increase in spending from cautiously optimistic consumers, means merchants could run into even bigger complications than last year – and there’s no signs of this strain going anywhere anytime soon. With increased globalization and constantly changing international rules and regulations, supply chains will likely remain complicated for the next few years.

Utilizing internal and historical data to strategically stock inventory in preparation for product demand surges can help mitigate delays. For example, knowing which items are seasonally popular can help merchants allocate resources more effectively and prepare for these demand peaks.

Merchants should also maintain a detailed list of products and SKUs for holiday products, including their anticipated inventory levels and predicted schedule of shipments. For any expected out-of-stock and backordered items, prepare a contingency plan and set expectations with customers.

Consumers are aware of supply chain complications many retailers are facing and are more willing to be patient as long as they feel they are being kept in the loop. Having an open and honest line of communication can help level-set expectations and protect these relationships to ensure consumers have a positive shopping experience.

Build Relationships with Vendors

Building strong vendor relationships is a strategic and important step that carries long-term benefits. Consider partnering with back-office experts who have experience in your specific markets. They will have an in-depth understanding of compliance considerations and local preferences you should be aware of.

Having strong partners you can rely on frees you and your team to focus on core business functions. Time is money, so any wasted minutes trying to figure out local complexities could mean lost revenue. As these relationships with vendors grow, you’ll be able to leverage operational efficiencies as you continue to build relationships to understand the best ways to work with one another.

Prepare and Test Technology

One of the primary benefits of having a direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel is the streamlined access to performance data and using these insights to optimize the shopping experience. If 2020 is any indication, e-commerce retailers should prepare for a surge in traffic to their platforms in the weeks leading up to the holidays.

Online sellers know how this impacts traffic across platforms and at any given time it can vary wildly. That’s why it’s critical to test your systems well ahead of time to ensure they can handle different variables during peak traffic. Using historical data on which days and times are more popular shopping peaks can help guide these tests and help prepare for demand surges throughout the holiday season.

Testing technology can also avoid a major pet peeve of consumers shopping online—e-commerce payment failures. Not only do these errors negatively impact the shopping experience, one bad interaction can lead to losing customers permanently. Assess both your front-end consumer experience and back-end payment processing and implement any needed improvements to avoid losing a customer to a competitor who can process the transaction the first time.

Shopping behaviors adopted through the pandemic are here to stay as consumers have come to appreciate the convenience of digital. Merchants need to make sure they are meeting customer demands and providing an exceptional shopping experience throughout every touchpoint. Strategically stocking inventory, connecting with vendor partners, and testing new or existing technology are critical steps for online sellers to take in the months leading up to the peak shopping period. By being prepared and acting as soon as possible, merchants can have some peace of mind knowing they are well positioned to succeed this holiday season.

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