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Author Biography:

Stephanie Taylor Christensen  is a freelance writer who covers personal finance, career, health,and small business news. She is the founder of Indebtedless and Om for Mom prenatal yoga in Columbus, Ohio. Connect with her on Twitter.@STCWriting or www.stephanietaylorchristensen.com

How to Prepare for Holiday Shoppers
By Stephanie Taylor Christensen Thursday, May 29, 2014
The holiday season can be stressful, but here are a few ways in which you can capture holiday shoppers attention to your small business.

According to Chase Paymentech, online retailers can earn nearly 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season. Here a few ways you can prepare your small business to capture more holiday buyers.

Be part of their consideration

Holiday shopping season officially kicks off near Thanksgiving—but plenty of shoppers start making their holiday lists well in. Be a part of their consideration set by releasing your best promotions early—and repeatedly-- in email, social media, and direct promotion tools like package inserts and postcards. Make sure that you test all coupon codes on your website for functionality and strategize offers to coincide with key shopping holidays including Hanukkah (Nov 27), Gray Thursday (November 28), Black Friday (November 29), Cyber Monday (December 2), Christmas Eve (Dec 24).

Make sure your processes are in place

Ensure that you’ve got a reliable inventory management process so you aren’t in danger of angering customers by missing fulfillment deadlines or not having enough product to support holiday demand. If your inventory is basic, an app like Inventory Tracker can help or less than $5 a month. If you sell quite a bit of merchandise online and at the point of sale each day, Lettuce is an inventory app that also integrates your order capture, payment processing, shipping, tracking, and customer relationship management systems for about $60 a month.

Stress test your checkout

Deliver an efficient checkout process that makes buying pain-free for customers online, and in person. Your online shopping cart should include integrated features that give customers a preview of potential shipping costs as they add items to their cart, and clearly show the size, color and quantity of cart contents. Prepopulate as many fields for the customer as possible (for example, prefilling an email address they’ve already entered, a checkbox they can select if billing and shipping address is the same, and the option to buy as a guest versus a forced registration. Once they place an order, send a follow up email with the estimated shipping date, and another confirming the item has left your facility.

Stay on top of social media

According to SalesForce, 74% of consumers rely on the advice of people in their social networks to guide their purchase decisions. To capture more holiday sales, be a part of the conversation. Set up a Google Alert using your business name as the search term and you’ll know anytime someone posts information about your business on a site that Google crawls. If you use TweetDeck or HootSuite, add your business name to the feed so you can easily spot information about your business posted on Facebook or Twitter, and respond accordingly.

Be customer service savvy

When users can speak to a representative in "real time" by way of live chat, you can overcome buyer hesitancy, address questions, learn more about your customer wants and needs, and ideally, lower the number of customer returns for products that aren’t what they expected. According to Practical Ecommerce, live chat actually has the power to increase conversion rates for some small businesses by as much as 50%. For less than $50 a month, SnapEngage is jut one of many chat tools that integrates with all of your social media accounts and web properties. (If you don’t have the means to staff a 24/7 chat, make sure you specify the hours shoppers can use the feature).

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