By Heidi Richards Mooney

When it comes to your online sales strategies (ecommerce), it’s all in the planning! And it’s never too early to start thinking about how you are going to prepare for the upcoming year including all the opportunities to maximize sales before, during and long after major holidays have come and gone.  If you wait until the holiday is right in front of you, it’s probably too late. Savvy online entrepreneurs know their peak selling seasons and plan way ahead for them.  Are you one of the planners?

When planning it is important to know that you don’t want to put everything about your whole business and everything you offer on your home page. Have landing pages for separate items. When you give visitors too many choices, they become paralyzed and will leave without buying. Showcase your number one items or best sellers or the one, two or three items you want to move on your home page.

Here are 13 more tips to prepare for Ecommerce Success in 2010:

1. Make sure you have precautionary measures in place.  Where and when does your business get hit the hardest?  Is it local deliveries, customer service, shipping? Focus your attention on getting those parts of your system ready for the holidays.

2. Plan ahead for additional help during peak selling times.  Taxing your regular help during the madness that can occur during the season, can do more damage than good. Consider outside help to get you through the holidays.

3. Automate anything and everything you can. This reduces labor costs and streamlines processes and in most cases helps the customer get quicker service.

4. Reduce time by auto-processing credit cards.  That includes auto settle and authorizations.

5. Manage Inventory. With the economic uncertainty still on the forefront of many people’s minds, it is good to keep a low stock inventory as long as you can order and get a quick turnaround on products you need when the time comes.

6. Consider drop shipping orders to cut down on inventory. Use softeware that automatically forwards those orders to your vendors for fulfilment.

7. Rely on someone else’s I.T. Staff by using a software service provider.  They have the compliant issues in place and they may be more able to have a quick turnaround if a proble arises.

8. Personalize your marketing offers. Use your cusotmer database to increase revenues by creating a 1, 2, 3 touch approach to remind them you are there to assist their purchasing needs. That could be a postcard, email and telephone call or any combination of tactics to get them to order from you.

9. Send emails wisely and prudently. Don’t innundate your email database with messages. They will get mad and ask to be removed. Remember now more than ever, merchants everywhere may be vying for their business. Create email templates or edit and reuse those  that have worked in the past. Saves time, and creative talent to work on other high-priority projects.

10. Automate your gift certificates.  Gift certificates have gained in popularity and every year the % of people who buy them increases.  Many people actually prefer receiving them too.  If you don’t offer gift certificates online, think about adding this feature to your website.  Its a new source of revenue and there is nothing to ship.

11. Make use of multiple stores like ebay and Amazon or Yahoo to test products, to sell overstock items and move last season’s inventory.

12. Consider a “membership” program such as a flower of the month or book of the month club program.

13. TEST, TEST, TEST. Make sure your ecommerce site works properly, is easy to understand and seamless. Do pages load quickly or do they take more than 5 seconds?  Do you have lots of flash?  Do they inhibit buying with obtrusive popups or automatic sound? Invite current customers to do a ‘beta’ test, and Offer discounts to them for their feedback.

The best time to think about peak selling periods such as holidays is while you still have plenty of lead time. Keep your records up to date and review them periodically and use them as a guideline for planning this year’s selling season. You can plan better when records are within your reach and everything is fresh in your mind.

Happy and Prosperous Selling!