Preparing for Retail’s Expanding Holiday Season

| By: Susan Nordquist

The holiday season is increasingly expanding. Where Black Friday used to stand alone, now many retailers are ramping up the competition with deals throughout the month of November, and beyond. Now is the time for omnicommerce merchants to create a strategy and prepare for this important sales season, not only in terms of promotions, but also in terms of support. Shifting focus from Black Friday and spreading your brand’s promotions throughout the holiday season is a smart move. Black Friday sales in-store fell 5.2% last year, perhaps due to an increase in early promotions.

According to research from the NRF, 40% of consumers polled in 2014 said they begin their holiday shopping before November. Another 40% said they begin during November. Clearly, retailers can’t afford to wait until after Thanksgiving to snap up sales when so many shoppers are getting an early start. A big part of having a successful holiday season comes down to planning. Of course, if you haven’t already begun putting together a promotional calendar, get on top of it! In addition to the promotional calendar outlining your marketing efforts, it is hugely important to prepare for your site support needs.

The first step is to forecast your traffic. With the help of the Sales and Marketing teams, if necessary, aim to project what kinds of traffic and concurrent users you’ll see on your site throughout the holiday season. If adjustments to site capacity will be needed, then plan to make those adjustments. Besides Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are several other holidays in November and December when retailers can offer specials or deals that may trigger traffic spikes.

Here are some important dates:

– Veteran’s day
– Nov 11
– Thanksgiving – Nov 26
– Black Friday – Nov 27
– Cyber Monday – Nov 30
– Hanukkah – Dec 6-14
– Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas) – Dec 19
– Christmas Eve – Dec 24
– Christmas Day – Dec 25
– New Year’s Eve – Dec 31

Forecasting and preparing for site traffic is the biggest priority from a support standpoint, so it’s a good idea to make your support provider aware of these projections well ahead of time. Corra’s Support team, for instance, likes to know a month in advance if a client will need additional capacity. This allows for plenty of time to stand up and test new servers before the traffic hits. There are a couple other tips that can help the holidays go off without a heap of support tickets. First, freeze any new development in Q4. The holiday season, when sites and support teams are already busy with increased traffic and sales, is not the time to try and push new features or change requests. It simply isn’t worth any downtime the site may experience due to bugs and fixes. By holding off on developments, you minimize risk and allow those resources to be dedicated to support, where they are most needed.

Another tip for retailers is to clean up obsolete store data prior to the holiday shopping season. Sifting through and eliminating unused categories, products, and more, can help to ensure that site operations run as efficiently as possible. Of course, this is a good practice for any time of year, and merchants should make sure to do this every so often. However, cleaning up your data is especially relevant during this busy season when efficiency is key.

For additional tips, visit Corra’s Holiday Resource Center. We will be adding content on a regular basis, so check back often for the latest in holiday prep!    

Image via Zirtual.

Susan Nordquist is Solutions Engineer for Corra, a New York, Los Angeles and London based digital commerce agency creating unified commerce experiences for fashion, lifestyle and beauty. With a team of 100+ ecommerce strategy, design and technology professionals, Corra delivers rich shopping and buying experiences across all channels and devices. Corra is trusted by retailers of all sizes to implement and support Magento Enterprise, Demandware and hybris platforms.

Corra is a digital agency creating transformative commerce experiences for fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands. With headquarters in New York, Los Angeles and London, Corra provides strategically led creative and technology solutions to a growing global market.