Handling Customer Expectations This Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for online retailers! The holidays are just around the corner and as an online business owner you know what that means!  Lots of orders, lots of new customers, but potentially lots of problems if you haven’t planned ahead!  But there is no need to stress out!  Just follow these tips so both you and your customers can enjoy the holiday!

Shipping Deadlines

As business owners,  we sometimes forget that customers really don’t understand that it takes time to get an order ready to ship, and for handmade artists, it also takes time to create the very item they are ordering!  The worst thing that can happen around the holidays is for a new customer to not see your deadlines front and center and order a custom necklace 5 days before Christmas, assuming they will receive it by the holiday.  If you have ever been in this situation before, you know how awful it can be to have to call or email the customer and let them know the order will not make it on time. 

Shipping deadlines for holiday orders should be very easy for your customers to find on your website.  You can create a special holiday FAQ then use the Navigation Tab to set it as the first page of your website. After the holidays, you can easily remove this page by simply choosing a different page from the Navigation menu.

Offer Gift Wrapping

Gift wrapping is a great way to encourage customers to shop with you during the holidays.  If your customer is shopping online they may be doing so not only to find something super unique, but also to save time.  Why not offer to throw in some complimentary “Happy Holidays” gift-wrapping during the holiday season?  You can also offer to include a handwritten note to the recipient.  It can be one of those great little add-ons that separate the small business from the impersonal big corporations. 

Respond to Customer Inquiries Quickly

It is always a good idea to respond to your customers in a timely manner, but when it comes to holiday shopping, a little extra quickness is key.  Most people are shopping for multiple gifts online, and as we come closer to those shipping deadlines you so wonderfully laid out for your customers on your homepage, they might be a little frantic as they try and find the oh so perfect gift.  Responding to questions in a timely manner will help make you look professional as well as help you get the sale, and a customer for life!

Offer Solutions

It is bound to happen.  You will get that customer who writes you 5 days before Christmas, wondering if he can get a pair of the custom made initial earrings for his girlfriend, and you are not able to fulfill the request.  Instead of just letting him go elsewhere, offer him a solution that may work.  Perhaps you have a necklace that matches the earrings that is ready to ship.  You could offer him a coupon for 20% off the necklace so that he can present something on Christmas, with the earrings to follow 1 week later.  Helping customers figure out what to do in the event that they don’t have time or you are sold out of their first choice will go a long way in gaining their loyalty to your brand.

Be Thankful

For each order you get, think about writing a handwritten thank you note, offering a small token or something else to show them that their business means the world to you!  This is not just advice for the holiday season, but if you haven’t been doing this, the holidays are a perfect time to implement this type of plan. 

Let’s face it, as online retailers we compete with the big guys like Amazon for holiday orders.  While most of your customers probably shop with you because they enjoy the small boutique feel and personalized customer service that comes from your store and brand, a lot of your customers this season could be new to your brand and just looking for something unique.  This is your chance to win them over to the artisan way of doing business!  When is the last time the big guys sent a handwritten note or a little extra something with their order?  Probably never!  This is where you, as a small business owner can really shine. 

Lastly, remember to make time for yourself during the hectic weeks ahead.  This is the perfect time of year to take stock of that work/life balance, make sure you are getting what you personally need out of your business, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments when necessary.  Above all, have a very happy holiday season!

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