eCommerce Cultivated | Episode 029

How to Prepare Your eCommerce Store For The 2021 Holiday Season

Are you getting your eCommerce store ready for the 2021 holiday season?

Yes, I know it’s early but as retailers you have to be months ahead.

Let’s dive into how you can prepare your eCommerce store for the 2021 holiday season.

Even if you haven’t started planning or you are planning now. This episode is for you.

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Episode Transcript

Guess what, we are talking about your favorite topic of the season. Are you excited? I know you guys love when I talk about holidays in the summertime, right?

I think I’m a little bit early this year. So it’s June and we’re going to talk about getting ready for the holiday season because as a retailer, you have to be seasons ahead of everyone else so that you aren’t missing out on opportunities. So you got to be a pre-planner.

And that’s what we’re going to be talking about. We’re going to talk about how you can make sure that you are ready for this year’s holiday season. For 2021.

This is in no particular order, but it’s all very important and the first one is starting with your inventory. Everybody remembers last year’s holiday season, orders were delayed by several weeks and it was just chaos.

Shipments didn’t arrive to some customers and all kinds of things happened. And hopefully with this year’s season and because we’ve been through that situation previously, this year will be a lot easier.

One of the things that you need to be mindful of going into this season is to make sure that you are communicating with your vendors early enough so that you can potentially address inventory issues.

You don’t want to get into a situation where you don’t have enough inventory to satisfy your customer demand or you don’t have the inventory to sell your most popular sellers. So make sure that you are communicating with your vendors right now, get on their books, and understand what they have going on. If they’re already delayed right now, that could be a great indicator that you have to start this communication right now. So make sure that you are talking to them, and scheduling your meetings.

This is especially true if you have your products made and there needs to be some sort of research and development involved, just make sure that you are communicating.

Now, I know summertime is here and you are like, I can finally go outside. But this is really important as well, so find that healthy balance while still being safe to make sure that you are taking care of this aspect of your business.

The next thing is to think about how much inventory you can hold.

If you are holding your own inventory, then think about what the quantities are that you can currently hold or plan to hold over the next few months so that you have enough inventory in place.

Also, look at last year’s stats. If you have that data and see what were some of your top sellers, what were some of your high-performance sellers, it could have been things that you’ve historically always sold out of and then you probably might have seen some surprises where new products kind of took the new position because of all the changes in the world.

So look at what products were your best sellers? Look at that data, get into your numbers, open up those spreadsheets and really pay attention, because that’s going to give you an indicator of what it is that you need to order for this year.

Next, think about your customers. What were some of the surveys that they filled out about your business? What did they say? What were some of the things that they loved? What were some of the opportunities that maybe they experience while shopping with your business?

If you haven’t taken the time to send out surveys, you can go ahead and do that. Right now, there are different tools that you can utilize, which I’ll note some in the show notes. But specifically, there is like Google forms that you can use, which is free. There is Typeform which is free to a certain limit, and then you have to do like a paid subscription. And then survey monkey is also another way that you can get some feedback from your customers about how their shopping experiences have been with your business.

Then use that data to make buying decisions, make customer service decisions, and business decisions so that you can incorporate that going forward and really improve the overall customer service and overall experience. So if you haven’t done your survey yet, definitely get those out so that you can start gathering feedback and input from your customers.

And if you did, go ahead and take some survey data after the holiday season, go back, look at that data, comb through it, find what’s common amongst a lot of the responses, pick those out, and find out what people really enjoyed, find out what were some of the opportunities, and then work out a plan to mitigate those things so that you can move forward and make sure that they are addressed for this upcoming year.

Let’s talk about your staff and team, if you have any, and specifically, do you need to hire anyone this year? If you were doing everything last year alone by yourself or with your family or with the kids or with your best friends. Trying to get orders packed and out to be delivered. Think about if you need to hire this year. And if you do, what types of roles do you need to fill, and what are those expectations that you need of that person or those people in those roles so that you can evaluate performance?

I know a few stores, quite a few stores actually had to shut down their sites because they had to take time to fulfill the orders from all the sales that they made because they didn’t have staff on hand. It was just them. And so a lot of store owners I saw, especially online through their Instagram, had to pause this, pause the business for a minute, like a couple of months, some even longer, just to catch up with orders.

