How to prepare for the Christmas rush as a small business

Christmas. The busiest, most wonderful and yet most terrifying time of year for business owners.

Christmas shopping starts as early as October, with most sales now happening during the Cyber Weekend (Black Friday – Cyber Monday). Having worked with over 900 creative retailers, we know how important it is that businesses start planning for that mad Christmas rush well in advance.

The sudden flood of orders and questions from customers can get pretty difficult to handle if you’re not prepared. And it’s even more difficult for creative makers who hand-make beautiful things, one piece at a time.
Let’s be real, even carriers get overwhelmed during this time (not looking at anyone here, Aus Post) . Everything just gets a little frantic. So, what can you do to prevent any additional stress?

How to prepare for the Christmas rush:

Get organised

Christmas is the perfect time to deliver that ultimate customer experience! People are busy, rushing to buy gifts for their loved ones, and ideally want them all nicely wrapped up in pretty packaging.

Get organised and make sure you’ve got extra stock for Christmas orders, as well as gift packaging, thank-you cards, and any additional extra touches you might want to throw in – before Christmas orders start rolling in.

Not sure how many orders to expect?

You can look at last year’s Christmas orders and your monthly average growth since then to work out how many orders you can expect.
If it’s your first year, take your average monthly sales and double them.

Of course it also depends on your marketing activities: Are you running any extra ads? Do you have any magazine or Christmas guide features coming up? Are you increasing how many emails you send to your database?

Track your inventory

Make sure your inventory levels are up-to-date and tracking accurately as well – nothing worse than selling more stock than you’ve got!
Once stock has run out, you can always change the product to ‘pre-order’ to keep sales coming in. But make it clear that items might not or even won’t arrive before Christmas (don’t cross your fingers and hope your shipping container with more stock will arrive in time…)

Have a Plan B

The more orders, the merrier? Sure, but only if you can handle it, right?
If you receive more orders or customer queries than expected, but don’t have enough hours in a day or hands to help you make, pack and ship, then you’ve gotten yourself into a sticky situation.

Do this: Before it gets busy, reach out to people who might be able to help you when you need it. This could simply be a friend or family member, or casual staff. All you need to do is set everything up, so you know whom to call when things ramp up.
That way you have a plan and will be able to reply to queries and send out all your orders on time (which in return prevents the good old ‘Where’s my order?’ email from panicking customers).

Set realistic expectations

With all the frantic buying, comes frantic shipping.
And with frantic shipping, comes pressing delivery expectations.

To that, we say:
Don’t make any promises that are out of your control (we’ve seen so many parcels delayed or stuck in customs). Make sure you add realistic production and delivery timeframes to your product pages, at checkout and in the confirmation emails. Feels like overkill? Trust us on this one, people don’t read, especially when they’re busy!

We know you want to get as many orders as possible. And promising they’ll arrive in time for Christmas is a major selling-point, especially when it’s 2 days before Christmas.
BUT, be realistic about the cut-off times for both domestic and international customers. If you don’t deliver what you’ve promised, customers are going to be upset and they won’t come back. Plus you’ll have additional crankiness and emails to deal with… not something you need this time of the year either.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. We don’t want those gifts to be delivered after Christmas, right?

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