Are you bubbling over with holiday cheer, yet?   You should be! Last year’s Nov and Dec holiday retail sales rang in at $658.3 billion! It’s past time to start your eCommerce holiday prep so if you’re running low on ideas for this season, read on!

Many online store owners know they should prep their eCommerce businesses long before the holidays actually arrive. And still, feet drag and backend tasks that should be in place well ahead of the rush are left for last-minute.  As the dog days of summer come to an end, way before you see the first overeager brick-and-mortar store haul out their festive stock, you should have your holiday selling goals set and underway.  Here are some tips to help you get started.

The Top 15 eCommerce Holiday Prep Tips for 2017

  1. Ready, set, go ho ho – Wondering when you should start prepping your online store for holiday sales? The short answer is… you should have already begun. But!!! It’s not too late to start now if you make your holiday strategy a top priority.
    Pro Tip – To drive sales and satisfy customers this yuletide season, turn on some merry music and get the holiday spirit flowing.  Brainstorm and develop an eCommerce holiday prep strategy that’s based on your market research and will connect your target market.  It may seem unbelievable but Google Trends reports that “Christmas Gift Ideas” searches start as early as August!
    Google Trends Christmas
  2. No festive favoritism allowed – Avoid falling into the trap of Christmas Favoritism. The holiday season is so much more than just Thanksgiving and Christmas so keep that in mind that if you want to reach a wide global audience.
    Pro Tip – Your existing shoppers undoubtedly come from a wide variety of backgrounds. To maximize your Q4 success, take advantage of all winter season holidays, including the ones you don’t celebrate personally.  Look up an inclusive holiday calendar and decide how you’d like to handle the ever-changing and colorful variety of holidays before they happen.  Some merchants prefer to place ads and social posts for all of the significant dates while others just keep a single universal message of family, friends, and gift giving.
    inclusive eCommerce holiday prep
  3. Set the details in advance
    You’ll be swamped with other tasks during the festive rush so take a moment get things in line.  The more work you do now, the more you’ll have to spend with family and friends over the holidays.
    Pro Tip – Set up accounts and work the details now to ready for your anticipated holiday promos, discounts, potential issues, and communications. This will help you be ready and less overwhelmed by Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Retargeting Tuesday, Christmas, and all the returns.
  4. Know your own business – Part of preparing for the holiday means you need to take a close look at your own business.  Are you ready for the rush?!

    Pro Tip – Ask yourself questions like… Have I prepared my site for additional holiday traffic? Is my inventory ready? When should my last ‘holiday delivery guaranteed’ order be taken? Is my returns strategy in place? Have we planned for the extra customer service that may be needed to handle the rush?  These types of questions need to be answered before or while you’re developing your eCommerce holiday prep!

  5. Prepare for holiday freezes (the digital kind) – Entrepreneurs who are new to eCommerce may not be aware that there is a much higher risk of hacking and bugs during the bustling holiday season. This criminal trend pushes some software and app companies to lock down their features and marketing tools during the rush.

    Pro Tip – Prepared for the some of your partners to lockdown their properties before it happens.  If you have everything in place before Black Friday, the freeze shouldn’t affect your sales or overall holiday success.
    eCommerce holiday prep freeze

  6. Do your keyword research – There are so many seasonal keywords to choose from so pick those that will speak to your target audience.  If your site is already somewhat successful, you’ll be sure to pick up a bunch of extra traffic with a lil seasonal keyword legwork.
    Pro Tip – Though you may not rank this year for the keyword work you do, take the extra moments to use holiday SEO and keywords.  In doing so, you’re you’ll also be setting your online store up for future holiday success. And seriously, this stuff should be ‘business as usual’ as it’s so important for overall site rank.

