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The holiday season is swiftly approaching, and online store owners should start planning and executing their marketing campaigns now. Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the start of the holiday shopping season for millions of  shoppers - and they're just around the corner.

Here are 5 quick tips to get you started: 

1. Create a Gift Guide

The holiday season is all about purchasing and giving gifts. We're all expected to purchase items for loved-ones, friends, and even co-workers, but how do we know what to buy? Not everyone makes a wish-list anymore, so many online shoppers are starving for gift giving advice. Take a look at Amazon's Gift Central below - this is a smart way to suggest items to purchase for every type of person.


This is called a holiday gift guide, and they can take the form of lookbooks, blog posts, or even magazine-like articles. Amazon does a great job at suggesting gift ideas, but also check out RedEnvelope's Christmas Gift section, or the holiday gift guide I published last year on the Shopify blog.

2. Offer a Shipping Calendar

Not only are consumers rushing to buy presents for everyone on their shopping lists, but they also have to manage the logistics of getting those presents to their destinations on a deadline.

If a shopper orders a pair of slim fit organic denim jeans from the Hiut Denim Company (awesome Shopify store), when will the jeans arrive in San Diego, California? Will the order arrive before Christmas? 

Include a holiday shipping chart somewhere prominent in your ecommerce store. Let your visitors know exactly what type of shipping is required to ensure that an order will arrive on time. Take a look at Net-A-Porter's holiday shipping cut-off chart:


It's well designed, clear, and has all the information a hesitant shopper needs to know. Also check out this Holiday Shipping 2012 Infographic from ShipStation will help you put together a shipping calendar for your online store.

3. Offer Black Friday & Cyber Monday Discounts

Shoppers expect to see sale prices during the holidays, and this is especially true on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Not offering a discount on either of these days is the retail equivalent of Santa dropping a lump of coal in someone's stocking. You don't need to discount every product, but make sure you run some type of promotion. 

Also, it's a good idea to start early. Tell customers on your mailing list about your sales early on to get people excited early. Amazon already has a live countdown to Christmas and Black Friday and Cyber Monday: 

It's all about anticipation. If you're going to send an email blast before Black Friday and Cyber Monday- don't reveal all your discounts. Give them details on a few of your juiciest deals, and encourage them to visit your store to find out the rest. That way, they'll be more inclined to actually visit your site, rather than deleting the email after digesting all of the information. 

4. Add Live Chat

In 2012, holiday shoppers have lots of choices, and ecommerce retailers need to standout, particularly in the areas of customer service and responsiveness.

Offering live chat, gives online store owners an opportunity to connect with interested site visitors as they are making buying decisions. Live chat can significantly boost conversion rates and help to identify bottle necks in a site's sales funnel.

Check out how Shopify store Vielle & Frances has a "contact us" live-chat tab on every page: 


The Shopify App Store has several live chat integration options, including Olark, LiveChat, and UserPulse. Remember, you don't have to offer live chat year-round, it's okay to simply offer it during the busiest shopping season.

5. Collect Emails For Year-Round Customers

November and December are usually the best months for selling products, but they're also a great time to acquire long-term customers. With the influx in traffic to your online store, it's the perfect opportunity to start collecting emails so you can market to them all year-round. 

Shopify store HOLSTEE collects emails with a stylish field in their footer: 


Include a signup field on your home page. You might want to offer visitors an incentive by way of a free ebook, downloadable report, or a discount on goods purchased. If you integrate with Mailchimp, it's super easy to cut and paste the liquid code into your theme. For more tips on email marketing, check out MailChimp's awesome "Email Marketing Field Guide" - a comprehensive guide that will teach you all the basics.