The Most Common Ecommerce Holiday Challenges and How to Avoid Them


Ecommerce brands tend to capitalize on sales during peak season holiday sales. When order volumes get higher, it means more revenue. But more orders can also mean higher order error rates. To ensure your operations are efficient, and all systems are perfect before sales hit, there are a few key areas to check for issues.  

These tips are universal no matter when your brand has its biggest sales peak—during the winter holidays, Black Friday, Valentine’s Day, or Dads-and-Grads season.  

Here are some ways to avoid the most common holiday season challenges.

1. Optimize Website Performance

More visitors to your website is a dream! That is until your website can’t handle the volume. Slow load times, faulty links, or improperly linked checkout flows can result in a poor user experience, abandoned carts, and lost sales. Make sure your website, and ecommerce platform, can handle the increased traffic.  

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2. Forecast Sales Volume Accurately

Accurately forecasting your inventory for a sale period is challenging. You want to run the right balance between having enough products to meet demand but not having too much leftover that you end up with deadstock in a month’s time. Getting your holiday forecast as close to accurate as possible is imperative. 

3. Sync Marketing and Operations 

Marketing and advertising will play a big role in the success of your holiday sales. Don’t be fooled that they are the only departments that should focus on holiday season sales. Get your operations staff in the room as you start to create holiday campaigns. You need to make sure all departments know what to expect when the order volumes start to climb. Get on the same page early, so there are no surprises.  

4. Analyze Your Inventory Management

The flow of your products from manufacturer to consumer is key during times of high-volume sales. Managing inventory effectively during the holiday season is essential. Running out of popular products can lead to missed sales opportunities, while overstocking can tie up valuable resources. Make sure you have real-time inventory tracking and an accurate forecasting model all set up well before peak season hits.  

5. Set Up Special Fulfillment Projects 

To set your products out from the rest you’ll need to not only meet your customers’ demands, but also exceed their expectations. Doing this often means putting effort into the finer details of order fulfillment. Often called value-added services, your 3PL or fulfillment provider may be able to provide custom projects to help give your products an edge—some examples include adding inserts, custom messages or cards, bundling, or performing light assembly.  

Because 3PLs are set up to handle end-to-end fulfillment needs, offering value added services can be an easy add-on for their clients. There are many common value-added services that 3PLs provide—just make sure you set them up and properly test them well before your sales.  

6. Add Faster Shipping

One thing that’s special about the holiday season is the need for on-time deliveries. No one wants to receive their gifts the day after a holiday! Giving your customers fast and reliable shipping becomes even more critical during a holiday rush. Delays, lost packages, or incorrect deliveries can result in customer dissatisfaction and negative reviews. Before peak season comes around, analyze your shipping mix and sync with your shipping partners. Make sure you work with a reliable carrier and are offering the best shipping services to your customers.  

7. Ramp Up Customer Service

With more orders and website hits comes more questions, issues, returns, and customer inquiries. To make sure all questions get answered in a timely manner, be sure your customer service channels are in great working order. It’s also advisable to revisit any customer service messaging on your site—clearly define your return policy, delivery window expectations, and answer any other common questions that may arise. 

8. Don’t Wait to Set Up Returns  

Managing returns and refunds effectively can be a logistical and financial challenge during the holiday season. Reverse logistics isn’t simple.  

The biggest place ecommerce brands get tripped up after the holidays is not getting returned merchandise back into “good stock” quickly enough. For some brands this may mean refurbishment work, or simply repackaging. Work with your fulfillment provider on how they’ll make sure to keep your returned inventory streamlined so you don’t lose sales.  

9. Tie Up Loose Ends 

Every brand will have different needs going into peak season. Do a comprehensive analysis of the systems your business needs to run perfectly during sales. Here are a few other considerations include:  

Security Measures—protect your brand, your employees, and your customers by tightening all cybersecurity measures. Secure payment transactions and personal data to maintain customer trust and prevent financial losses. 

Mobile and Social Optimization—if you sell on social platforms, or even if you don’t, the rise of mobile shopping is high and getting higher each year. Make sure your website and ecommerce platforms are ready for mobile activity. Comb through your social channels for optimized branding and sales-friendly messaging. You may attract more followers, enhance customer satisfaction and increase conversion rates. 

Check the Competition—if you haven’t done a competitive market analysis, you should do one pre- and post-holiday sales. Peak season is very competitive, and you want to make sure you’re offering products at the right price point. By conducting market research and monitoring competitor pricing you’ll be able to attract customers without sacrificing margins. 

Bottom Line  

It can be easy to get swept up in the allure of the holiday rush and not address some of the more minor, but important business operations. By fully preparing all of your systems in advance of peak sales volume, you’ll hopefully have less issues to tackle. There will always be things that need your attention, but by avoiding these common challenges, you will be able to make the most of the increased opportunities for sales and growth. 


If you’re looking for a 3PL with fulfillment centers in cities across the US, we own and operate facilities in The Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Kentucky. Use DCL’s national footprint of warehouses to distribute your inventory across the country to reduce transit times and save on shipping costs. If you need fulfillment or shipping support and want to partner with DCL Logistics, we’d love to hear from you.