It’s that time of year – the holidays are just around the corner, and chances are a three-month period of code freeze will soon follow. Hopefully, all systems are ready, and you were able to implement important changes to your website before the holiday rush begins.

In the absence of code updates, what can you do to make sure your ecommerce presence is optimized and ready for a busy and profitable holiday shopping season? Operational readiness for ‘busy season’ is often overlooked and underestimated, but paying close attention to the top three business operations before and during the holidays pays ongoing dividends.

Let’s take a look at the top three areas of holiday operational preparedness that don’t require IT:

1. Merchandising: Products, Categories and Search

  • Review Top selling products for accuracy and completeness:
    • Product specifications such as dimensions, including height, length, weight, color, material, etc., can often be as important, if not more so when it comes to making a buying decision and minimizing returns. Divide, conquer and update your product detail pages with the most up-to-date and accurate product specifications.
  • Optimize product results within your categories:
    • One of the key principles of brick-and-mortar retail is to organize the store shelves, end caps and that all-important impulse front end with the top sellers, products with inventory and featured items that are new to market. Don’t overlook this important strategy year-round, especially during the holidays. Assign category owners to ‘mind the store’ throughout the season. Pay particular attention to inventory levels and surprise top sellers to ensure those products are at the top of the list.
  • Tune up your search results:
    • If you haven’t had time to keep up with search results tuning throughout the year, now’s the time to give it some special attention. Update the Thesaurus to support any new products that have been added to the site and existing products. Double-check merchandising rules for expiration dates, product relevance and inventory – last but not least, plan and schedule product promotions for the Holiday shopping season.

2. Marketing Campaigns, Product Promotions and Testing:

  • Pre-plan and prepare campaign collateral, e.g. landing page assets, display ads and site banners. Create an inventory of the tests you’re planning to run , be sure to include a way to track goals and actual performance for easy analysis and to be used in next year’s planning.
  • Create backup plans and supporting collateral for product-related promotions, e.g., BOGO, % off, shipping. These plans should include the length of time you’re going to run the original campaign and what would trigger launching the backup plan. It’s best if you gain approval for the promotional calendar, particularly the backup campaigns, prior to the start of the season.
  • Don’t forget to reach out to your vendors to inform them about your promotional schedule – send them a copy and include the expected traffic volumes so they can adjust capacity when needed.

3. Technical, SEO and Business Operations:

  • Ideally, you’ve already had the chance to execute load testing and make any necessary changes on the technical front. If not, it may not be too late to run those same load tests with the intent of finding vulnerabilities related to traffic. You can then map the results against your expected traffic patterns and share with your vendor so they can be prepared to increase capacity.
  • While you’re giving your product details the once over, be sure to review and update the meta data associated with each product detail. Tapping into your SEO data can be a useful technique for gaining insight into how shoppers are describing your products and can be incorporated into the product detail page.
  • Last but not least,review your site to ensure that call center phone numbers, business phone numbers and policies are up to date. A nice bonus for your shoppers is to post a holiday shipping calendar, complete with cut-off and receive-by dates. This can not only reduce incoming calls, it can also serve as a relevant way to have an extra touch point with site visitors and customers.

Happy Holiday Prep!