The Holiday Survival Guide For eCommerce Retailers

Doki Nguyen
Jun 14, 2024
3 min read

Remember when the holiday selling season got busy, then busier, and then all of a sudden, it ended up being an unexpected whirlwind of craziness?

Let’s not forget that the biggest selling season of the year can be chaotic (expect it!), and there are many lowdowns for the BFCM season you don’t know, no matter how experienced you are!

Fear not; we’re here to help with a practical holiday selling guide for you to survive the BFCM 2023 holiday madness.

In this article, you will know what to expect when you’re expecting to sell everything during the holiday, what you should prioritize, and how NOT to fall off the rabbit holes of BFCM challenges.

Crack your knuckles, and let’s break through these 3 checkpoints!

Checkpoint 1: How to survive the holiday traffic


The challenge

Holiday traffic? 🚨 Caution: Exceptionally heavy.

There once was a Shopify store that put on its best deals of the year and then saw it crash just a few hours after unleashing its BFCM campaigns.

As much as we love the festive spirit, dealing with peak website traffic during the holiday season can test even the strongest eCommerce websites out there.

Why are there too much new traffic and a higher-than-average number of visitors to your eCommerce store during the holiday?

Answer: During the holiday season, your online shoppers flock in droves, competing for the best deals and time-limited offers. It's like squeezing an entire town's population into a single store, resulting in inevitable chaos.

So, why does my website crash when there is too much traffic during the holiday season?

Because your website is NOT ready to handle the increased traffic.

The consequence

Just like rush hour on the highway, peak website traffic during the holiday season can leave your customers stuck, waiting for pages to load and checkout buttons to respond.

Worse, leaving your hard-earned visitors in the realm of the holiday cyber traffic jam can seriously hurt your brand revenue as well as your reputation due to the unhappy shopping experience.

cost of web crash


The solution

Now that you know what will happen and why, let’s move on to how to survive holiday traffic during BFCM 2023 and the holiday season overall.

  • Re-assess your site speed

Preparation for holiday traffic starts with a crucial step: conducting a website speed test.

By utilizing optimization tools like Google’s Page Speed Tool or WebPageTest, you can assess your store's website performance and identify areas that require improvement.

  • Double-check your traffic limits

Santa makes a list and checks it twice, and so should you!

Every hosting package has its limits. When your site becomes overloaded, it may crash or slow down significantly as it queues page load requests, possibly resulting in timeouts.

According to Pingdom's analysis of the top 50 eCommerce sites ranked on Alexa, the average uptime was found to be 99.03%. Impressively, 32 websites from this list achieved an uptime of 99.99% or higher.

  • Optimize your website speed

To prevent your website crashes due to surging traffic, you should address database requests and bottlenecks, like adding self-checkout options in a supermarket.

One way to strengthen your website's performance is by identifying and limiting heavy database requests in terms of their number, size, and complexity. Additionally, there are several tactics you can employ:

  1. Utilize a content distribution network (CDN) to handle browser requests for static content such as your homepage and product images. This allows your servers to focus on dynamic content like Add to Cart functions and checkout processes.
  2. Compress images and upload them at their intended display size. Implement lazy loading, which loads media on demand rather than all at once.
  3. Minimize the use of plugins whenever possible. Plugins can quickly become outdated and may not always be compatible with your content management system (CMS) or eCommerce platform.

Checkpoint 2: How to survive out-of-stock during the holiday season

out of stocks

The challenge

'Tis the season to be sold out! As an online merchant, the holiday season surely brings you a flurry of activity, but it also presents a unique challenge: the dreaded out-of-stock scenario ☠️.

During the holiday buying season, inventory moves rapidly. If you’re doing a good job with BFCM 2023 selling, you’ll see your items keep selling out.

How do you know how much in-stock inventory is enough for the holiday season?

Embarking on the journey of optimal seasonal inventory begins with one critical factor: accurate demand predictions.

