5 essential ecommerce tasks for after the holidays

The holiday season can be somewhat chaotic, to say the least. Whether that’s as a customer trying to get all those gifts off your checklist, or as a merchant trying to manage an influx of orders alongside delivery deadlines. So when the holidays are well and truly over, it can be a relief!

However, if you want to truly get more out of the holidays than just sales, there are some tasks you should take care of ASAP. By looking into your store data, kickstarting retention marketing and more, you’ll reap the rewards of the holiday season well into the new year. 

Let’s take a look at 5 essential tasks you can do in the days and weeks after the holidays are over, that will give your store the edge on strategy in the new year. 

#1 - Dig into your data

One of the biggest assets you get after the holiday season is data. This is the basis for any strong strategy, as it helps you to better understand your customers and store. While it’s still fresh, it’s worth digging deeper into that holiday data. This will help you to better understand how your store and products performed over the season, giving you focus of the year ahead.

You could start by segmenting your audience, looking at different demographics and data sets to examine how different customers engage with your store. For example, you may want to compare new vs returning customers - how much they spent on average, which products they purchased, etc. You could also look at product data, to see which performed best. This can then be compared against things like how much products were featured in marketing messaging, site placement, and so on. And of course, if you’re looking at acquisition then which channels brought in the most traffic.

You should also include looking at your Black Friday data as part of this exercise. Using the same approach to segmentation and examining different data sets, you can glean a lot of useful information about acquisition and promotions that you can use alongside your holiday data to craft your strategy.

Use data not just from your store, but from any other platforms you use such as email and SMS, customer support, and Google Analytics. This allows you to learn a lot about your store, your customers, and your approach to strategy over the holidays. Lastly, plan out what post-holiday data you want to analyze in the new year. For example, you may want to examine return rates by product and by audience segment.

#2 - Start on retention marketing 

Want to get even more out of all those orders from over the holidays? Then you’re going to need to be on top of retention marketing! You have a 60-70% chance of selling to an existing customer, versus just 5-20% to a new customer. Existing customers are also 50% more likely to try new products, and 31% more likely to spend more on average. 

To get started, you may want to segment your customers similarly to when you analyzed your store data. Have a BFCM segment as well as the holidays, so you can target them with unique messaging that speaks to their reasons for buying from your store. Segment further by looking at new and returning customers, again they will require their own approach to messaging. 

Use the direct channels you have to speak to these customers - email and SMS. This is more likely to engage them over other channels like social media. Consider the incentives you may use to encourage that next order - you may want to offer something slightly different to each segment. For example, if you want to give a slightly better incentive to loyal customers as a reward that will also encourage them to continue placing orders. You can also use this as an opportunity to test retention incentives through A/B or split testing. It could be gift cards, discount codes, or exclusive sales access. For instance, you may want to run a new year sale event to clear through holiday inventory. 

#3 - Review your site performance

There’s a lot more pressure on your store over the holiday season, and it’s important to take the time to assess how your site performed technically during such a crucial season. This will help you to find any areas for improvement, and give you time to fix and test in January when things typically slow down. 

The first step is to identify pages which performed well, and those that didn’t. You can start with looking at high vs low traffic, as well as high vs low conversion rates. Then looking at where people often dropped off. This can sometimes indicate an issue with the user experience for that page. You can then compare high performing pages with low performing ones, and see if you can determine any points of friction. Also compare desktop to mobile performance, given that many customers won’t just shop on one device. 

Some technical performance issues you may want to consider are page speed, page layout, time to checkout, mobile experience, and accessibility. 

#4 - Prepare for returns 

Returns are an inevitable part of the holiday season. Over a quarter of customers say they buy items with the intention of returning them at a later date, and most retailers expect to see their highest returns in January. So, you want to be prepared. A customer initiating a return isn’t always a lost sale, in fact it’s a great opportunity. Best case scenario, you could still retain the sale with an exchange or store credit, and worst case you can provide them with such a great experience they’ll shop again in the future. 

The first step really is making sure customers know your returns policy, and how to start a return if they need to. Burying this information in your site’s FAQ just makes it a little more difficult than it should be, but a proactive approach will be well received by your customers. Send a dedicated email or two after the holidays are over to check in with your customers - you hope they or the person they gave the product to are enjoying it, but if they need to make a return here’s how to do it. Outline your policy, especially if it’s different to the rest of the year e.g. you offer extended returns over the holidays. 

And of course as part of that communication, let them know their options if they do need to process a return. Many returns result in a refund by default, but that isn’t the only option you should consider offering. Exchanges and store credit are a great way to retain the original sale, while giving customers a satisfactory return experience. And if you want to encourage store credit, you could incentivize it with bonus credit, or free shipping on their next order. 

Finally, be sure to keep a track on returns data. Understanding why a customer is choosing to return an item is valuable information. Did you know that over 60% of customers in one survey said they returned an item because it wasn’t as described? That means the product wasn’t really the problem, it was to do with the information the customer was provided pre-purchase. Knowing the reasons why an item has been returned means you’ll be able to improve your store and the experience you offer before purchase, reducing those returns in future.

#5 - Start your review gathering strategy 

We all know how powerful reviews can be for an ecommerce store - in one survey, 99% of respondents said they read reviews and 96% said they actively seek out bad reviews. After all, we’re not always just interested in the good - we want to know where a brand may be falling short also! Whether good or bad, reviews are important to your business. Good reviews provide potential customers with some much needed reassurance before they make a purchase. Bad reviews provide you as the merchant with information that will help you make improvements. 

But in order to benefit from reviews, you need to gather them first. The holiday season provides you with more orders than the rest of the year, and this means higher potential for customers to leave reviews. After the holidays, it’s important to have a strategy to gather reviews. This will hopefully give your store a wave of fresh, relevant reviews. And especially if someone has purchased it as a gift, a positive review could help a future gift buyer. 

Your strategy really starts with communicating with your customers. Use email and SMS to contact customers directly, and be up front - ask them for a review! Usually you would do a week or two after their order was marked as delivered, but during the holiday season you may want to delay until after the holidays are over. This is due to the fact that many customers will have purchased items as gifts, so if the holidays haven’t yet passed they won’t be able to offer a review. To combat this, you can create one email that’s sent around a week after the order has been delivered which gives the customer more information about the product along with a request to review the product. This means you’re offering more valuable information than just a request, so they may be more likely to read the email. If they did purchase it for themselves, they may leave a review and if they bought it for someone else, they’ll still have something interesting to pass on to the person they give it to. Then later on, send a review request as the customer would normally expect to receive it. 

And of course, keep an eye out for any less than glowing reviews. This will give you the chance to see where you may be falling short, and also an opportunity to reach out to those customers to potentially right any wrongs.