Holiday sales headstart: 10 things you can do now to prep for the upcoming holidays

Shake it up

As we head into the last quarter of 2018, smart business owners shift their thinking and planning to the upcoming winter holidays. Time to start mocking up your calendar and planning for your holiday sales, promotional activities and duties!

10 steps to more holiday sales

Increase your business’s holiday sales potential by doing these 10 things now:

  1. Start planning early.

  2. Review your stats.

  3. Set your eCommerce dates.

  4. Set your promotional marketing dates.

  5. Create images and plan boards for social posts.

  6. Plan online sales and discounts.

  7. Prepare to ‘holidize’ your website.

  8. Reward current customers.

  9. Set up your editorial calendar.

  10. Create a customer service roadmap.

Let’s look at each step in more detail. (Hint: You’re already doing step 1!)

1. Start planning early for holiday sales

According to the National Retail Federation Holiday Planning Playbook, 54 percent of shoppers utilize recommendations from retailers (aka gift suggestions) and begin researching in October — or earlier! This is an opportunity to solidify your plans and make your life easier at the busiest time of the year.

2. Review your stats

The first place to start creating a plan for holiday sales is to look at your statistics. Pull up your sales data as a guide. What convinced last year’s holiday shoppers to make a purchase? Findings from a National Retail Federation survey suggest that these incentives can be particularly effective for driving holiday sales:

  • Free shipping offer
  • Limited-time sale or promotion
  • Ability to buy online and pick up in store
  • Free gift with purchase
  • Helpful customer service

Which of your products are the most popular? What colors or options fly fastest off your shelves? Having this data at your fingertips well before the holiday shopping rush hits will assist in planning to make sure that your inventory levels are adequate.

Do you hand-craft items? Create your material and supply lists to make sure you have everything you need on hand to make your items as efficiently as possible.

Related: How to increase retail sales with in-store pickup

3. Set your eCommerce dates

Holiday Sales Calendar

With eCommerce comes a specific set of target dates that you need to set and broadcast to your customers. To begin the process, get your calendar out and start your planning with:

  • Drop-dead order dates — What is the last day you can accept orders and ship in time for the holidays?
  • Drop-dead ship dates and providers — What is the last day you can ship via the various shipping methods you offer?

Related: How to sell stuff online — A comprehensive guide to eCommerce success

4. Set your promotional marketing dates

Start and end dates for promotional pricing are not only for Black Friday but for weekly and up to the last minute gift-giving promotions that impact holiday sales.

With newsletter and email marketing, plan the specific dates, text, images and designs to announce your holiday promotional activities — and gift buying reminders.

Try to offer useful and valuable information peppered with your specials and holiday promos. Select the dates that you’ll send your notices featuring your holiday specials, limited-time deals and drop-dead order date notices.

Related: Email newsletter ideas you can use right now

5. Create images and plan boards for social posts

We all know that online is a visual experience. That is why you need to start creating your image collateral in advance of holiday sales, so all you have to do is follow your posting schedule. To get a jump on showcasing what you have to offer to your business’s social media fans:

Every social site has slightly different graphic size recommendations. Create all those graphics and text snippets in advance and mark you calendar. Big time saver!

Related: How to use Canva to create branded images in less than an hour

6. Plan online sales and discounts

“Buy online and avoid the hassle!” That is the rallying call that gets louder with every passing year — and one that hits home with many rushed and stressed out shoppers during rush hour for holiday sales. Look at ways that you can take advantage of that!

Set up specific promos and deals on your website so folks can avoid the crowds.


We know the busiest days tend to be Black Friday and then the anxiety builds as the days tick by. For better holiday sales, you could take a innovative and unique approach in your marketing efforts by targeting the days to avoid the crowds and hassle. Highlight the ease of ordering and the other benefits of purchasing from you early.

Related: What every business should know about creating discounts

7. Prepare to ‘holidize’ your website

Holiday Sales Snowman

While a total theme overhaul is not necessary, a creative holiday accent here or there can reflect your attention to detail. As an example, look at how Google creates date specific unique logos for special days: Simple, memorable and effective.

Be sure to clearly note your holiday hours and schedules in the most obvious locations on your website. Are they extended? Are you closed and on what dates? Ensure your visitors are informed!

For eCommerce sites, be sure to have your drop-dead shipping dates and schedules for holiday sales prominently displayed where customers cannot miss them — at the top of your Shopping Cart page is recommended. This way customers can choose the mode of shipping that they desire. Do whatever you can to help visitors plan their orders so they are received on time for the holidays.

Related: 11 steps to get your online store ready for 2018 holiday sales

8. Reward current customers

Holiday sales give you the opportunity to tailor a promotion that fits your current customers’ needs. Have a special sale just for them to thank them for their loyalty and support. Plan out your promotion and when you’ll announce it to your customer list.

Related: Is a customer rewards program right for your retail business?

9. Set up your editorial calendar

Think about stories and topics that you can blog about that pertain to your product or service that are related to holiday sales. Here are a few ideas:

  • Stress-free holiday shopping tips
  • Ways to save on holiday gifts
  • Creative gift wrapping tips
  • Staying organized during the holiday madness (checklists are effective)
  • Top 10 gift lists
  • How-to PDFs or articles that assist your target market in some way during the holidays

If you’re considering adding a holiday gift guide to your blog editorial calendar, start early!

By planning ahead and writing now when you have some free time here or there, you can avoid some of that hectic stress thing that takes over our lives around the holidays. If you use WordPress (like I do), you can craft your blog posts in advance of holiday sales and schedule them to go live at a future date.

Related: How to start and grow a WordPress blog

10. Create a customer service roadmap

Take the time to map out your service processes, all the logical scenarios, and how you’ll back that up.

  • What will you do if an order is delayed?
  • How will you handle mistakes?
  • What if you run out of inventory?

Having a Plan B answers to these questions will allow you to manage unexpected problems affecting your holiday sales — which always rear their heads at the most inopportune time.

Related: Start-to-finish eStore customer service tips

Here’s to a profitable holiday sales season!

With all the noise online you’ve got to grab your customers’ attention. You need to start planting those gift idea seeds early and often. Creating your plan for holiday sales and scheduling every detail in advance is a sanity saver.

This will help you to concentrate on implementing your promotions with accuracy.

Do yourself a favor by starting to strategize and plan now so you are prepared for the upcoming holiday sales season. Doing so will provide a hassle-free experience for your customers and a few less gray hairs for you!

Image by: Bence ▲ Boros on Unsplash