Are You Ready to Ramp up Your Holiday eCommerce Sales?

#1 Start planning your campaigns now

The best time to plan your holiday campaigns was 6 months ago. The second best time is right now.

Successful campaigns take time to prepare

The second — and arguably even more vital — reason to plan your campaigns early is that executing a top-quality advertising, social media or marketing campaign takes time. Rushing any part of the process is likely to impact results.

#2 Give your website a holiday makeover

Show consumers that you’re embracing the holiday spirit by using your homepage to feature special deals and holiday-themed products. You should strategically show off your best products and make the offerings as appealing as possible. Remember that sale items are the main thing shoppers look for when browsing a website during the holidays, so your discounted items should be prominent.

  • Change your logo to incorporate the upcoming holiday (especially powerful at Christmas and Halloween)
  • Add festive “trimmings” to your website (e.g. snow at Christmas or poppies on Veterans Day)
  • Adjust your color palette and site imagery to match the season or holiday
  • Touch up your copy with festive words, phrases, and even puns to create an appropriate tone

#3 Optimize your website’s performance

Once your website is looking good, it’s crucial to optimize its performance. While Amazon’s much-quoted stat, “for every 100 milliseconds of webpage load time there is a 1% drop in sales”, might not be totally accurate, the message is still relevant today.

Emergency DIY speed optimizations

  • Asynchronous loading — Synchronous loading means that the web page only appears when every element is fully loaded. Switching to asynchronous loading can give the illusion of faster loading speeds (with segments appearing as soon as they’ve loaded) and help deter would-be absconders from leaving your site.
  • Image optimization — Large image files cripple your site. Create web-appropriate versions of all images to keep the site as unburdened as possible — users will not notice any quality difference and will appreciate the rapid browsing.
  • Third party integrations — Keep front-end third-party apps to a minimum. These integrations (for example, social media feed plugins) can add value to visitors, but they can also slow down your site.

#4 Optimize everything for mobile

You absolutely must prioritize mobile user experience on your website during this holiday season. Mobile spending over the 2021 holidays is set to hit $70 billion, claiming just under a third of all online holiday shopping in 2021.

  • Make your product search box larger and more prominent
  • Allow autofill of contact and card details in the cart
  • Emphasize product reviews & social proof — remember that product reviews are one of the most important factors influencing the decision to buy in 2021
  • Show the price in the buyer’s local currency, both on the website and in the shopping cart
  • Make sure the discounts on your website are reflected in the cart

#5 Get your discounts right

If all you do is dress up your website a little and offer a few small discounts, you shouldn’t expect any miracles. During the holiday shopping season, customers are counting on getting crazy good deals, more of the “you’d be crazy not to grab this deal” or “offer you can’t refuse” type than just a generic 10% off.

Offer value without discounting

As well as cutting prices, there are multiple holiday eCommerce promotions you can launch without “discounting” per se:

  • Raffles — Partner with a third party (to create something unique) or put one of your products up as a raffle prize. Entries to the raffle are awarded for “free” following any on-site purchases during the promotional period. The number of entries can scale with the size of purchase.
  • Gift Certificates — Offering gift cards as a purchase reward is an excellent way to increase average order value, by incentivizing spending a certain amount (e.g. “Spend $45 and earn a $5 gift card”), or customer lifetime value, since a customer with a gift card is very likely to return and spend in future.
  • Free shipping — Free shipping has become a bit of an artificial discount for many companies. Because free shipping is now expected as standard, companies usually offer it for purchases above a certain level, e.g. “Spend $50 and we’ll ship for free.”
  • Special discounts — This one is a little different: only offer a discount once the order total reaches a certain level. For example, $10 off if you spend $100.

#6 Make sure your analytics are running smoothly

If you’ve promoted your campaigns well, you’ll likely receive a lot of traffic over the holiday season that leads to conversions and micro-conversions. It’s important to make sure everything’s working fine with your analytics so you can monitor your website’s performance, traffic, purchase flows, and so on.

#7 Get personal

It’s more important than ever for brands to stay consistent across channels and provide personalized experiences.

Get personal to improve brand engagement

You can also interact with your customers by encouraging them to share their purchases and reviews through their own social channels, in order to extend your brand awareness and trust. Buyer behavior surveys have shown that brand reputation and product reviews are some of the most important factors that influence the decision to buy.

#8 Make a big splash on social media

The holiday season is a great chance to engage with and expand your company’s following on social media, both to improve your brand’s reputation and directly impact sales (in a positive way, of course). Let’s look at how you can nail both.

Social media for brand engagement

This is one of the few times every year where you can let loose on social media. It’s crucial to understand that over the holidays, shoppers expect creative, enjoyable interactions with brands. So let the shackles off and get creative:

  • Run festive contests — Put up a product or special offer as a prize, then run an easy and fun contest that, rather than focusing on generating leads with contact information, just tries to engage as many people as possible. Try to get them invested, make them laugh, make them think — these interactions can put your brand front-of-mind when it comes time for shopping.
  • Let the banter flow — No joke, simply sitting behind your Twitter or Instagram for a few hours replying to messages, poking fun, “warring” with other brands, and providing social commentary can create seriously good vibes for the company.
  • Create amusing holiday adsYou don’t need a big budget to cobble together a funny or emotional video. These always have the potential to go viral and, if not, can build a stronger bond with your like-minded followers, reminding them that you’re the kind of brand they should be getting behind.

Social media advertising

Here’s where some companies go wrong. They know that the holidays are a great time for whimsical humor and festivities — and so they pile this into their paid advertising too.

