The 2023 Holiday Season will soon be upon us, and this year’s eCommerce merchants face greater uncertainty. Forecasts vary, but most expect this year’s sales growth to be in the low single digits, adding to the pressure to maximize holiday sales. With most Americans concerned about inflation and the specter of further economic slowdown, eCommerce retailers need to anticipate how to be prepared.

Early trends indicate that the holiday season is continuing to be pulled forward and that more people will be using the “Buy Now, Pay Later” model to defer their expenses. Discounting will also occur sooner as shoppers spend more of their holiday budget earlier in the season.

Preparing for the holiday season as an eCommerce merchant can be a lucrative endeavor, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. Here are five common pitfalls and solutions to help you navigate the holiday rush successfully:

Problem: Insufficient Inventory Management will be playing a critical role as many brands look to expand their choices and may run out of popular products that lead to missed sales.

  • Solution: Analyze past sales data to ensure pricing can be optimized for the high demand products and discounts can be used for the less popular items. Consider bundling a high demand product with a lower demand product to increase sales and margins.

Problem: Slow Website Performance and poor website design can frustrate customers and result in abandoned carts. This especially includes mobile devices that are difficult to navigate, and usability can deter customers from making purchases.

  • Solution: Optimize your website for speed by compressing images, using content delivery networks, and minimizing plugins. Implement a mobile-responsive design and evaluate it thoroughly across various devices and browsers. Conduct user testing, improve site navigation, and enhance the overall user experience with a focus on mobile users.

Problem: Ineffective Customer Support by failing to address customer inquiries and issues promptly can result in negative reviews and lost customers. Today’s consumers are looking for responsive answers to their questions and multiple ways to access that support.

  • Solution: Boost customer support staffing for the holiday season and consider implementing chatbots to manage routine inquiries. Even if you manage your own customer support team, many contact centers offer overflow support to manage calls, emails, texts, or live chats.

Problem: Ignoring Shipping Delays and late deliveries can lead to customer dissatisfaction. Shipping delays lead to additional customer support needs, dissatisfaction with their purchase, negative social media reviews and likely a loss return sales opportunity.

  • Solution: Communicate clearly about shipping times, offer expedited shipping options, and set realistic delivery expectations. It is better to under promise and over deliver if you are looking to build a sustainable relationship with your customers. Offering multiple shipping choices puts your customers in control of the expected delivery date. Be clear about pricing and ensure that tracking information is updated throughout the purchase experience.

Problem: Overlooking Returns and Refunds can lead to customer frustration and chargebacks. Customers expect an easy returns policy and solution as part of their eCommerce experience.

  • Solution: Communicate your return policy clearly, automate the returns process, and provide excellent customer service for return-related inquiries. Offer multiple ways for your customers to return their product. Some merchants include a return label as part of the shipping process, to minimize additional interaction and to streamline the process. Others offer the opportunity to return their purchase to a retail location or going through a contact center or website. Listen to the voice of your customer and remove the barriers to create a seamless solution.

Remember, preparation is key. Start planning and implementing these solutions well in advance to ensure a successful and profitable holiday season for your eCommerce business.