Holidays can be an amazing time to make up sales from earlier slow times or move the last bit of product in your ecommerce inventory, but it comes with an underside of risk and fear that something terrible might happen.

To survive and expand to reach new customers and markets in the following year, ecommerce businesses need to review operations and stock. It’s not just the products you have, but also how you’re selling them that are under the microscope.

So, to help, we’ve put together three thoughts on ecommerce practices to help you do well as this holiday season ends and the New Year begins.

1. Review Your Stock and Space

Stock is very dynamic during the holiday season. Every sale is important, but customers aren’t willing to wait weeks for you to re-order. Don’t count on getting backorders, because this revenue often disappears as customers request refunds.

Your best tactic is to use an ecommerce platform that tracks current inventory levels and prioritizes in-stock options for your sales, promotions, and ads. When something is unavailable, don’t let customers buy it during the holiday crunch. This will prevent upset people and help you build trust by providing access to things people want with orders you can fill.

The bane of the holidays often comes in the first weeks of the New Year when people start returning goods. If you’ve got data from the previous season, check your return rate. Ensure you’ve got space for these products in your warehouse and shelves, or you run the risk of having too much on hand and the damage that can come from improper storage, weather, or accidents.

Another thing you’ll want to consider is looking into your cartonization process and making it as cost-efficient as possible.

2. Be Honest and Transparent

Everyone is deal-shopping during the holidays. If you want to stand out, you need an excellent offer that’s compelling to your shoppers. A big part of that is a deal that’s easy to understand.

If you’re offering a buy-one-get-one-free sale or free shipping when someone reaches a specific value, clearly state these offers and any related restrictions. It’s perfectly okay to say that your existing clearance items aren’t eligible for some promotions. However, you need to make this point apparent before the checkout process.

The holidays can be a significant opportunity to earn revenue as well as new customers. By being open and honest about your policies and deals, you’re building the trust needed for people to come back and shop again.

You can also go the extra step and turn honesty into helpfulness. List the date someone needs to order by to have an order arrive before a holiday and share the dates of your regional carriers as well. Everyone likes a reminder of when they need to get their shopping done by, and you might just spur a few more purchases in those last-minute orders.

3. Be Helpful

Here’s a mantra for every ecommerce business: don’t add to your customer’s holiday stress.

Plenty of things are going to go wrong, from crazy relatives and kitchen mishaps to dangerous weather and unexpected reasons to cancel plans. You want your role in the holidays to be as enjoyable as possible so that you’re never added to that list.

For ecommerce, this means being helpful in your website and with customer service. Build out a clear and robust FAQ that explains policies, sizes, product requirements, and more. Every question a customer might have should get a corresponding answer that they can find.

Help them even more by adding chatbots or live chat to your site. This ensures they can ask questions 24/7 and get what they need quickly. If you notice people asking the same question about products, consider a quick update to descriptions or product pages to answer those right away.

Having people explain returns and shipping policies can also make people trust your promises more. Plus, you can share this information with your warehouse to ensure your holiday fulfillment is happening correctly too.

Always Think Like a Customer

The best advice we’ve ever been given is to always think like the customer and try to experience our sales process as they would. This means walking through everything from ads to orders and returns, playing the role of the customer.

That practice will help you maximize our other tips by seeing what products are displayed (and you can check if they’re in stock), looking for confusing or misleading language on pages, and determining what’s missing.

Do this for your entire practice, and your ecommerce business will run smoothly, especially in high-risk areas like the final shopping cart pages. Put the customer experience first and your business can play a role in giving them a great holiday with, hopefully, fewer returns at the end.

By Chakraborty

Dr Chakrabarty is the Chief Innovation Officer of IntuiComp TeraScience. Earlier she was Assistant Professor of Delhi University, a QS ranked university in India. Before that she has held research positions in IIT Mumbai, IIT Chennai and IISc Bangalore. She holds 2 patents and over 20 research publications in her name which are highly cited. Her area of research is in smart technologies, integrated devices and communications. She also has a penchant for blogging and is an editor of Business Fundas.