Is your eCommerce store ready for the holidays?
The holidays are fast approaching and so are the droves of deal-hunting crowds. Fighting the crowds and getting in line can be too stressful for some and so they go deal-hunting online instead.
What happens when they visit your eCommerce store? Will they enjoy their shopping experience or wish they’d visited a different site?
These are just a couple of the questions that online businesses should ask themselves before the last quarter of every year. The thing is most don’t.
Here I’ll talk about exactly why you should prepare your eCommerce store for the holidays. I’ll even toss in some tips to get you started.
So, here we go!
Why You Should Prepare Your eCommerce Store for the Holiday Season
The last quarter of every year has always been a crucial time for retail stores. This is because of all the holidays that come up almost every week.
These are currently the known holidays for this year’s last quarter:
- Columbus day (U.S)- October 13
- Thanksgiving (Canada)- October 13
- Halloween- October 31
- Remembrance Day (Canada)- November 12
- Veterans day (U.S)- November 12
- Thanksgiving (U.S)- November 22
- Black Friday (U.S)- November 23
- Cyber Monday- November 26
- Hanukkah- December 2-10
- Christmas eve- December 24
- Christmas day- December 25
- Boxing day (Canada, UK)- December 26
- New Year’s Eve- December 31
As you can see:
There’s almost one holiday every other week and this isn’t including unofficial holidays like:
- Small Business Saturday- A holiday celebrated in the US. It’s the counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday that instead focuses on brick and mortar stores. It’ll be celebrated on November 24 this year.
- Green Monday- A holiday similar to Cyber Monday. It’s celebrated on the last Monday with at least 10 days prior to Christmas. In 2014, this holiday saw a total of $1.6 billion in sales. It’ll be celebrated on December 10 this year.
- Free Shipping day- This holiday is a one-day event where customers can shop from online merchants offering free shipping with a guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. This will be celebrated mid-December.
- Super Saturday/Panic Saturday- A major day of revenue for American retailers. It marks the end of the shopping season that they and customers believe starts on Black Friday. This day is targeted towards the last minute buyers. It’ll be celebrated on December 22 this year.
This is why making good during the last quarter is a great opportunity to finish the year with a bang. It’s the best time to mobilize new products, clear out old inventory, and achieve yearly goals.
The thing is:
Preparing to take advantage of these holidays is often sooner said than done. The daily grind just doesn’t give entrepreneurs any chance to do much else. This is especially true of newer entrepreneurs who may be struggling just to keep up with the daily grind.
This is why it’s important to plan ahead. You got to stay ahead of the curve and plan as early as the middle of the year. The customers sure do. This can be clearly seen by checking Google Trends.
As you can see:
While the searches for “Christmas gift ideas” peak a few days before Christmas Eve, they actually start to rise during mid-September for the past 5 years.
How To Prepare Your eCommerce Store for the Holiday Season
So, you’ve learned why you should prepare your store for the holidays, now it’s time to learn how. It’s actually quite easy to do, provided, you’ve organized a few crucial factors. These factors should be geared toward keeping ahead of the competition.
Have a solid plan
“He who forgets to plan plans to fail”
This old saying perfectly applies to entrepreneurs. A solid plan not only gives you a clear picture of what you want to achieve but it also gives you acts as your roadmap to getting there. Having things planned out makes prep work that much easier.
If you haven’t organized your plan yet, here’s a basic outline you can follow and customize to fit your own style and your store’s particular needs.
- Choose your holidays
Choosing which holidays your store will participate in is the first step.
You already know the number of holidays for this year’s last quarter — and it’s a lot. With a holiday almost every other week, you’re going to find difficult, if not impossible, to participate in every one of them.
This is why it’s better to exercise quality over quantity. Choose two or three holidays to participate in and focus all your efforts on them. I may not know what you sell on your eCommerce store but you’ll never go wrong if you prepare for Black Friday and Christmas.
- Schedule your promotions
Once you’ve picked the holidays to focus on, it’s time to map out your promotional calendar. This keeps your efforts organized and increases your success rate down the line.
Depending on your store’s needs and capabilities, your promotional calendar can have time and date entries for:
- When to start and stop promotions. You can even have a countdown timer somewhere on your site.
