Every year, online store owners look forward to the holiday season, as it holds tremendous potential for profits. Although it’s hard to predict how the 2022 season will play out, you’ll want to make your best effort at capturing your share of Christmas sales.
So what can you learn about what your customers want in an online shopping experience? If you haven’t already, do your research. It can pay off to learn more about your best customers. When you understand how they make buying decisions, you can craft sales and store policies they'll love.
Think the secret to more Christmas sales is appealing to a bigger group of customers? Not so fast. This 2020 Canadian eCommerce report from Canada Post shows that 60% of online purchases are made by a small but active group of just 18% of the Canadian online shopping population.
This segment is the most coveted of online buyers, called “HYPER+ online shoppers.”
These customers are savvy enough to not only drive a large portion of online shopping but to demand a higher level of service. Win them over, and you’ll benefit from boosted Christmas sales and the powerful word-of-mouth advertising these loyal shoppers can bring. Consider them your new target.
Here are 20 ways to position your online store for success during this year’s holiday rush.
1. Start early
Any retailer with an online business knows the Christmas sales spike is coming, but the ones who benefit the most are those who start to plan early.
You’ll need time to forecast sales and order enough of the right kinds of products. It takes time to create a plan and implement it, and if you’re still working out the kinks in December, you’ll fall short.
If you’re already feeling behind, don’t panic. You can pick and choose from the elements below and make a note for next year to implement anything you weren’t able to do this season.
2. Create a plan
Ideally, you’re working from a marketing plan that details the Christmas sales tactics you’ll be using this year.
If not, you’ll want to draft a plan that covers all the holidays and special dates you’d like to focus on, and promotions you’d like to run for each.
You may think of Christmas sales to start, but it's a good idea to break down the season into separate promotions for:
- Black Friday
- Small Business Saturday
- Giving Tuesday
This will help you make the most of each spike in online traffic.
Didn’t get a detailed plan worked up in advance? There are still plenty of ways to increase Christmas sales. Focus on the most impactful elements and look for potential risks or gaps that could sideswipe your success.
For example, are any of your suppliers experiencing delays or warning about shortages? Find replacement or backup items as quickly as possible so you don’t run out of key inventory items or vital packaging supplies.
3. Share your values
Holiday shoppers may feel more urgency at this time of year than they do in other months, but they’re still looking to do business with companies they like and trust.
It’s not enough to have a well-worded mission statement on your website.
Customers want to see demonstrated values in the areas of:
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Sustainability commitments
- Eco-friendly practices
You can help customers feel more confident by sharing what’s important to you as a business owner, how you lift up these values in the workplace and in your online communities. Look for ways to give back that help your whole team feel inspired.
4. Put the spotlight on local
Customers love to support local companies, people and products, so if your team, products or story has a local angle (town, city, or country) — share it!
You can also leverage local shopping when crafting social media campaigns and using popular hashtags on these channels. Do some nosing around to see what other businesses in your niche are using for hashtags. You’ll likely find different versions to rotate through that include your geographical area, industry, specific niche or category, business networks, and more.
5. Pay attention to the visuals
Your plan should include a fresh look for your website and your store, with updated visuals and messaging for the Christmas sales season.
If you hope to run promotions for different parts of the season, consider preparing fresh graphics ahead of time that can be used for each phase of advertising.
Consider using this free Studio tool to turn out a steady stream of scroll-stopping imagery.
6. Focus on customer service
The holiday season can be a blur for retailers, but with more visibility, keep in mind that you’re making an impression on a whole new group of people. These shoppers may do business with you once because you had the perfect item at the right time.
But once they do, they’ll also make the decision whether or not you’re a company they want to stick with.
Keep an eye on social media comments, Google reviews, and whatever email inbox your website contact form delivers messages to.
Customers don’t expect perfection, but they do appreciate online retailers who:
- Communicate swiftly and clearly
- Take ownership and apologize for mistakes
- Make honest attempts to solve a problem
7. Prep your online store
It takes time to load up new products and update inventory levels, so you’ll want to have these tasks done well in advance.
Ensure every item you want to sell online is in your system, with updated inventory levels and detailed product descriptions that include appropriate keywords. This will help more people find your online store through search engines. Make Google, your friend!
Check out this post for more pro tips on ways to finetune your online store before the holidays.
8. Review your return policy
The most confident online shoppers have probably purchased hundreds of items from their favourite websites and have a pretty good idea of what to do if a purchase doesn’t quite hit the mark. Would your online shop make this list?
Do your customers know and understand your return policy?
Your return policy should:
- Support your customers
- Offer them confidence in your commitment to them
- Make it easier to buy from you
It shouldn’t be set up to protect you from ever having to process a return.
Remember, confident customers are more likely to spend money with you. A return policy that supports them when things go wrong can go a long way to keeping your customers happy.
You can find tips from the Canada Post on how to write a winning returns policy here.
9. Run mini promotions all season
Get people excited by running small Christmas sales promotions all through the holiday season. You can create urgency by featuring specific categories each week or offering special weekend promotions.
While shoppers always like to see individual items showcased on your social media accounts and in your product pages, a limited time offer can help move them toward a purchase.
10. Recruit an influencer to help
Building a solid follower base on social media can take time. One way to boost how many people you reach during the Christmas sales season is to tap into the audiences of established influencers in your space.
