11 ways to get a head start on holiday eCommerce planning

Prep to ship

It seems that the holidays are starting sooner every year doesn’t it? The reality is that almost half of all marketers will start their holiday campaigns before Halloween. The time to start your holiday eCommerce planning is now.

As the holidays approach, activity starts accelerating and we get more pressed for time with the stress that goes along with it. Make your life a little easier by preparing and planning for the upcoming holiday eCommerce season in advance.

The more you can get in place, created and planned for in advance the better!

 

The holiday season is where many retailers make a chunk of their sales. In fact, U.S. retail spending is projected to increase 3.7% from 2018 to more than $1 trillion in 2019. Having a plan in place can provide you the opportunity to acquire your share of that pie.

Guide to holiday eCommerce planning

In this article we are going to cover all the things you can do now to help to increase customer retention and hopefully sales — while making your life easier in the process.

  1. Set up your promotional calendar.
  2. Map out promotional codes and bundles.
  3. Prepare email messaging.
  4. Check inventory.
  5. Plan holiday website content.
  6. Plan social media, blog and newsletter content.
  7. Review and update policies and procedures.
  8. Prepare special offers for current customers.
  9. Create holiday graphics and imagery.
  10. Review PPC campaigns.
  11. Test website security and performance.

Tackle these issues, plan accordingly, and you’ll have a more profitable and productive holiday eCommerce season.

1. Set up your promotional calendar

I use Google calendar to note everything I need to do and when. And I color code it so at a glance I am able to know what my months, weeks and days ahead are going to entail.

You can create a separate calendar for “holiday eCommerce planning” to segregate that information from your other business activities.

It is super easy to use and you can accommodate your own style and schedule.

First, let’s look at last year’s top 10 online sales dates that you can plan your promotions around. I’m also going to share with you 2018’s sales numbers. That’s called potential!

Gold Gift Package Illustrates Holiday Sales1. Cyber Monday (November 26) 2018 was the largest in history at $7.87 billion
2. Black Friday (November 23): $6.22 billion
3. Thanksgiving (November 22): $3.68 billion
4. November 25: $3.39 billion
5. November 24: $3.05 billion
6. November 27: $2.97 billion
7. Green Monday (December 10): $2.87 billion
8. December 11: $2.55 billion
9. December 17: $2.52 billion
10. December 9: $2.41 billion

Special note: Don’t forget Dec. 26 in your holiday eCommerce planning. You can have a special post-holiday sale or clear out holiday items you don’t want to keep on the shelves. Appeal to the many gift card recipients out there looking for deals!

If you had a holiday eCommerce plan from last year, do a quick review of your statistical data to see if there is any correlation to the above dates. Put that data to use for this year’s planning efforts.

Related: Holiday marketing checklist

2. Map out promotional codes and bundles

Map out all your promotional codes. When do they start, end? What are the minimums and number of uses per customer? Also note your promo codes on your content calendar so you can announce your sales on your blog and social channels.

Create catchy promotional codes that are easy to remember.

 

Your codes could be for specific dates (BFBlowOut), available inventory (400Left) or close-out deals (LastChance) that you want to offer.

Investigate how you can create bundles between similar products. Bundling provides a great up-sell opportunity that customers cannot resist!

3. Prepare email messaging

Have all your holiday-related email communications, newsletters and auto-responders set up and ready to go for you to implement when the time comes. Create templates for responding to common questions so you can reply quickly and easily.

By being able to respond promptly and professionally, you have the ability to strike while the iron (interest) is hot and hopefully convert for an order.

Related: 6 holiday email campaign tactics to compete in crowded inboxes

4. Check inventory

Holiday eCommerce Planning Woman Sitting In WarehouseWhen the topic of inventory is brought up, many assume products. While you most definitely want to make sure you have more than enough product to sell, inventory applies to many other things as well. Such as:

  • Packaging materials: Envelopes, boxes, cushioning, labels, tape
  • Promotional materials: Inserts, business cards, discount cards
  • Gift processing materials: Gift boxes, tissue, special cards, ribbons

By having all of the above in-house well in advance, you won’t have to worry about scrambling to get these items in time for your holiday shipping season.

Editor’s note: GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing Ecommerce solution includes all the tools you need for a successful holiday online shopping and shipping season — including multiple shipping options, built-in SSL certificate, integrated email marketing and more.

5. Plan holiday website content

This effort is potentially the most time-consuming. Most customers shop around not only for the best deals but for products from trusted sellers.

By creating holiday-specific content, you build your exposure, expertise and trust factor with those who are considering spending some of their holiday dollars with you.

Some holiday content ideas:

  • Holiday gift guides: Your most popular products and why, stocking stuffers, last-minute gifts.
  • How-tos: How to use your products to make lives easier, more productive, more enjoyable.
  • Comparisons: Compare your various products to each other or even those of your competitors.
  • Customer review compilations: Tell stories that include your satisfied customers and how your products impacted their lives. Storytelling allows you to connect with customer experiences while reflecting on how your products can enhance their lives.
  • Coming soon landing pages: These pages have a countdown timer that tells visitors to sign-up to be notified of your incredible sale or offer to build anticipation (and your mailing list).

Related: 11 steps to get your online store ready for holiday sales

6. Plan social media, blog and newsletter content

Having an editorial calendar is a time-saver. Once you have all your posts ready to go it is just a matter of copying and pasting with the appropriate image(s).

