Surviving Christmas as an Online Seller

Christmas can be a stressful time of year for anyone working in retail, whether on the high street or via e-commerce.  Not only is it busy, customers are often themselves feeling stressed.  On top of the workload, most retailers are acutely aware that a large proportion of their turnover comes in between October and January. The season can be make-or-break for many retail companies.

Much has been written about how to survive Christmas when working in a high street store.  From wearing comfortable shoes, to how to put up with the excruciating Christmas music.  Less is said about how to survive Christmas as an e-commerce seller, so we thought we would do some research.  Here is our advice for preserving your mental, and physical wellbeing over the festive sales season.

Be organised.  It may be a little late for some of this, but even if you are feeling like a headless chicken (turkey?), some degree of organisation is still possible. Ideally you will have your Christmas stock ordered, your marketing planned, offers drawn up, inventory management working, and shipping processes all sorted by late September.  If you haven’t, there are still things you can do.  Firstly, call us now on 01326 564331 to make sure you have enough stock of all your despatch forms with integrated labels.  We’ll leave the sales pitch there…

What else can you organise?  Clear the decks in your pack and despatch area.  Make sure your picking and packing set-up is as efficient as possible, with the most popular products easily accessible and the tools you need in their place.  If you are always looking for the stapler or queuing for the tape gun, get another.  If you’re tripping over boxes waiting for the courier, can you clear a bigger space for them or arrange more frequent collections?

Stay healthy.  Not only are we all very busy, we’re burning the candle at both ends.  Enjoy the festivities but try to maintain reasonable eating habits and hydration, at least during the day.  Since achieving our Workplace Health Silver Award, we have been far more aware of the danger of the “treats table” at work, and it’s usually well-laden in December.  Try to balance the sweets and biscuits with savouries and fruit.  Your staff, and your body, will thank you in the end.  If you’re much busier than usual, you may be finding it hard to make time for lunch, so plan ahead and bring in something healthy. That way you won’t find yourself fuelling your day with chocolate and mince pies.

If you’re over indulging in the evenings, hydration at work will be even more important than usual.  At Forms Plus, we all have water bottles that indicate the time of day and whether we are drinking enough to stay hydrated. It is surprising how much water you are recommended to drink. We really notice the health benefits when we do manage to keep up.

With lots going on and late nights, be aware of how much caffeine you are taking on board.  Try substituting some of your coffee intake for herbal tea. Lemon and ginger tea can give you a zing without the crash and short fuse that coffee brings on if you overdo it.

Be patient.  Your customers at this time of year may be different to the rest of the year.  If they enjoy shopping with you now, they’ll come back in the future.  Ideally make sure your website is easy to use and buying is friction-free long before December.  If you haven’t done that, what could you do now to make it simpler?

Perhaps use your Social Media to answer questions that you come across frequently from customers.  Bring more staff (or friends and family) in to help with phone calls and customer service issues.

If you do have issues with stock, delays with delivery or website problems, use your Social Media to keep your customers informed. This will help avoid negative feedback and manage customer expectations.

Don’t panic.  If your products are not selling well, it can be tempting to immediately discount heavily.  Look at the candidates on the Apprentice who always agree a sensible price at the start, then end up selling everything far too cheaply as the day goes on.  Know how much your products cost you, know your postage costs and factor in the contribution they need to make towards running your business before discounting heavily.  Just because you can run a quick advert on Facebook offering everything half price, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea – unless perhaps you’re selling turkeys, sprouts or something else that really will perish and it’s almost The Day.

Instead of discounting, have a look at your messaging. What might be putting people off your products other than your price?  Could you try re-wording your product pages? Targeting a different audience with some ads? Bundling your products in a more tempting way?  Offering free delivery for larger orders to try and increase basket-size?

Whether you are selling online, in-store or indeed both, Christmas is the best, and worst time to work in retail.  Do make the most of it this year. Happy Christmas from all of us at Forms Plus!