Look for people with:
- A healthy number of followers
- Lots of engagement and interactions on their posts
- The type of content that aligns with your products and your company values
Long-term partnerships should be planned well in advance and with careful vetting of influencers.
If you’re just dipping your toe in the water, consider partnering with someone who shares appealing content in your industry or niche for a single online promotion or event. You can gauge response and branch out into bigger collaborations over time.
11. Set up email collection
You’ll have more visitors to your website at this time of year than any other, so make sure you are set up to collect their email addresses for future promotions. Offering visitors a small discount in exchange for their email address can pay off later when you’re able to engage them via email marketing.
Editor’s note: Quickly add a signup form to your website, blog and Facebook page with the email marketing tool included in GoDaddy’s all-in-one digital marketing bundle. Email addresses go directly into the tool for email marketing.
12. Do a test run
Do a full test of the functionality of your website and store:
- How do they look and work on desktop, on mobile?
- Is checkout easy and quick?
- How quickly does the website load, and how many visitors can you handle at one time?
For this last one, check how many customers you had last year, increase it by your sales increase goal, then ask your service provider if your web hosting can handle those traffic levels.
Make a test purchase and make sure every step of your customer’s journey, from arriving at the website to checking out, is seamless. Fix anything that’s not perfect.
13. Research pricing strategies
Pricing your products is more than just choosing prices you think people will pay, or ensuring you’re covering your costs. There are pricing strategies that can help you sell more by:
- Bundling multiple items into a packaged price
- Offering a volume discount once customers hit a certain threshold
- Offering different versions of items as upsells
Learn all about setting discount codes, including how to know how many discounts you can afford to offer, in this post.
14. Offer the best shipping deal you can
If you can afford to offer fast and free shipping, do so. You’re likely to have more people take advantage of your Christmas sales and promotions.
If you need to set a minimum, keep it as low as possible to ensure your customers don’t hesitate to check out. Most will be sensitive to shipping costs, so make weighing this decision easy.
15. Get the word out on social media
Once you have everything ready, launch your Christmas sale promotion, and keep your social media channels updated and full of tempting images.
Here are a few ideas to keep your social media buzzing all season long:
- Create a calendar of posts for each of on your social media accounts
- Showcase your top sellers to help drive traffic to your shop early
- Highlight gift ideas for different people on your customer’s list
- Share tips and updates on shipping deadlines to different destinations
- Share your standout service details such as gift wrapping and online gift cards
- Customize messaging based on timing to help target last minute shoppers
- Send emails to your existing customers
- Get people excited and treat every offer as an event!
You’ll have competition for their attention, so get the word out early and often. Social media algorithms often limit how many people see brand posts on the various platforms, so don’t worry about posting daily. Better to be consistent than let things slip!
16. Craft and send marketing emails
Send out marketing emails to your existing customers to let them know of:
- New items you’re carrying
- Christmas sale items that have been restocked
- Special discounts or giveaways
You can also keep customers posted on your holiday hours — especially if you have any extended shopping hours or special events past your normal closing time.
17. Use available tools
Does your online store allow you to send reminders when shoppers leave their carts without purchasing items? A follow-up email reminder about those items or related products is a proven way to draw them back in to actually buy.
Does your email marketing tool show you which emails had the best opening rates and how many readers clicked through to your online store? Check the data, then continue sending out the emails that get high response rates.
Editor’s note: GoDaddy’s Online Store can be set up to send reminder emails automatically.
18. Create integrated campaigns
Customers often need to see your business multiple times before they remember it well enough to seek it out for themselves. Your brand is your company name, but also elements such as your:
- Business colours
- How you craft your messaging or tone of voice
You can help turn new audiences into customers by boosting their recognition of your brand through consistent messaging. When customers see your marketing message brought to life across multiple channels — social media, your website, print flyers — they’ll be more likely to remember your brand and you.
19. Get inventory out the door
Keep a close eye on your inventory as the Christmas sales season goes on. Remember that while early shoppers have the luxury of being choosy, those who leave shopping until later in the season may be less particular.
As inventory on your most popular items dwindles, don’t forget to feature categories and items that may not move as quickly the rest of the year. Someone may be looking for:
- A present for a gift exchange
- The perfect office gift
- A hilarious gag gift for the neighbourhood potluck
Inventory left sitting in your warehouse or distribution centre (or storage unit) is like piles of dollar bills left on the shelves. Keep Christmas sales stock moving until the very last day you can ship.
20. DON’T set it and forget it
Preparing in advance is great, but you can’t launch a Christmas sales plan and then ignore it. Make sure you’re updating inventory levels, so customers can see what you actually have in stock.
Load up new items into your system as soon as possible.
Check regularly to be sure there are no technical issues slowing Christmas sales. Fix anything that breaks ASAP.
Editor’s note: GoDaddy’s Online Store automatically updates your inventory across your store and other marketplaces so customers are never disappointed.
Boost Christmas sales this year
Work through this list of steps when gearing up for the holiday eCommerce rush. To recap:
- Identify what HYPER+ online shoppers want
- Prepare early
- Make a plan and identify risks early
- Focus on customer service
- Do a test run of website and online store functionality
- Stay consistent on social media
- Keep inventory moving
- Stay on top of your plan throughout the holiday season
The most active online customers will expect a seamless online shopping experience and will reward the companies who can offer it, now and through the rest of the year. Get ready to welcome them!