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3 Extra Holiday Readiness Tips From a 15 Year Veteran

By So Young Park

With "make or break" time arriving again soon for retailers, many people responsible for commerce are working to find tips and tricks for increasing revenue from both net new and repeat customer.  Even if you've got everything planned, you're probably adjusting and readjusting until the very last minute.

In 2013, I wrote a blog post with Five Tips for Maximizing Success This Holiday Season:

  1. Plan for sales to go bad. Have one or two promotions prepped and ready to go in case you have to deal with surprises.
  2. Be nimble during emergencies.  Be sure your back-up plan includes operational and fail over contingencies.
  3. Learn from the past, but adapt for the present. Make your holiday promotion plans the culmination of learnings from earlier in the year and past seasons, plus a dash of creativity and a pinch of timeliness.
  4. Target. Targeting is too important to abandon even during the holiday rush, so remember that the more relevant your messages and offers are to each segment of buyers, the more likely that your message will get through, ring true, and result in some kind of positive engagement (clicks, likes, comments, sign-ups, referrals, orders, etc.).
  5. Find religion.  Pick ONE key success metric and track it religiously. (e.g. online conversion rate, lead to in-store traffic ratio, online to pick-up-in-store order ratio)

Almost two years later, those tips still hold true. If you’re already ahead of the game and acting on all five of those recommendations, here are three more to really up the ante and help you ensure a successful holiday season in 2015!

  1. Evaluate all internal system processes. Identify cron jobs and other functions, such as weekly database updates and other maintenance procedures that could potentially slow performance during peak times. Reschedule them or consider running them less often, to free up capacity. At the very least, don’t schedule unnecessary updates and processes during Black Friday!
  2. Perform end-to-end load and performance testing. It’s not enough to just load test the website. Your testing should include a performance checklist with clear internal SLAs both overall for the platform and various systems, as well as for key customer clickpaths and stress/failure points. Make sure you are covering individual processes and priority integrations as well. Lastly, don’t forget about your back-end fulfillment processes. The site performance is important, but if your OMS, fulfillment and/or POS systems can’t also handle sustained volumes and unexpected peaks, you’re in trouble. So push orders all the way through the process, from start to finish, and try to mimic realistic scenarios as closely as you can.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. When it comes to holiday season preparation, we often talk about technology, but nothing beats good, old-fashioned communication between teams. Holiday planning can be chaotic, with dates and details changing multiple times before go-live. Make sure that everyone who needs to know, from the warehouse team to call center agents to IT, are kept in the loop as online – and offline! – marketing plans change. This will help teams add capacity where and when necessary and also make sure you avoid unfortunate surprises. Even small things matter. For example, if you change the name of a product or promotion at the last minute, make sure it is really find-able on the website!

Whatever you do this holiday, remember that collaboration between marketing and IT is absolutely critical, particularly as systems and campaigns become more complex, and expectations grow ever higher. Talk through potential scenarios and any corresponding impacts, so that you can adjust your plans and promotions if necessary to avoid performance issues. It’s much better to discuss performance expectations in August, than it is to have to scramble in December to fix issues due to failure to collaborate.

[Editor's Note: In addition to So Young's tips above we have prepared the following items for you. Hopefully you will find them useful as you continue your effort to maximize this holiday season:]

Customer Case Story - Read the case study

"We improved our sales by about 40 percent during the holiday season and we definitely surpassed our goals. We had 70 percent more traffic and that turned in 40 percent more sales." – Steven Hunter, EVP and CIO, Stage Stores

Managing Online Trading Peaks: Get tips from IT experts: Download whitepaper

Modern Commerce Best Practices: Create great customer experiences: Read example best practices.

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