For ecommerce businesses, the holiday period is an opportunity to break your records and make a significant share of the year’s revenue in a few short months. According to the National Retail Federation, Black Friday and Cyber Monday (the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving) continue to be the peak shopping days of the year.
Black Friday may mark the beginning of the shopping season for many holiday shoppers, but ecommerce business owners know the starting line for planning comes much, much sooner. Here are all the components to consider in your holiday ecommerce strategy to help you stay calm, collected, and productive heading into this year’s peak shopping season.
How to prepare for the holiday season
- Build your marketing calendar
- Create gift options
- Make sure inventory is in stock
- Check website performance
- Optimize the online shopping experience
- Map out the packing and shipping workflow
- Surface good reviews
- Refine your email and SMS marketing strategies
- Enhance the customer experience
- Prep your customer service team
Ecommerce websites can expect a notable increase in traffic during the holiday shopping season, and if you’re not prepared, it can leave you scrambling to keep up. The time to strategize for the holidays is in the months leading up; once Thanksgiving hits, it’s all about execution.
Here are 10 things to check off your list to ensure you are ready for the holiday shopping season:
1. Build your marketing calendar
Holiday marketing strategies are about taking stock of the previous year’s successes to optimize for the upcoming holiday season. Looking at last year’s metrics, you might find spreading your marketing efforts across multiple marketing channels helped you better reach your target audience. Or, you might find that Instagram was your best-performing channel, so this year you’ll hire influencers for social media campaigns.
If you’re running a news-worthy holiday promotion or selling a product that would be a great fit for a holiday round-up or gift guide, send out press releases as soon as you have the details ironed out. Promotional strategies like holiday sales, giveaways, and countdowns can be good ways to ramp up engagement through the season, especially across social media platforms.
2. Create gift options
Amid the holiday rush, many consumers want an easy gifting option that feels thoughtfully curated—without having to curate it themselves. One benefit of online sales is the ability to easily upsell or cross-sell products in a special holiday bundle.
If you sell skin care products, for example, offer a full face routine as a complete set. Since buyers are motivated by deals during the holidays, offering the bundle at a slightly lower price than the sum of all the individual components makes for an easy, significant purchase.
For buyers who prefer to give the gift of choice, gift cards are a strong option. Display them in a prominent location on your homepage and as an easy add-on at check-out.
3. Make sure inventory is in stock
Once you know which products to place front and center in your marketing campaigns, ensure your suppliers and warehouse staff are aware of which products you’re prioritizing to avoid stockouts during the busy holiday season.
4. Check website performance
Site speed can determine whether potential customers decide to stick around and make a purchase or leave due to a laggy user experience. Check page load times using web performance monitoring tools, and ensure your site is fully responsive on mobile devices. In 2022, 73% of digital sales were made on mobile devices. Fonts, layouts, and navigation should make mobile shopping seamless.
Online search remains the most popular way consumers find gifts, so refine your ecommerce SEO strategy and Google Ads keywords to reflect holiday-themed searches like “best gifts for moms” or “best [insert product here] of 2023.” Creating your own gift guides or gift-related content is a great way to include key search terms on your site to ensure it’s easy to find and generates more sales.
5. Optimize the online shopping experience
Make the shopping process as frictionless as possible during the holidays, from site navigation to checkout flow. Spotlight bestsellers and holiday promotions on your homepage with fresh product photography and up-to-date copy.
To minimize interruptions to online purchases, enable guest checkout for new customers, offer multiple payment and shipping options, and ensure return and exchange details are easy to find and hassle-free.
If you have a brick-and-mortar store, allow online shoppers to buy online and pick up in-store. It can simplify fulfillment on your end and create an opportunity for them to experience your brand in person.
If mobile sales make up a significant share of your revenue, make sure your designs are bold and mobile-friendly. Use A/B testing to determine the best messaging to drive click-throughs.
6. Map out the packing and shipping workflow
Decide whether to outsource packing and shipping to a third-party logistics partner (3PL) or take on in-house fulfillment. Shipping software can help process large order quantities and keep track of various rates and fulfillment dates from a single dashboard.
7. Surface good reviews
With so many options, some consumers need additional persuasion to go through with holiday purchases. Hearing from your existing customers can provide a gut check for those looking to confirm they’re in the right place for holiday gifts.
Surface reviews on relevant product pages, and link out any recent awards or recognitions on your homepage to inspire purchasing confidence.
8. Refine your email and SMS marketing strategies
Text and email marketing is not just about compelling subject lines and product spotlights, it’s also an invaluable tool for helping customers complete transactions. Send thoughtful abandoned cart emails or texts, and use post-purchase communication as an opportunity to deepen the customer relationship.
For sales, don’t forget to alert customers early. Some 71% of shoppers say it’s important for a brand to communicate with them about their offers ahead of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, according to a recent survey conducted on behalf of Shopify. Consumers are ready and waiting to hear about holiday deals, so don’t be afraid to reach out through email or SMS campaigns.
9. Enhance the customer experience
Free shipping during the holidays is expected for those shopping online, but features like shipping insurance—to protect against porch pirates and damage—can show customers you’re looking out for them. Customer satisfaction leads to coveted word-of-mouth referrals, so every bit of delight counts.
Loyalty programs are also a fantastic way to seed holiday sales. Give your most loyal customers a show of appreciation with special holiday discount codes, gift subscriptions, and early access to new products.
10. Prep your customer service team
To get ahead of the shopping rush, prioritize customer service in your upcoming holiday season prep to meet or exceed customer expectations. Give your customer service team a refresher on common questions around shipping windows and return policies, develop a playbook for managing frustrated customers, and ensure everyone is well-versed in after-sales services to leave a positive brand impression.
Holiday ecommerce strategy FAQ
What is the best form of marketing for the holiday season?
Meet your target audience where they are, whether it’s in their inboxes, their search engines, or across social media. If you plan on spending a portion of your marketing budget on ads, start early and refine your keywords to maximize the impact of your ad spend.
How can I grow my business over the holidays?
To boost sales over the holiday season, have an optimized online shopping experience available to consumers by November. Once you’re confident your site can handle an influx of traffic—and your team is equipped to fulfill the orders—you can launch a holiday marketing campaign to attract interest.
What is the busiest online shopping day of the year?
According to the National Retail Federation, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest online shopping days of the year.