- Making cosmetic changes to your website banners, graphics, etc. and have them adapt to the holiday you picked.
- Promotional email deployment.
- Social media promotions.
The list isn’t restricted to the one above and you should be able to improve it if you take your time.
- Reconsider store policies
The holiday season is the best time of the year to reconsider store policies, if only for the time being. This ensures that your store can compete during the holiday season.
You may find that other eCommerce stores offer more and more generous policies like:
- Extended return and exchange policies.
- Lower minimum for free shipping.
- Bigger discounts.
Those are just some of the policies.
Additionally, now would be a great time to consider or implement new payment options – like PayPal or Bitcoin – for your store, if you don’t already. These options are easy to implement but have the potential to increase conversions and revenue from buyers who prefer these payment methods.
You’ll have to be careful when choosing which of your policies to change. Tripping up here could have your sales, and even your store, taking a sudden nosedive in the middle of the holiday season. You’ll have to carefully consider and weigh your options here.
- Focus on key ad channels
Strategically choosing your ad channels is crucial whatever the size of your business. It can be the difference between a successful campaign and a complete bust.
Getting just the right combination of advertising channels takes time, which is why planning ahead is so important. Like choosing your holidays, you should keep quality over quantity in mind.
Here are some of the most popular advertising channels you can choose from:
- Blog posts
- Email marketing
- Facebook Ads
- Google Adwords
- Social media
Blog posts rely on Search Engine Optimization to get to buyers quickly. A good promotional blog post can attract new visitors and buyers to your eCommerce store. Consider having an SEO-friendly blog post for each of your major promotions and watch how much new attention your store will attract.
Email marketing is nothing new but it can still be one of the best sources of traffic — if your emailing list is big enough and you know what you’re doing. This is much easier to do since you’re simply trying to attract existing customers. It gets even better if you segment your database based on customer preference or previously purchased items.
Facebook is currently used by more than 2.23 billion people around the world. What’s more, you don’t need to be a tech whiz in order to start a Facebook Ad campaign. You can get your campaign running in less than 30 minutes with this comprehensive Facebook Ads crash course.
Google Adwords is a powerful advertising tool in the right hands. The thing is you might need to bid more aggressively for your chosen word during the holiday season because you’ll be having a lot of competition. You can have strong call to action words like “Black Friday”, “Christmas”, “Holiday Sale”, or “Free Shipping” to attract more buyers.
Retargeting simply means you target your Facebook or Google Ads based on consumers based on their previous online actions. It’s simple but can potentially become of the most effective advertising channels if you know what you’re doing.
Social Media advertising is another popular way to get your ads to buyers. People often check their social media feeds for deals and discounts.
- Re-evaluate your website
Finally, you may want to re-evaluate your eCommerce site itself.
While increasing traffic to your site is your primary goal, you may soon see yourself with too much traffic than your website can deal with. You have to ensure your site can actually handle it.
Your eCommerce platform should make it easy to accommodate the mobile users visiting your site. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly if it isn’t already. Maybe test it yourself on a smartphone or tablet to find what needs improving.
Lastly, make sure your site is secure as deal-hunters aren’t the only ones looking to get lucky during the holidays.
Execute your plan
Once you’ve finished your plans and done all the necessary preparations for them, the next logical leap if of course to execute your plan. You’ll find this step easier than it should be if you planned well enough beforehand.
It’s not over yet
You’ve executed your plans and followed everything. You’ve started seeing better and better numbers every day as more visitors turn into buyers.
But, it’s not over yet.
You have to keep on your toes and watch for any hitches that you may have missed in the planning process. As they say: No plan stands in contact with the enemy (or consumers, in this case).
Finally, at the end of the holiday season, remember to audit your campaign’s performance. This not only lets you enjoy the feeling of your success but it, more importantly, helps you learn from your mistakes. You can then use what you’ve learned to better plan and prepare for next time.
The holiday season is a great time for retailers looking to make it big before the end of the year. With a holiday at almost every other week, you can be sure to make some sales if you know what how to go about it.
Remember to plan ahead of time and to keep on your toes once you execute your plans. When the holiday season is done, never forget to look back and enjoy your success while learning from your mistakes.