The holiday shopping season can be a brilliant time for Shopify merchants with increased orders flying out the door to eager gift buyers around the world. As exciting as it can be to see your sales tick up, things can quickly become stressful if you don’t manage your time effectively. Planning ahead will make everything run more efficiently, making the holidays a breeze for your team.
Communicate with your team
Whether you’ve got a team of two or two hundred, communication is your biggest asset when it comes to time management during the holidays. Everything from marketing to fulfillment to production starts with your team, so if everyone is on the same page it makes everything much easier to handle.
Schedule regular catch-ups
Setting time aside in your week to review what tasks lie ahead and what needs attention in your business sounds like common sense, right? However in the craziness of the holiday shopping season it can be easy to forget to do this and this is when important tasks start to slip under the radar. In the weeks running up to the holidays, have a full team catch-up at the start of the week where you can all review what’s coming up. Check in to see how different team members are getting on with their areas of the business to see if they need extra resources or assistance to make sure things are running smoothly. You’ll catch potential problems before they have a chance to affect operations, and everyone will feel supported and in the loop.
Keep track of tasks
Using apps like Asana or Trello are a great way to ensure you get a full-picture view of your Shopify store throughout the holiday season. You’ll be able to clearly see what tasks are on the table, who is responsible, and due dates. This means no task will go unaccounted for, preventing any last minute panic when you realise something hasn’t been done!
Create a shared calendar
The holidays are chaotic for businesses due to deadlines, business closures, and staff vacations. Create a holiday specific shared calendar where you can add any dates that will have an impact on your store. These include times where your business is closed completely, shipping deadlines from your chosen couriers, supplier closures, holiday dates, and vacation dates. Being able to see all this information on one calendar will help you better plan your time around key dates.
Map out your fulfilment strategy
The holidays are often busy for Shopify merchants - increased orders mean not only higher total sales, but orders needing processed, packed, and shipped out. On a normal week, you might find it easy enough to keep track of fulfilment, but during the holidays it helps to map out your fulfilment strategy so that your team can refer back to it as needed. This doesn’t need to be complicated, and there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of time and effort it takes to fulfil each order. List out each step in your fulfilment process from the moment an order is placed to when it leaves with the courier. Look for any areas where you could improve efficiency.
Pack orders and print shipping labels in bulk
If your usual fulfilment process starts with printing the order off and organizing the shipping, then during the holidays you should switch this up to work in bulk. For example, at 9am you start working on orders that came in overnight. Print off all the relevant paperwork, and pack orders in order of time. Then at 12pm, process all orders from between 9am and 12pm, and so on throughout the day.
Keep in regular contact with shipping partners
As busy as the holidays are for merchants, it’s probably even busier for couriers! Making sure you keep in touch with your shipping partners means you’ll be abreast of any potential issues. Organize set pick up times, and make sure they know any days you might be closed. Equally you should ask for their deadlines and to be kept informed of any changes.
Have a customer service plan
Providing excellent customer service is one of the best ways you can ensure brand loyalty. 90% of American consumers use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to make a purchase, and 49% have switched companies they shop with due to poor customer service. The holidays can be stressful for customers wondering about orders arriving on time, issues with a product, needing more information etc. and providing attentive, responsive customer service will put your brand ahead of the competition.
Install customer service apps
The Shopify App Store is full of tools you can install to make the customer service side of your business easier. One of those very useful apps is one of our own - Order Lookup. Many customer service enquiries are about order progress - 83% of US consumers expect regular communication about their order, and 53% say they won’t order if they don’t know when it will arrive. Order Lookup empowers customers with live order tracking information. They simply input their email address and order number, and are provided with real-time info about their order including any notes or tracking information you have added.
Other apps such as Gorgias can streamline customer service by bringing all your enquiries from across different platforms to one centralized location. It also has the option to create automated responses to common queries which can dramatically reduce the amount of time you and your team would usually spend on customer service.
Create a response framework for your team
For the queries that can’t be taken care of easily, it helps to have a framework in place for your team to use to ensure customer service is handled in a consistent manner. Write the flow of how customer service enquiries are handled, along with how enquiries are escalated and who is responsible. A simple framework might look like this:
- Customer enquiry cannot be satisfied by automated response
- Enquiry is passed along to the team for investigation - refer to internal FAQ guide
If enquiry is still not satisfied, escalate to appropriate department:
- Packing & Shipping
- Quality Control & Production
Provide the customer with updates and findings.
- If the customer is unsatisfied with findings, escalate to management for resolution.
- Follow up with the customer later for feedback on customer service response.
Automate your marketing
There are countless tools and apps that can help ensure that even when you’re snowed under with orders, you’re still targeting the right people at the right times. The two biggest areas you want to automate are social media and email marketing.
Scheduling content in advance takes time but saves you a lot of stress and hassle in the long run. Instead of realising you haven’t posted to Instagram in a few days, you can get on with other tasks safe in the knowledge that you already planned and scheduled consistent content. Using tools like Planoly, Later.com, and Hootsuite will mean you can clearly see when content is due to be posted and any gaps that you can fill, as well as being able to add hashtags and links. If you want to post fresh content throughout the holidays, then automate the important information that customers will need to know such as shipping deadlines, how to contact customer support, post-holiday returns, and any additional resources they might not be aware of such as gift wrapping and gift card options.
Platforms like Klaviyo and Mailchimp offer an extensive amount of automation that you can make as simple or as complex as you wish. Some automated workflows you’ll want to implement:
- Abandoned Cart
- Retarget existing customers
- Browse Abandonment
- Back in stock notifications
- Welcome new customers/Welcome back existing customers
You should also plan and schedule email campaigns in advance that cover topics such as new products, final ordering/shipping deadlines, and promoting any holiday specific offers you plan to run.
The holiday shopping season presents an exciting opportunity for Shopify merchants around the world. How you choose to manage your time during this busy period can be the difference between success and stress. Be ready to make the most of it by managing your time in an effective and efficient way, ensuring your store doesn’t miss out on the holiday fun.