As the end of the year approaches, it brings with it the busiest selling time of the year for most ecommerce retailers. It’s also a good time to look back at how things went this year to help you plan for next year. While this may seem like an overwhelming combination of tasks when taken together, it’s very possible to get it all done with proper planning, and it’s a great habit to get into to help ensure your business will continue to grow year after year.

Be Prepared

Of course, the first thing you need to worry about during the holiday season that dominates the end of the year is maximizing sales. That means making sure you have plenty of inventory on hand, and also that you’re properly staffed to address customer questions or other issues. Making sure your website is running smoothly is another important element of this, as a difficult or lengthy checkout process can cause customers to abandon their cart and look elsewhere.

Other year-end strategies to keep in mind include creating themed social media posts, ensuring timely replies to customer inquiries, and running a series of special deals timed to take advantage of your busiest days and designed to keep customers coming back. You can also include special services for the holidays like gift wrapping or expedited shipping, which are particularly good ideas if you have trouble competing with larger retailers when it comes to price.

Make Time for Review

Amidst all of this, it’s important to find time to look back on the year to see what you’ve accomplished. A thorough review of sales as well as employee performance and other business metrics is essential if you want to move forward and make next year better than the last.

The best way to do this is to set aside a modest amount of time every day to devote to part of your review. It’s not a process you can zip through in one sitting, and trying to cram it all into a few days can just be frustrating and take away from other aspects of your work.

In order to be effective, you need to make sure your reviews focus on the right things. These include:

  • identifying the factors that have contributed significantly to limiting your growth
  • reviewing your goals from last year to see how you measure up, and
  • identifying the most useful metrics that will allow you to properly quantify your achievements for the year.

Planning Ahead

With the information you glean from your reviews, you can start to put together a plan for the coming year. That means, for one thing, determining how to best overcome the limiting factors you identified earlier. It also means setting new goals to help carry your business forward. These goals should fall into two categories to be most productive. The first is the final goal, or more specifically, what you hope to have accomplished by this time next year.

If you want to be successful in reaching those year-end goals, however, you’re going to have to identify some stepping stones along the way to help you measure your progress throughout the year. These sub-goals can take any form that you find most helpful, but they should allow you to accurately check the evolution of your business from time to time as the year goes on.

Another important element of your future planning is articulating your vision for your company three to five years out. Of course, it’s impossible to predict what things might change along the way, and you can certainly modify this vision over time. But putting it down in writing at the end of each year is a good way to maintain your big-picture focus and avoid getting too bogged down in the everyday details that consume most of your time.

A good deal of your year-end review will likely involve identifying where things went wrong as well as where they went right. While it’s tempting to focus only on the positives, you should take some time to examine the issues you’ve had as well. Not everything you try will work, and that’s true of every business owner out there. The most important thing to take away from these reviews, though, is a lesson from what didn’t work in the past so that you can apply that knowledge to all of your efforts going forward.

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