If you don’t want to be in that position this year, think about who you need to hire, how many people you need to hire, and then think about how much time it’s going to be needed to onboard them into your business, to train them properly. And then also think about how long you want them to stay. If this is just going to be a seasonal position, let them know if it’s a seasonal position that’s going to have the opportunity to become a part-time or full-time position.

Also, let them know it’s OK to be transparent about what your expectations are. Just make sure that you have some sort of expectations or frameworks in which to operate and let people know how to best work with your business so that they can help you deliver excellent customer service. So think about your training, how much time you need to allow for that training on top of what else you have going on in your business, and in your life, and then evaluate how that performance will be monitored.

Continuing on with staff and team. Think about how customer service will be handled. How will you be managing customer support emails, customer support, live chat, customer support, phone calls, and potentially things like that? Think about what that customer service experience is going to look like, and what is going to be the necessary training that individuals in that position or who hold that responsibility will need to have. And also think about how you will be mitigating any type of customer service issues when it comes to orders or product delivery and things like that.

Make sure again, if you didn’t listen to my last year’s episode about preparing for the holiday, that you have some sort of customer service response templates in place. That way you can cut down on admin time and just make sure that it’s not some generic response that goes out to every single customer that doesn’t kind of get customized, puts some personalization into it, especially as a luxury brand like you have that opportunity to just up-level and elevate your experience just that much more.

So make sure that you are utilizing those templates effectively, but not making it like kind of like it a un-personalized response. So think about how you can just use those templates to help you cut down on administrative time and to help you serve your customers a lot faster in a more efficient way.

And in case you’re wondering, like Karen, where’s all this coming from? I come from a retail background. I’ve sold physical products and physical locations as well as online.

And I can tell you that the holiday season, in my experience, was crazy. I mean, from having some of the craziest lines and amounts of inventory, like rolling racks of clothes or orders that need to be processed for returns, it can get crazy. And I’m speaking from more kind of like astronomical amounts because one of my locations was like, oh, 42 million-dollar location. And when I tell you the amount of rolling racks of clothing and pulling that stuff back together, the amount of time, the amount of staff, the amount of customer service amount of just.

Make sure that you had enough energy to get through it all. I can’t even explain it to you. So if any of you kind of understand what that looks like in that experience and you know what I’m talking about, this is why I’m telling you to prepare for the holiday season, because you can definitely tell a difference from those who don’t plan and those who do plan. Like you’re not going to be able to plan out every single scenario, but you can definitely plan on giving yourself some sort of buffer to make it a lot smoother.

So this is why I am telling you this right now. I know it’s early and I know it’s probably not something that you want to hear because, you know, the weather is nice, hopefully where you are and you deserve to enjoy life, too. And not that this is not enjoyable, but just take this moment to plan.

I’m just telling you this from the heart, from the experiences that I’ve been through, that this is going to really help you when it comes to a busy holiday season.

Continuing on with this preparation, the next thing is going to be your website because you’re an e-commerce brand. Your website is one of the most important assets of your business skimping here because you don’t understand the value of your website. It’s not a smart move. And if you ever want to have a conversation with me about how your website is super valuable to your business, definitely let me know. We can talk about it. But your website, the main thing I want you to do is don’t wait till the last minute to fix issues.

If you have been noticing something and kind of pushing it off to the side thinking, oh, I’ll get to it, oh, I’ll get to it. And it kind of just gets pushed further down on your to-do list. Right now is the time to take care of it. If your customers have been kind of giving you hints and nudges because your customers will let you know if they don’t like the experience of your website, they will be very vocal about it.

And if you haven’t been paying attention to those cues, to those lovely little nudges that your customers are giving you, this is the time to start paying attention to it because you don’t want to have a situation where you’re in a super busy moment in your business and you can’t fix the problem. What’s going to happen is it’s going to be too busy to pause your site for a moment because it’s going to affect every other sale going on. And then also your customers don’t want to have to wait and you’re going to be missing out on sales opportunities.

So go ahead, take care of it now. So make sure that you have anything on your list that’s kind of just been pushed off to the side that you start to talk about it and address it. Now, look at your design. Is there anything that needs to be updated that can help make your customer flow a lot easier? Is there a step that can be removed? Is there a step that can be added? Is there something that could be made much clearer?

