5 ways e-commerce businesses can beat the Christmas peak

Christmas is still a few weeks away, but let’s be real, it’s in full swing right now.

The busiest time of year for most e-commerce brands can be an incredibly daunting, draining and downright distressing time of year – which doesn’t feel very Christmassy. But fear not, there are proven ways to beat the Christmas peak.

It may be early December and things are probably already manic inside your business, but nonetheless, perhaps one – or maybe even all five – of these strategies can help alleviate some festive headaches.

1. Stock up

Whether it’s your fridge or warehouse, the cornerstone of any successful Christmas season is a well-stocked inventory. While running out of your bestseller two weeks before the big day is something to brag about, it’s definitely not the aim of the game.

If you don’t know where to start, look at last year’s sales data and trends to anticipate which items will be in high demand. What flew off your digital shelves last year? Chances are, they'll be hot this year too. It's like the Christmas Top 40 – some hits just keep coming back.

Remember, it's not just about having enough stock but also the right mix. Inventory management software with real-time tracking and forecasting capabilities will make a big difference to your efforts.

2. Get the troops in

The North Pole isn't the only place that needs extra hands come Christmas…

Consider hiring seasonal staff for packing, shipping and customer service. The latter function is often overlooked, but with more orders comes more queries and potential issues; a strong customer service team can be the difference between a satisfied customer and a lost one. 

If you’re bringing new staff in, don’t neglect training because it’s a busier period – training is key. For your own sake, do your best to ensure your temporary staff are as knowledgeable and efficient as your regular team.

And don’t forget to think about the wellbeing of your staff during this hectic period – burnout and unproductivity can quickly switch office vibes from The Holiday to The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Photo by Lance Chang on Unsplash

3. Communicate early and often

‘Better the devil you know’ should be your customer service mantra at the busiest time of year. People will always prefer proactive over-communication than the opposite – especially when gifts need to be given.

Update your website and social media with clear information about last order dates for guaranteed Christmas delivery, and send regular email updates on the statuses of people’s orders. If you’re experiencing the inevitable ops hell, a "Sorry, we're running a bit behind” email explaining the situation will go a long way. The golden rule is to never delay when you need to share bad news – honesty is always the best policy.

And it's not just customers – adopt the same approach with suppliers too. Regular check-ins can help you stay ahead of potential stock issues, allowing you to react quickly to any supply chain disruptions.

4. Have a backup plan

Even the best-laid plans can go awry.

Stock for your top-selling product has been damaged in your warehouse; your website decides it’s time for a holiday. Disasters have a nice habit of striking at the least convenient time, so always have a plan B. 

Perhaps you need to consider what products could serve as substitutes if your main stock runs into issues, or have alternative suppliers on standby just in case?

Staying flexible and rolling with the punches is what Christmas is all about, right?

5. Choose a reliable delivery partner

Here’s the biggie.

No one wants to be responsible for ruining Christmas, or the reputation of Jolly Old Saint Nick. However, if you choose a delivery partner that has reliability issues – and low and behold, your deliveries aren’t delivering – you’ve only got yourself to blame.

Unfortunately, that’s a fairly easy offence to commit nowadays in the UK: in October 2023, 34% of recipients – an estimated 13.3 million people –  faced delivery problems. To avoid your customers falling into this unlucky bunch, do your research and choose a delivery partner that has a strong track record during high-demand periods.

And don’t just investigate important metrics like failure rate and on time delivery rate – transparent delivery timelines, regular communication, tracking information and delivery flexibility will be loved by you and your customers alike.

Choose a reliable delivery partner, and it will feel like Christmas has come early. Or at least via next-day delivery.