Prep your online store for the holidays in 10 steps

12 min read
Doug Bonderud

Canadian eCommerce is on the rise. According to the International Trade Administration, over 75% of the population — or around 27 million shoppers — now use eCommerce platforms. Holiday spending is also up; as noted by PWC, average per-customer spending is set to reach $1,442, up 2% from 2021 and on par with the United States.

What does this mean for your online store? That Canadian holiday competition is heating up. But don’t worry — here are 10 steps you can take to help your site stand out from the seasonal crowd.

Related: Building buzz for Black Friday and Cyber Monday among Canadian shoppers

Prepare for the holiday season

It makes sense to freshen up your online store in preparation for holiday shoppers. Here’s your checklist.

An adjustment here, an addition there and you’ll be ready in no time. Keep reading for details.

1. Make a seasonal plan

Online Store Holiday Strategy
Most everyone wants to dive right in but it’s best to stop and think first.
Photo: Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

First up? Develop a seasonal strategy. While it’s tempting to lump everything from November through January together as the “holiday season,” individual holidays require their own campaigns to successfully increase sales. Start with (Canadian) Thanksgiving in October. This is a good time to:

  • Say thanks by offering promotions exclusively to loyal customers
  • Start rotating out old online stock

While American Thanksgiving isn’t as critical to Canadians, Canucks are willing to shell out on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to Bloomberg, 25% of Canadians said they overspent on these big shopping days last year. So you need promotions on deck to attract consumer attention during these high-volume online holidays.

Next is the runup to Christmas ... but it’s even more important to account for Boxing Day, which rivals Black Friday for consumer spending in Canada.

2. Stay on trend

What’s trending this holiday season? Start with an online search for popular products in your market and plan from there. Secure enough inventory to meet predicted consumer demand and then decide on your approach:

  • Some online stores prefer to sell early and often until they run out of stock.
  • Others opt for limited-quantity offers and then raise prices as holidays like Christmas approach.

Whatever tactic you adopt, make sure you’re staying on trend with regular online searches for emerging hot products.

3. Spruce up the place

Sample GoDaddy Online Store template
Get this template to build a mobile-friendly online store now.

One common component of successful eCommerce sites is “shopability.”

Shopability is the degree to which consumers can easily find products, access pricing and place orders.

If you’re enjoying online success, chances are you’ve done your homework and created a website design that works for shoppers. Want to boost holiday sales even more? Tweak your site — just a bit.

Add some high-quality holiday-themed imagery and create gift lists using products on your site. Highlight any special discounts or offers to get customers in the holiday spirit. A few more seasonal housekeeping tips:

Check your product pages

Start with product descriptions. Go through your product pages — all of them — and make sure they’re easy-to-read, informative and highlight why your offering stands out from the crowd.

Update photos

Next, check your photos. If products come in multiple colors, include one for each along with pictures from more than one angle.

Stock up

Finally, make sure stock levels are accurate and regularly updated on your website. There’s no better way to lose a customer than by offering a great deal that fails at checkout because you don’t have the item in stock.

Editor’s note: Online Store from GoDaddy offers an inventory management feature that alerts you whenever inventory drops below three items. There’s also an optional backorder feature.

4. Serve up flash sales

GoDaddy Studio flash sale template

Flash sales are a great way to get customers interested and get them spending online. 

Here’s how it works: You pick a few key items and offer them at a steep discount for a limited period of time. This lets customers get the best of both worlds: Some of their holiday shopping is done and they saved money doing it. 

The key component of a flash sale is the element of surprise — you want customers regularly visiting your site and checking their emails to see when the next sale is happening.

Also worth considering? Giving customers who sign up for your newsletter or email blasts early access to flash sales. By offering them first pick of what’s on sale, they’re more likely to get what they want and more likely to keep coming back. 

5. Streamline shopping with bundles and gift cards

While the holidays offer fun with family and friends, they also come with stress. From scheduling get-togethers and making holiday meals to navigating social situations such as company work parties, a substantial amount of energy is required to navigate the season.  As a result, your e-Commerce store can benefit by offering streamlined shopping options such as bundles and gift cards.

Consider a curated bundle.

By offering a collection of your best-selling items, you can take the guesswork out of buying gifts for friends or family. Gift cards, meanwhile, are a great way to let give givers cross people off their shopping list and gift receivers get what they really want. 

6. Simplify shipping

Want to make more sales this holiday season? Offer free shipping for customers. Ideally, tie free shipping to any purchase — instead of a minimum value — but if that’s not feasible, go with the lowest threshold possible.

Close-up of one person handing packages to another person

No customer enjoys seeing the addition of $10, $25 or $50 worth of shipping fees onto their large holiday order. If they’re already at the upper end of their budget, high shipping fees could force them to walk away. Is there a significant cost here for online stores? Absolutely. But the increased customer satisfaction generated by better-than-average shipping policies generates both improved revenues and post-holiday consumer loyalty.

Related: The nuts and bolts of small business shipping

How do consumers find your online store during the holidays if they’re not already regular customers?

Search engines.