Is there any type of friction going on that could potentially stop sales? If that is the case, then definitely start talking about it, start making plans, and start taking action right now. Also, look at your checkout process. Does it make sense? Did it make sense last year for the type of business season that you were in? Will it make sense this year for the type of anticipated business season that you will be in? And maybe it worked in previous years, but because of the shift in customers’ buying habits, maybe there are some changes that need to happen.

Maybe there are some opportunities that exist. Look at your design, look at the checkout process and see if there’s anything that needs to be refined and tweaked along the lines of the checkout process. Have you addressed any opportunities for abandoned carts?

Have you looked at your reports to see if your abandoned carts have improved or have they increased? What were some of the highest days that you had abandoned cart rates, things like that? Really look at your specifics when it comes to your abandoned cart opportunities, if there are opportunities or what are some things that you can do to start to mitigate that?

Do you need to set up an abandoned cart email flow or do you need to do something else? Think about all of these potential opportunities that you can use to help you leverage bringing back more revenue into your business. And if you’ve been selling gift cards, think about those gift card shoppers, those gift card customers they’re going to be coming in during. During the holiday season to redeem those gift cards, most likely they’re going to spend more than what their gift card amount is.

So are you prepared for not only your regular amount of customers that you typically get but the new influx of customers who are going to be new to your brand, new to your business, that is going to be buying products, they’re going to be looking at your top sellers. You’re best sellers or the recommendations that they’ve received from others who have brought attention to them your business. So think about the shoppers that are utilizing gift cards. If you’re not selling gift cards right now, think about how you can incorporate gift cards.

Also, look at any types of subscriptions, or programs that you are running. If you have a subscription service within your business, are you going to be running any special holiday subscriptions? Are you going to be giving your customers any incentives? What is that going to look like? Do you need to communicate with the vendors because you’re going to be including something special and unique for the holiday season? Are you going to be introducing some new products? Think about all of those things and how they might affect the process and the flow of your website experience so that it doesn’t interrupt your typical and your regular customer shopping habits.

Also, assess you’re upselling. What are you going to have as upsells? What products are you going to put together so that customers can buy like items to pair together? What will that look like? Are you going to be introducing new inventory? Which inventory can go together? There are so many decisions, right. And it also depends on how many products you’re going to be selling in a medium store versus a very large store. Think about what that could look like when it comes to upsells and partnering those products together.

And then, as I stated before, make sure you get with you’re designer and developer, ASAP to fix issues and refresh your website. Now, don’t wait till like September, August, things like that. If you want to do any major changes, start having those conversations right now and you can map out a plan of what that will look like. And by the time you’ve achieved, like maybe a potential rebrand or redesign, it will put you right kind of at that cusp, depending on what it is that you need specifically done for your business at the holiday season.

And then also this will give you enough time to test things out to make sure things are working properly. You don’t want to do major design changes so close to the holiday season and not give enough appropriate time to test things out so that they can be modified and improved on.

All right. So those are some of the tips that I have for you as you prepare for this upcoming holiday season. Really take notes on this. And if you need to pause and go back to write things down, put it in your calendar.

Like if you have a paper calendar or if you use a digital calendar, however you organize, make sure that you put down specific dates of what you’re going to do and what you want to get accomplished. If you want to have a conversation about improving your online store and really getting it ready for the holiday season, make sure you get in touch with me so that we can have a conversation-starting now about what that plan will look like. It’s also part of my overall signature experience to give you an experience planning workshop where we dive deep into what specifically is going to work best for your business so that we can plan out that execution and implementation phase, whether that is doing a full rebrand or redoing the entire store, whatever that looks like, we’ll plan it out that, you know, ahead of time what that will look like before we put anything concrete down so that it makes sense for your business.

So if you want to talk more about that, then definitely get with me over at and I’ll be happy to chat with you more specifically about that. But yes, I know Christmas in July, right? Well, June, really. I like to say it in July, but in June, really. But it’s going to be a great time. And all I really want is that you have amazing sales so that you can achieve the type of goals that you really want for your business and for your life.

So I hope hopefully this episode was really helpful to you. And yes, we’ll chat soon.

Episode Notes

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I’m Karen, the founder, and eCommerce Expert behind The May Creative. Where I help modern luxury brands build more brand loyalty and increase product sales on Shopify. Connect to learn more about working together. Or check out the other episodes below and dive into some insightful eCommerce articles for additional resources on growing and scaling your business.


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