However, without access to historical data or reliable tools to anticipate future trends, forecasting seasonal demand can feel like taking a blindfolded shot in the dark.

The consequence

Here's the cold, hard truth: Online retailers who fumble with their holiday inventory planning end up with a slice of humble pie instead of a piece of the holiday pie.

Being out-of-stock means losing potential sales, frustrating customers, and risking damage to your brand reputation.

The solution

Let's not discourage your hard-earned visitors with cold-hearted, out-of-stock warnings on your website. Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Improve your forecasting practices to optimize stock levels:

Shopify allows you to utilize historical data from past holiday sales to understand best-selling items, sales velocity, and when demand starts to ramp up.

You should consider the current trends and real-time inventory levels to adjust forecasts and align them with actual demand, too.

2. Invest in inventory visibility:

It’s always best to implement real-time inventory management systems to track and view stock levels across multiple channels.

Ensure that all channels accurately reflect available products for purchase on your website.

3. Perform regular inventory audits:

Conducting regular inventory audits to reconcile financial records with actual inventory data will help identify high-demand seasonal items to stock up on and clear out aging inventory that may need to be discounted or sold.

Checkpoint 3: How to survive the holiday delay shipment

delay shipment holiday

The challenge

During the holiday season, online retailers often face the challenge of delayed shipping, which can have a negative impact on their brand reputation.

While the delays are usually beyond your control, they can be caused by factors such as overwhelming volumes of deliveries for shipping carriers like USPS, the strain on other shipping providers, or unwanted weather factors.

⭐ Pro tip:

Beware of international shipment delays since there will be a likelihood of inventory being stuck or slowed down. As a result, online retailers may face the risk of running out of stock in the fourth quarter.

Along with the delay, you should be prepared to address customer’s increasing inquiries regarding various aspects of their purchases.

These may include expected shipping times, the option to upgrade to premium shipping, inquiries about the return policy, concerns about missing packages, inquiries about gifts, gift cards, and gift receipts.

The consequence

Ensuring timely deliveries is crucial for any business, especially during the holiday season, as it contributes to a positive customer experience, higher conversion rates, and improved brand loyalty.

Delays in deliveries can be highly frustrating for your customers, particularly when their much-anticipating package is intended as a gift and fails to arrive on time due to shipping issues.

Given that a significant portion of holiday purchases are intended as gifts, a delayed delivery not only disappoints the customer but also the recipient of the gift.

This double impact amplifies the negative reputation associated with late deliveries, further underscoring the importance of prioritizing timely shipping during the holiday period.

The solution

Shipment delay will be your customer service's worst nightmare (watch out for the support inquiries!). Luckily, you can proactively prevent and resolve this dilemma.

Firstly, you should actively reach out to manufacturers and suppliers to assess inventory readiness and estimate shipping timelines.

By understanding your suppliers’ shipping cutoffs, you can adequately prepare for the holiday rush and inform your loyal customers about your own shipping deadlines well in advance.

You can also use sales performance reports and data analytics to forecast demand.

This will enable you to determine the required inventory levels and assess if additional warehouse capacity, packaging, or staff are needed to support your eCommerce shipping needs.

Last but not least, you should always promote early shopping to your customers.

This helps spread out the surge in demand and mitigates the risk of inventory shortages during peak periods.

Creating campaigns or deals to incentivize early purchases can increase profits and keep customers satisfied, avoiding last-minute rushes and out-of-stock situations.

Here’s to your winning holiday & BFCM 2023

In the holiday-selling frenzy, online merchants must navigate the treacherous waters of traffic, out-of-stock woes, and shipping delays.

But fear not; with proper planning, forecasting, and a dash of holiday spirit, you can conquer these challenges and enjoy a jolly and prosperous season for your online store.

Happy holiday selling!

Doki Nguyen
Content Marketing Specialist
June 17, 2024
5 min read