How can your small business meet e-commerce expectations this holiday season?

3 minute read

It’s no secret that online shopping has increased this past year – and this trend is expected to continue through the holiday season. With 48 per cent of online shoppers saying that they’ll do most or all of their holiday shopping online,1 it’s important that you have a strong online presence. Whether you need to launch an online store or enhance your existing e-commerce operations, your goal should be to provide your customers with the best online shopping experience possible.

Tips to meet your customers’ expectations

Follow these tips to satisfy online shoppers during the most critical season of the year.

1. Create a customer-friendly online experience

Whether you operate exclusively online or have a physical location and a digital presence, your online storefront will be a key part of how shoppers interact with your brand this holiday season. Ensure that your online shopping experience is simple and engaging to help you attract and retain customers.

Conduct an audit of your website. Elements such as high-quality visuals and detailed descriptions can influence online shoppers as they decide which retailer to buy from. It’s also important to ensure that your inventory is up to date. Place any seasonal promotions or products front and centre on your website to grab customers’ attention.

Is your business ready for the holidays? We’ve compiled a checklist of eight action items to help.

View checklist

2. Fine-tune your backend operations

How you operate in the background affects the customer experience. Follow well-established and clear processes – whether you work alone or with additional staff – to fulfill and ship orders quickly. Here are some suggestions for streamlining your backend operations:

  • Prepare early. Don’t get caught without shipping supplies! Ensure you order any supplies you may need early and in sufficient quantities – such as mailers, boxes, packing tape and labels – to get through the holiday season. Even if you overstock now, you can use any extra supplies for future orders.
  • Establish a clear fulfillment process. Set yourself up for success by setting yourself up well. Organize your fulfillment space and your inventory in a way that works for you and/or your staff. Indicate where purchased inventory should be placed before it’s packaged to avoid confusion and errors. Set aside space for packaged orders that need to be picked up or dropped off for mailing. This will ensure that you can fulfill new orders without the packages impeding your operations.
  • Count your inventory. Whether you want to leverage the expertise of an e-commerce partner or manage your inventory by manual tracking, convey item availability accurately on your website. This will ensure that shoppers have up-to-date information and know what is and isn’t available for purchase.

If you have inventory that is currently out of stock, but know if and when it will be restocked, be sure to communicate its future availability on your site. If you can, enable shoppers to join a waiting list for the items they can’t obtain or an email list so you can notify them when the item is back on shelves. If you’re confident about restocking, you can offer shoppers the option to pre-order.

3. Communicate clearly with customers to build trust

Online shoppers want to know what to expect before they hit the buy button. Be as upfront and honest as possible about your delivery timelines. Factor in any delays you, your suppliers or your delivery partners anticipate.

Shoppers want to be kept in the loop about their purchases throughout the entire journey. Let them know when their order has been confirmed, when it’s been shipped and when they can expect their delivery. Enabling them to track their packages in transit can help you manage their expectations. The majority of online shoppers are willing to wait longer for deliveries if they are kept well informed.2

Clearly communicate and display holiday cut-off times to your shoppers to allow you to estimate and guarantee delivery times more accurately. Arming your customers with key dates allows them to make informed decisions.


If you operate a brick-and-mortar store, consider offering shoppers in your area click-and-collect and/or curbside pickup options. This can alleviate strain on your fulfillment and shipping operations and empower customers to choose how they want to collect their products. It’s also a bonus that when shoppers don’t have to wait for holiday deliveries they can take advantage of last-minute sales.

4. Show customers who you are

Just because you aren’t face to face with your customers doesn’t mean they don’t want to know who you are and what your brand stands for.

Tell your story on your website. Add an ‘About Us’ tab; indicate what some of your personal favourite products are; or add pictures of you, your staff and your physical location.

Your local, Canadian roots are something to celebrate, and many shoppers want to support local businesses.3 Encourage them to connect with your brand through your e-commerce store by sharing the personal side of your business.

As you prepare for a holiday season that will undoubtedly be different from years prior, keep these tips in mind. They’ll help you provide the best online experience possible for your customers.

1 2 3 Canada Post. 2020 Spring Survey, 20-208, June 2020.

Our 2020 holiday infographic is here!

Sneak a peek to get our best tips for preparing your business for peak season.

View infographic