  7. To PPC or not to PPC – Pay-per-click advertising may have an unsavory reputation but it has a definite place in Q4 holiday marketing.  Small-to-medium businesses often find it hard to compete with bigger retailers, especially during the holidays, so they need to be clever with their limited marketing budget. 
    Pro Tip – Yes, there will always be a lot of holiday competition. That makes it even more important to start your PPC campaigns and eCommerce holiday prep earlier than the average bear. Use unique keywords in PPC campaigns that are personalized to your niche market.
  8. Cover your local basis The majority of holiday shoppers will shop at brick-and-mortar stores this year, an estimated 80%, to be exact.  Reach those shoppers by taking advantage of other forms of media, advertising, and online local listings.
    Pro Tip – There are many ways to reach potential customers but don’t get so wrapped up in your reach that you forget about your local prospects. The holidays may be one time when you consider advertising on local media such as radio or print. Also, measurable local online business listing options such as Yelp, Bing, and Facebook local awareness ads may help your business more than you realize.
  9. Responsive holiday email templates – We all know we’re supposed to add a catchy subject line but, what happens after your readers click ‘open’? Impress your customers with stunning visuals that provide holiday-related images and animations.
    Pro Tip – Visual emails evoke more interest from your shoppers so, make sure you create beautiful emails that speak to the unique tastes of your subscribers. The best way to build visually appealing emails is to make sure your email templates are fully responsive. This will ensure all users, even those who rarely read an email on desktop computers, have fantastic visuals while using their mobile devices or tablets. If you’re unsure about what responsive templates are, do a little homework.  And most of all, make sure your online store is using an eCommerce platform that offers responsive themes!
  10. Before you click, check and review – Take time to review the content of your email, articles, promotions, and any other content BEFORE it goes public. Embellish and entertain in blogs but remember, emails are not the place for lengthy content. Make sure you include all the necessary details, while not getting too wordy. This check and review shouldn’t just be for eCommerce holiday prep, btw, it’s important all year!
    Pro Tip – Review any holiday content that you plan to post out loud to yourself in a slow reading voice. You’ll be amazed how many potentially embarrassing errors you’ll catch this way. This includes announcements, emails, PPC content, and other important information – please don’t skip this step! If you don’t have the time, skill, or inclination, hire a second set of eyes to do it for you.
  11. Repetition, repetition, repetition… What was that? In case you didn’t get it that first time, always remember that repetition sells. During the holiday season, some marketing taboos are overlooked.  This allows you to do things like send multiple emails with promos and holiday offers or post frequently on social media about holiday sales.
    Pro Tip – Always remember, your brand should always have a personality of its own so make sure not all posts are promotional. At least two holiday cheer or personal company posts should space between the promotional pushes.
  12. Free shipping sells – One of the best ways to encourage people to drop by your website and complete their sale is to offer free shipping. If you don’t already have it in place, prepare your store settings for it now. Take a moment to figure the formula you’ll need to ensure it doesn’t suck down your profit line.
    Pro Tip – Free shipping doesn’t always have to be ‘free’. If you’re not comfortable with offering to ship completely free of charge, you can put stipulations on it.  For example, try ‘free shipping with orders over $50’ is a good place to start. Then, in the last weeks leading up to Christmas week, make it a point to include free shipping for regular shipping, while charging a premium for rush orders. Free shipping does sell but by offering premium alongside it, you’ll reap the rewards of overeager or procrastinator shoppers!
  13. Track your sales closer than kids track Santa – The beautiful thing about the tech behind an online store is that it gives you the ability to track and measure nearly everything. But it doesn’t set itself up. When doing your eCommerce holiday prep, add the analytics program of choice to your online store if it doesn’t have one already.
    Pro Tip – When’s the last time you checked your analytics and data tracking?  Double check now and make sure all is up and running the way you want.  Test them and make tweaks, as needed. You’ll use that information to make sure next year’s holiday marketing is on point!

    Tracking

    Do we really have to know where Santa is at allllll times?


  14. Captivating content –  Even in the rush and fuss of the holiday season, content is king!  It’s also a surefire way to amp up your holiday marketing efforts.
    Pro Tip – When you add relevant and engaging content to your blog, website, social networks, and emails, clients are more likely to follow the provided links and purchase products from your eCommerce store. Think outside the box and use colors and images that relate to your products or promotion. And occasionally, break the rules and highlight special holiday features in your offer in your content.
  15. Personal touches after the holidays –  Customer retention should always be part of eCommerce holiday prep work.  Before you shut things down for the season, before the ball drops for the year, make sure to send all of your shoppers a personal thank you.  Remind them that you appreciate their support and look forward to their upcoming visits. 
    Pro Tip – Sending out thank you notes in boxes or after the fact in an email is a great way to keep your company name in the mind of your best customers. If you want, throw a small loyalty reward in with the note, to prove you truly appreciate their business. This may entice them to visit your website again sooner than later and they will be more likely to remember you for the next gift-giving occasion.
    Now that you’ve had your gentle reminders and realize you may be a little late to the game, it’s time to recover and get to work. You can get a lot done before the rush hits. Shake off the daily routine and get started on your eCommerce holiday prep. Your overall success depends on it!

    Do you have other ideas for eCommerce holiday prep work?  We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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