How to Prepare Your Online Store for the New Year
Online stores have steadily grown in popularity over the years – but COVID-19 made the shift to ecommerce accelerate at its fastest ever rate. Many believe the 2020 holiday season will conclude as the single biggest ecommerce event in HISTORY. If you own an online boutique, that’s great news for you! It means you’ll have the chance to capture all kinds of new and existing customers looking to buy gifts for their loved ones, but it might mean a bit of a digital headache if you’re new to online selling. You’ve got to brush up on your digital strategy skills if you want your brick-and-mortar brand to cash in on the increase of online shopping in 2021.
Read on to learn how to prepare your online store for the new year and beyond.
Make it Easy for Customers to Buy Online
Make sure you’re totally prepared to accept online orders – and that your website makes the online buying experience as soon as possible. Go through your online store as though you were a customer and make sure the entire buying process is crystal clear. Take a moment to work out any kinks you find so you can provide a seamless buyer journey. If this is your first time selling online, make sure payment solutions are totally ready by running a few test purchases.
Once you’ve done that, update your inventory so in-stock items are clearly marked. Promote seasonal offers and holiday deals throughout your website. Clearly display your boutique’s shipping and return policies. The easier it is for your customers to make a purchase (and take advantage of any awesome holiday deals), the more likely they’ll be to do so.
Plan and Stock Inventory in Advance
By “in advance,” we mean ASAP! It’s always a good idea to start stocking up on seasonal inventory early, but this year it’s more important than ever. Many shipments have been delayed due to the pandemic, so the sooner you can order your inventory, the better. You don’t want to end up with springtime goods arriving in the summer.
Make sure you choose to work with a reliable supplier. While the increase in high demand affects retailers like you, it also affects manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers in a big way. Order early and choose a supplier with great customer service. Supplied is a great option for online boutique owners looking for a wide variety of wholesale boutique items, flexible payment terms and free shipping.
Many customers pretty much expect great promotions from the brands and boutiques they love. Start planning out what sorts of promotions you’ll run and when you’ll run them. Stagger promos and marketing efforts carefully so you have a flow of ongoing sales instead of a few huge peaks. It’ll make it easier for you to fulfill orders and provide great service.
With COVID-19, it’ll be difficult to predict exactly how long shipping times will take. To make it easier for you to ship items out well in time for the spring and summer holidays, incentivize early buying with sales. Consider offering a sale during it in an effort to pick up some of that traffic. This is especially true for that pre-holiday, Black Friday timeframe, when more customers are shopping and perusing deals online.
Always think ahead and pay attention to what’s going on around you, so that you can be transparent about any shipping delays you’re aware of and do your best to manage your customers’ expectations. As tempting as it may be, don’t promise a delivery date you can’t guarantee. A late or delayed shipment, especially without comment, will ruin your customers online experience with you.
Yu can also help customers avoid delays altogether by offering virtual gift cards that can be instantly delivered and used towards any item in your shop. This provides a way for last-minute shoppers to still support your store.
Prepare for Fulfillment and Delivery
A lot of online boutique owners are out there running a one-woman show – but during the holiday season, you might want some help. If you usually do shipping and fulfillment operations all by yourself, consider enlisting a friend or an employee to help with the busy season.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location or a lot of local customers, offer in-person pickup to allow customers to save on shipping costs – and to allow you to package and mail fewer orders.
To sum up – to prepare your online store for success in 2021, you’d best get started now. Start ordering wholesale boutique items now so you have plenty of time to prepare for any delays, update your inventory, schedule out promotions and allow your customers to order their gifts as early as possible.
**This article was provided by Joseph Heller, small businesses expert and CEO of SuppliedShop.com. Supplied members get up to 75 percent off of wholesale prices on more than 100,000 wholesale boutique items. The site also offers free shipping, flexible payment terms and no minimum orders. Membership is free.