The holiday peak season is just around the corner. If you're an e-commerce company, your products, your marketing strategy, and your operations planning through the year have all been leading to this moment. It's the most important time of the year and everything should be in place.

But even if every to-do on the checklist hasn't been completed, there are still things you can do now to ensure that your customers have a good experience with your brand during the most wonderful time of the year.

You don't have to make major changes to your operation. Simply implement these four simple operational elements to ensure the satisfaction of your customers during the peak holiday shopping period. 

On-Time Delivery

The major shipping carriers don't guarantee the same delivery speed during the holiday season that they do during the rest of the year. So there's no reason that you should either. That's why it's important to set shipping expectations early in the season.

Get out ahead of lengthier shipping times by setting customer expectations and communicating with your customers. Brands we work with let their customers know the "order by date" to ensure delivery before Christmas. And smart brands use the reality of longer shipping times in their promotion of early season sales.

Order Accuracy Is Key

Delivering an order on time is meaningless if the wrong product is in the box or if an item is backordered. A quick inventory of your fastest moving products will ensure that your most popular products are in stock. At my company, we solve for this by having continual communication between the warehouse management system my company uses and the inventory systems our clients use in order to "true-up" the inventory so that it's always up to date. 

We also continually monitor our clients' fastest moving products and make sure that all items are in the correct warehouse location. This ensures that there are no out of stock surprises, and that the right items are shipped in an order.

These are a must-dos for fulfillment providers, but e-commerce brands should also be monitoring inventory levels throughout peak periods via a fulfillment provider's online customer portal. 

Make Returns Easy

Items are going to be returned. That's a cost of doing business. But treat a return like the opportunity it is. Use the returns process to interact with a customer. In our own annual study of 1,213 online shoppers, my company found that 62 percent of respondents indicated that they would purchase again from a seller that offered free returns. 

But it's not just about making sure that your returns processes are friction free. Understand that a quick and transparent return and refund will help bolster your brand's image even if the product isn't a good fit. A smart marketing department will find ways to re-engage with the customer at a later time. 

Personalize the package

One of the quickest ways to improve your brand image and delight a customer is to include freebies and other giveaways. In fact, two-thirds of online shoppers surveyed in our annual study indicated that they are more likely to be repeat customers because they received items like samples or other unexpected items.

On our warehouse floor we see a lot of branded stickers go into packages. It's such a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to make your customers feel connected to your brand and build brand awareness when these stickers are added to laptops, phones, and other accessories.  

The goal for peak season in e-commerce isn't just about making sales. The season is also an opportunity to create happy customers who become repeat purchasers, recommend your products to others, and socialize your brand. Each of these processes can be quickly incorporated into your business operation to delight your customers and provide a springboard to increasing next year's sales.

Published on: Sep 30, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.