#9 Create and promote a holiday shopping guide

The basic idea of a holiday eCommerce guide is to make buying decisions easier for shoppers — and in 2020, over 45% of people said they’d be looking for one! This tip is aimed at online stores which typically offer a wide variety of products.

  • Choose the right products — Speak to customers, review historical sales data, ask stockists which products are trending. Find the products most likely to be popular this winter (or summer, if you’re targeting shoppers from the Southern hemisphere).
  • Categorize your products — If you’re making one shopping guide, you’re probably making several. Categories could be by:
  • Age
  • Product type
  • Interest or personality
  • Budget
  • Gender
  • Virtually anything, depending on your specific business
  • Choose a format — Landing pages, downloadable lead magnets, PDFs, blog articles, hard copy for direct mail; the format isn’t too crucial as long as it’s easy for shoppers to access and reference.

#10 Leverage affiliates

The holiday season is the loudest, busiest time of the entire year when it comes to marketing. Remaining visible and cutting through the noise can be difficult when shoppers are sick to their back teeth of ads!

  • Audience fit — You need to be putting your products in front of the right people. This doesn’t mean existing customers (that would be redundant) but those with an active interest in your niche. For example, if you sell online courses, you might target bloggers or YouTubers in the personal development niche.
  • Audience size — Bigger does not always mean better when it comes to affiliates. The reason? Smaller followings are usually more engaged and trusting of the affiliate; therefore it can make sense to spread funds around 2–3 smaller affiliates than a single giant.

#11 Leverage existing customers and old prospects

We’ve already explored multiple ways to prepare for an onslaught of new shoppers — but don’t forget about the audiences you’ve previously marketed to. These split into two groups:

  1. Your existing customers;
  2. Prospects who didn’t purchase, but did show interest, in previous campaigns.

#12 Provide stellar customer support

During the holiday season, one issue is perennial: customer requests for support tend to surge dramatically. Companies might get overwhelmed by the increased number of orders and customer service tickets and requests.

#13 Optimize your site for search

Enabling effective site search is not a UX box-ticking exercise: it’s a mission critical part of your online sales capability. Conversion rates through site search can be up to 50% higher than the average.

  • Lower bounce rate
  • Higher conversions
  • Better user experience (especially for mobile users)
  • Valuable analytical data (for future campaigns)
  • A faster shopping experience
  1. Use query suggestions (aka Smart Autocomplete) to help customers fine-tune queries and connect with your products faster. This simple change can boost sales and conversions by as much as 24%.
  2. Provide relevant filtering options for every search.
  3. Design for user experience. Colors, fonts, microcopy — there are lots of minor adjustments which, combined, can significantly improve ease of use.

#14 Optimize checkout and payment infrastructure

If you think shoppers clicking “Add to basket” then “Go to checkout” means you’ve got a sale, you’re wrong. Roughly 70% of shoppers abandon their carts; some sources put this as high as 90% during the holidays.

  • Forced account creation — The argument against guest checkout (where shoppers don’t need to register an account) is that you lack customer info which makes future marketing more difficult. However, it massively increases cart abandonment — and you can’t market to shoppers who never bought from you! We recommend guest checkout with the option to register post-purchase.
  • Unexpected shipping costs or taxes — You absolutely must show both product and shipping costs (even an estimate) before reaching checkout. When a shopper reaches the checkout page and the numbers don’t match what’s in their head, they are instantly mistrustful.
  • Payment security concerns — People don’t spend money if websites look suspicious. Displaying trust seals and security badges, including a link to your terms & conditions, showing the highlights of your refund policy, and displaying short reviews can all allay customer security fears.
  • Discount code failures — If your company releases a promo code it has to work. Shoppers are not going to pay full price when they’ve been offered a discount. Again this will cause mistrust and possibly an unpleasant storm on social media.
  • Product no longer in stock — There’s nothing worse than reserving an item in a cart, shopping around a little more, then seeing a message at checkout saying “Sorry, this item is out of stock”. Invest in accurate, real-time stock monitoring for your eCommerce store to improve conversions.
  • Payment option issues — Always offer a variety of payment methods — debits cards, credit cards and some of the most popular global digital wallets, like PayPal or Google Pay, are a must. With so much shopping done on mobile, it’s common for shoppers to make purchases without their physical wallet, expecting a simple digital solution.
  • Poor returns policy — As we discuss in point #15, managing returns is exceptionally important during the holidays. Free returns has become the standard: seeing your expensive or awkward returns policy can make users abandon checkout and go elsewhere. Try to make returns as attractive as possible for your customers; if you can’t offer free returns (this is a common problem for small and boutique retailers) then explain why and try to connect with prospects emotionally.

#15 Prepare for Returns Season

We know this is probably the last thing you want to hear after putting so much effort into your holiday marketing…but customers will return items. Doesn’t matter if you’re selling cars or theater tickets or digital subscriptions: come January, the returns will come thick and fast.

Returns culture has changed

It’s also important to recognize that free shipping & returns has transformed how we shop. We return more products, but we also buy more products in the first place. Instead of experimenting with one dress, a modern shopper might buy 3–4, knowing they can freely return the ones they don’t want.

Conclusion

To conclude, the online sales opportunities around the holidays are immense. Be ready to deliver and make sure you have a great festive — and profitable–season!

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2Checkout (now Verifone)

2Checkout (now Verifone)

2Checkout (now Verifone) is the leading all-in-one monetization platform for global businesses built to help clients drive sales growth across channels.