Various services can help you schedule your social media notices in advance. If you are on WordPress you can schedule posts and there are plugins that will then auto-post to social accounts as well.

While auto-posting does save time, you still have to schedule time to interact with responses and comments your content will generate. Rapid and courteous responses, even though you are crunched for time, are what your customers expect and appreciate.

Once all your promotional social media posts are created, schedule them to post multiple times to gain traction. Investigate what works best on each platform. Better yet, look to your own accounts to see when you get the most activity.

Holiday Cupcakes Represent Blog Content Idea
Offer special treats for the holiday season? Create blog, social media and newsletter content that whets customers’ appetites for your products.

Use your blog to bring up topics you know are of concern or interest to your target market at this time of year. Write meaty posts that are 1,500 to 2,000 words in length and offer solutions and tips that address their concerns or needs in a way that works best for them.

Nothing is less impressive than “corporate-y” generic blah-blah-blah that can be found on any website.

 

Being more intimate with first-person copy that allows you to talk to that one person on the other side of the screen will draw them in for the sale.

Review your site’s statistical data keeping a keen eye for any new patterns in search or traffic on your site. See what is most popular and focus on those products to start. Look for any new inbound links for possible partnership opportunities you can nurture during the holiday season.

Related: 9 social media holiday content ideas

7. Review and update policies and procedures

Do a quick run-through of your policy information and make sure it is prominently displayed on your website.

You want to note any holiday eCommerce specific time frames and procedures so that they are front and center for potential customers.

This includes:

  • Special holiday business and customer service hours
  • Drop-dead order dates to guarantee in time for holiday delivery. (20% of shoppers will not start their holiday shopping until the beginning of December!)
  • Drop-dead shipping modes to get items on time. For example, state when First Class will no longer be possible noting when customers need to upgrade to Priority or Expedited shipping to receive in time.
  • Create a Holiday Order & Shipping FAQ that covers all the questions customers will have so they know what is possible and what to expect.

Related: Returns and refunds policy template for online shopping sites

8. Prepare special offers for current customers

Those who have purchased from you before are more likely to do so again. They are waiting to hear from you to give them an excuse to return and purchase your products for others. Not to mention that when customers are shopping for those on their list, they also treat themselves (A Treat Yourself Sale!).

Special discounts, free shipping, points or perks for those who already have accounts with your website is a way to show that you appreciate their business.

 

An “Exclusive Member Only Sale” makes customers feel appreciated.

Put together a special pre-promo promo just for established customers letting them know they are getting early notice or access as your way of showing you value their business. Who can resist that type of sale?

9. Create holiday graphics and imagery

Holiday eCommerce Planning Dog Dressed As Reindeer

Little touches create a holiday mood. Here are some ideas:

  • “Holidize” your website, logo, header graphics.
  • Create holiday-themed product graphics by integrating bows or gift package images.
  • Promotional graphics: Display discount percentages – 50% OFF! Note if there is free shipping. Use terms like “Limited Time Offer,” “One Day Only” and “While Supplies Last.” This approach helps to create FOMO (fear of missing out) to cajole customers to buy now.

When integrating text in your images, make sure it is large enough to be easily readable at a glance. Not only for your website but for mobile devices and on your social media sites.

This is a visual medium and having eye-catching creative promotional graphics will increase your click-throughs. Then, by organizing your graphics by date or campaign you can easily tap into them as your promotional and editorial calendar dates arise.

Related: How to decorate your eCommerce shop for the winter holidays

10. Review PPC campaigns

Reviewing last year’s PPC campaigns can provide a window into planning for this year’s budget. When it comes to PPC campaigns, increasing your bids and budgets as the time to shop diminishes allows you to take advantage of last minute impulse buyers.

Typically this time frame— December 14-24 — is when your remarketing efforts will be more effective.

Successful PPC campaigns require a ton of testing and tuning. Hopefully, you’ve been doing that throughout the year to find out what works for your products.

Related: 8 tips to get strong returns on PPC advertising spend

11. Test website security and performance

Security considerations are very important to building your trust factor with potential customers.

Make sure that you have SSL (HTTPS) installed so that all data transmitted between your site and your customer’s browser is encrypted.

While most of you likely have this in place, I see sites every day without SSL so it is worth a mention.

Other considerations:

  • Run a website performance and speed check to make sure that everything is running as best and as fast as possible. Then make the necessary changes and modifications to get your site to load within two to three seconds. Zippy sites also attain better search rankings.
  • Make sure that your website is completely up to date (themes, plugins, extensions, WordPress, PHP, etc.) to take advantage of all available performance improvements and security hardening.
  • Go through your checkout process to make sure it is simple, intuitive and that everything is working as it should.
  • Review how your site displays and operates on mobile devices as well (revenue on mobile devices was around 40% last year).

Next, you’ll want to do a quick check of your hosting package against last year’s activity. Then add a dash of anticipated increases based on growth since then for this year’s holiday season.

Do you have enough resources in your package or should you upgrade in advance? Ask your host what would happen if you exceeded your package resources so you can be proactive and plan accordingly.

Get your holiday eCommerce planning in shape

By having a plan to cover all these topics, you’ll know what you need to implement and when. This will allow you to run your business efficiently while making the most of this important time of year. That’s called ROI!

Image by: Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash