11 Tips for Holiday Store Prep
It’s (almost) the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, the holidays are coming up fast. Many of your customers are still engrossed in pool days & crisp fall nights, leaving thoughts of Thanksgiving & Christmas way off in the distance. However, for ecommerce merchants, now is the time to begin planning for the holiday rush to ensure a bountiful sales season.
You can never be too prepared — the fact that most customers begin the hunt for the perfect present in October is all the more reason to ensure your ecommerce store is prepared for the holiday ahead. Black Friday & Cyber Monday are on the horizon — the first since the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated ecommerce trends. Over the next several months, the world will prepare for a shopping marathon.
Ecommerce merchants need to be ready to meet the incredible demands that follow.
Here are 11 ways to prepare your e-commerce store for the holiday season.
1. Develop Discounts & Sales
Arguably better than Thanksgiving itself are all the sweet, sweet deals that follow the holidays. Now is the time to sort out the types of discounts, sales, & promotions your e-commerce store will run during the holiday hype. Promotions boost sales & make it easier for customers to choose what to buy, especially if they are undecided. From the classic “buy one, get one free” sale, to a limited-time free shipping event, planning out these deals ahead of time is essential to your success.
Platforms like Shopify have built-in coupon code generators to help you create codes that can be used on specific products, for limited durations, or a limited number of times. This allows you to contour your promotions & offer exclusive deals to specific customer segments. A promotion that’s unique to your email list or social media followers can incentivize your customers to engage with your brand through each of those channels.
2. Prepare for Product Substitutions
If you carry physical inventory, now is the perfect time to perform a count of the materials you currently have on hand & compare it to the previous year’s sales data. You should have a relatively good idea of how many units you have in stock and whether that stock will be adequate for your sales projections.
If you’ve been listening to our advice about utilizing a print-on-demand company to eliminate the need for physical inventory, you’ve already saved yourself the headache of physically counting your items. However, it’s wise to prepare your listings for any substitutions that may be necessary if the items you’re decorating are out of stock for short periods during the holiday season. Now is the time to choose backup products in the event that you need to make substitutions for your popular products (i.e. an alternative black tee shirt if your favorite is out of stock). You may also want to add a disclaimer to your listings indicating that brand substitutions may be made in the event of low inventory. Preparing for the unexpected will only help you succeed as a business when it’s time for the holidays.
3. Decorate Your Store with a Holiday Design
‘Tis the season — the Christmas tree isn’t the only thing that you should be decorating for the holidays. Spice up your site’s homepage with a holiday theme to show off your holiday spirit & maximize your customer’s shopping experience.
Not only will this make your website as fun as strolling throughout the mall, but it will also create a sense of urgency reminding customers that the holidays are upon us & they should make their purchases ASAP.
If your brand has social media profiles (which we highly recommend), consider dressing up your banners & profile images to fit your holiday themes. Change your theme colors to something festive, add string-lights or garland around the border of your image, pop a Santa hat on your logo — whatever you need to do to give off holiday vibes.
4. Plan Email Marketing Campaigns
Holiday email marketing campaigns are a must. This is the time to remind your customers that they can (& should) buy their holiday gifts from your shop.
Your customers are likely receiving an influx of holiday marketing emails — so how do you make yours stand out? Add a personal touch by offering special promo codes, discounts, & featured holiday products. Just remember to create a sense of urgency by adding a deadline to your offers — your customers are more likely to “act now” if the offer expires soon.
5. Personalize Your Ads
When you create advertisements, you’ll want to add a personal touch. You can do this by creating different customer segments based on age, interest, or location & contouring your message to fit their needs. For example, you may run a targeted ad to men between ages 24-50, encouraging them to buy specific products that their significant other may love. This will help you ensure that the content each ad is relevant to your customers & help you increase your conversion rates.
6. Keep Remarketing in Mind
We’ve all been there — you’ve found the perfect gift for Aunt Betty, but it’s August & there’s no urgency to buy so you put it off. Soon, you completely forget about that amazing product.
Please, don’t let this happen to your customers. Instead, consider utilizing remarketing campaigns. This is a marketing strategy where you target the users who have previously visited & interacted with your page. Conversion rates for remarketing ads are generally higher than other ads — you already know what your customer likes, now you just need to remind them of what they liked & encourage them to finish the checkout process.
7. Create Gift Guides
Don’t underestimate the power of gift guides. They are quite useful for those who need inspiration for gift ideas. How many times have you searched “gift ideas for mom” in the last 5 years? Making your site a gift-giving resource (& suggesting your own products for specific situations) increases the likelihood that your customers will purchase your products.
Create guides that are separated into sections, so users can easily find gift ideas whenever they may need them.
8. Create a Shoppable Post on Social Media
Imagine it’s Sunday morning — your customer rolls out of bed to begin their morning scroll. Then they see your post for a fantastic sweatshirt that would fit their best friend’s style perfectly. If the post doesn’t link to your store, they may search for your store in the web browser & click through a page or two before giving up because they can’t find the item they are looking for. You’ve lost an easy sale by making it too difficult to find the product you advertised.
You’re left without a sale & your customer is left without a sweatshirt — this is exactly why you should create shoppable posts.
It’s easy, convenient, & streamlines the purchasing process for your customers. All your customers will have to do when they see something they love is tap the post, add the item to their cart, & head to the checkout.
9. Consider a More Flexible Return Policy
When the holidays approach, it’s a good idea to consider implementing a liberal return policy on your website. Make information about your return process clear & easy to find so that you can save yourself from a slew of “how do I return this” emails in your customer service inbox. If you require your customers to submit photos of the received product with any refund or replacement request, it will save you both the stress of a back-and-forth to make this obvious in your store policies.
Your customers already have to deal with their in-laws coming to town — they don’t want to jump through hoops to get a refund or replacement.
Consider utilizing a customer service ticketing system such as Fresh Desk to help you sort & track customer service requests.
10. Ensure Your Website Is Working Perfectly
Your site is likely to have a considerable increase in user traffic during the holiday season, especially if you’re running advertisements. Take the opportunity now to ensure your site is up to snuff — customers generally won’t be patient if your site is loading slowly or organized inefficiently.
How slow is too slow?
“Anything slower than the blink of an eye – 400 milliseconds. Engineers at Google have discovered that the barely perceptible page load time 0.4 seconds is long enough to cause users to search less.”
Using too many plugins, hosting external ads, & using complex design themes are just a few things that could be slowing your site down & diminishing your customer’s experience. Check out Kinsta’s Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed Optimization for tips on how to improve your site speed.
11. Live Chats & Customer Service
One thing you should always invest in before the holiday season is customer service. Let’s be honest — many people wait until the last minute to buy gifts for their friends & family. This stress leads to a significant increase in order status inquiries. Folks may also message you to clarify your return policy, shipping methods, order processing times, etc.
In general, customers are more likely to contact customer service or reach out to brands via chats because of the impression that they will receive a quick response. You can add a live chat option to most ecommerce platforms (like this one for WooCommerce) to increase customer engagement & reduce the clutter in your customer service inbox.
The holiday season is the busiest & most profitable time of year for eCommerce stores. Planning ahead & anticipating your customers’ needs is the best way to prepare your business for holiday success.