Make sure your online store is easy to find by taking the time to search yourself — use words and phrases your customers would likely type in and see what comes up.

Don’t like what you see? Ask the pros for help. They can help move your site up in searches related to what you sell with a technique known as search engine optimisation (SEO).

8. Solve performance problems

More site visitors means more network traffic and more pressure on the web server that stores your web pages to keep up with demand. If your site goes down — or even slows down while consumers are shopping — chances are they’re not starting their cart over, they’re taking their money and heading somewhere else.

Check to see if your online store is up to the challenge of holiday shopping with a tool like Pingdom or PageSpeed Insights.

If your pages are loading slowly, check with your web hosting company for possible solutions. Better more room for traffic than not enough when it comes to seasonal sales.

Related: Find out how to choose a website hosting service

Online Store Importance of Mobile
60% of eCommerce is carried out on mobiles. Your online store must be mobile friendly.
Photo: Hugh Han on Unsplash

One other thing: make sure your online store is easy to view and use on any device — desktop, tablet or mobile phone.

Mobile now accounts for more than 72 percent of total eCommerce sales.

Consumers simply won’t settle for mobile sites that are clunky, slow or hard to use. Online Store automatically adjusts to the user’s screen, increasing their interest instead of frustrating mobile shoppersers.

9. Spread the message

One quarter of Cyber Monday sales are now driven by email marketing.

Considering the sheer number of websites offering holiday deals, your site needs to stand out. Email can help.

Experts recommend spreading the (email) message with tailored campaigns that highlight what makes your online store different and include product recommendations.

Socialize with strangers

Social sites like Instagram and Facebook offer huge potential to reach customers during the holiday season. Any seasonal sales plan should also include a social media strategy with regular posts designed to highlight your online store and reach the largest number of consumers possible.

Best bet? Create short-engaging posts that focus on the reader and let your followers share what they think is relevant. Just like in day-to-day social situations, trying too hard here often backfires.

Related: Kill it on social with GoDaddy Studio

10. Don’t overstay your welcome

While holiday shopping seems to start earlier and earlier each year, the season still wraps up when the new year arrives.

Example of closeout sale graphic

This is a great opportunity to capture next year’s early buyers — the ones that purchase gifts for friends and family a year in advance.

By offering sales or coupons on holiday items as part of a season-end promotion, you can both reduce excess stock and keep customers coming back.  

You can use GoDaddy’s free graphics tool to create scroll-stopping posts like the one at right.

Time to holidize your online store

The holidays are coming. Is your online store ready? It’s worth doing a once-over to ensure your site delivers the experience customers have come to expect. Use our 10-step guide to boost seasonal sales and set your business up for long-term success. A few hours spent checking the windows and doors and making updates now will pay off in more sales this holiday season — and beyond.

Frequently Asked Questions

 What is an online store?

Think of an online store as a more streamlined version of the in-store shopping experience. Instead of browsing physical displays to find what they’re looking for, shoppers can simply scroll through your product pages or use on-site search bars to pinpoint the perfect product.

Great online stores act as a compliment rather than a replacement for retail operations. While some companies have opted to go entirely online, most are looking for ways to maximize sales from both physical and digital shoppers. A well-crafted online store can help achieve this goal. 

What’s the difference between an online business and an online store? 

In 2021, 89% of Canadian businesses had some type of web presence, while 33% made at least some e-Commerce store sales in the same year. So what’s the difference?  Put simply, an online business is any business with a web presence, which could include a:

  • Website
  • Social media account
  • Company blog

An online store, meanwhile, is the part of an online business that allows it to sell items online. In other words, while all online stores are online businesses, not all online businesses are online stores. 

For example, if you have an informational website about your store that includes details about what you sell, where you’re located, and what sets you apart from other brands, but you don’t offer a way for customers to purchase anything online, you’re an online business. 

If you include product pages and a shopping cart, along with checkout and payment options, you have an online store.  

How do I start my own shopping website? 

If you’re going to start your own shopping website, the first thing you need is a domain, such as Next, you need a reliable webhosting provider to supply secure storage for all of your online content and data.   Then, you need to build an online shopping website that:

  • Lets you easily showcase products
  • Offers multiple payment options
  • Simplifies key processes like shipping

Not sure where to get started? GoDaddy’s Online Store Builder offers hundreds of site templates, support for more than 5,000 products, and secure payments via Apple Pay, Google Pay, and all major credit cards.  

What are the benefits of online shopping? 

Online shopping offers benefits for both companies and customers.  For customers, online shopping makes it easy for them to find exactly what they’re looking for and have it sent directly to their homes (or picked up in-store). It also streamlines the process of comparing item details and prices, in turn helping them find the best deal more quickly. 

Those who live with someone with a compromised immune system (or who have one themselves), can avoid the crowds and shop in a safe way.

For companies, e-Commerce stores offer a way to connect with customers and keep them coming back. If shoppers are happy with the product selection offered and the shipping speed provided, there’s a good chance they’ll bookmark your site and/or recommend you to other prospective customers. In addition, online shopping sites make it possible for brands to connect directly with customers and personalize the shopping experience to meet evolving customer expectations.