10 Steps to Jumpstarting Your Holiday Preparations [Free Checklist Inside]
This will be a holiday season like no other. With more people shifting to online shopping, it’s predicted that ecommerce will reach its first trillion-dollar year of sales. As an ecommerce store owner, this means new potential customers and the opportunity to grow your online business this holiday season.
It also means a lot of competition and that can be stressful. Since there’s also been quite a lot of pandemic stress during these past years. The secret for making it happen—planning ahead.
In this article, we’ll talk about getting ahead of your competition, staying in control, and getting your ecommerce store ready for the holiday season. Look for the free downloadable holiday checklist at the bottom of the article to help you keep track.
1. Find the dates to target
First, mark down the important dates in your calendar so you can plan your campaigns.
While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the stars of the season, there are other shopping occasions you shouldn’t miss. I suggest thinking about the events that are important to your customers and focusing your efforts on those. Here are a few you can research:
When finalizing your marketing plan for the holidays, think about the information you need to include in your campaigns, like order deadlines, shipping information, return policies, and so on. Contact your fulfillment partners to get the information you need in advance.
2. Plan your marketing campaigns
Next on your to-do list—deciding what deals you’ll offer this holiday season. Pick one or mix and match to find what works for your audience:
- % or $ discount
- Free shipping
- Quantity discounts
- Buy one, get one free
- Flash sale
- Giveaway or contest
- Promo code
- Loyal customer discount
- Extra loyalty credit
If you’re thinking about percentage or dollar value deals, stick to The Rule of 100—use a percentage discount for anything below $100, and a dollar value discount for anything above, as that makes the customer perceive the deal’s value as higher. You can also try setting a minimum order amount for receiving a discount, free shipping, or a promo code to increase order value.
Once you’ve made up your mind about the deals, think about the products to put on the pedestal. Are you going to promote your bestsellers, or will you try to get customers interested in your yet undiscovered treasures?
If you’re looking to add holiday-themed products to your store, consider these trending products:
Decide which marketing channels you’re going to use for your campaigns. Keep in mind that different channels are used for different purposes. Use social media for visual content, your store’s website for storing all the important information, and emails for promotions, reminders, and newsletters.
3. Set up the tech in your store
It’s easy to get distracted when making an online purchase, so make your customers stay focused before, during, and after shopping. The good news is that there are loads of functionalities to help you out. Research and try:
- Abandoned cart recovery emails
- Retargeting ads
- Exit pop-ups
- Web push notifications
- Customer loyalty programs
- Coupon codes
Whichever tool you decide to experiment with, set it up ahead of time. You want to have some wiggle room to test it so everything works when shoppers rush to your store in a couple of months.
4. Run store maintenance
Your email campaigns, social media posts, blogs, and videos will direct your audience to one place—your website. To make it smooth sailing for your customers from there, run store maintenance now.
Here’s what you should pay extra attention to:
- Website speed. A single second delay in your website loading time can result in a 7% loss in conversion. Use GTmetrix to test how fast your website appears in all its glory—it shouldn’t take longer than 3 seconds.
- Navigation. Well-thought-out website navigation lets customers find what they need and find it fast. Ask your friends and family to browse your store to check how user-friendly it is. Use their feedback to improve the navigation or layout of the website.
- Checkout process. The most important part of your website is your checkout page because it’s where your store visitors become customers. Go through the checkout process yourself to make sure it’s quick and intuitive.
- User experience on mobile. Mobile shopping is steadily taking over ecommerce. Check out our article on making your store more mobile-friendly.
If you notice anything that needs improvement, make the necessary changes right away to avoid having your customers inform you about the malfunctions of the store, or even losing potential sales.
You also want to make sure your customers can find all the information they need about your store, products, and policies. Check if everything’s up-to-date in your:
- Product descriptions and care instructions
- Store policies (privacy, shipping, returns)
- Contact and subscription forms
- About Us page
- FAQ page
Pro tip: Find time to go over the tools and plugins you’re currently using on your website. If you stumble upon something that you haven’t used in a while—uninstall it. Any implemented software, even when it’s not in use, can slow down your website or cause downtime.
5. Write those emails
Email is still one of the most effective ways to reach your customers: 72% of adults in the US prefer receiving communication from brands through email. There are also many benefits for you—it’s cost effective, easy to get started, and easy to track and measure the results.
So it’s not a question of whether you should send out emails, but how to craft the best ones.
I advise spending some time crafting copy before the holiday season starts. Write down the important things you want to mention, and keep your notepad somewhere near—the best subject line idea might come at the most unexpected moment.
Think about your audience and what kind of relationship you want to establish with them. That’ll help you with the tone of the messages you send.
Taking inspiration from the list of campaign ideas I shared previously, here are a few ideas for your holiday emails:
- Order deadlines announcement and reminders
- Product/offer of the week
- Sale sneak peek
- Free shipping campaign announcement and reminders
- Gift guide
- New product launch
Be informative, but keep it short. On average, the attention span for reading emails is only about 11 seconds.
6. Craft social media copy
The most popular social media channels for ecommerce businesses are:
To get a better picture of what content will get more attention on your social media accounts, examine your audience’s behavior on each channel paying extra attention to user activity peaks and top performing content. Use this information to decide which social media channels will work best for your brand. If you spread yourself thin on all channels, you’re not going to be effective on any of them. So find the one that works, and focus your efforts there.
When creating copy for your holiday social media posts, remember that each channel is used for slightly different purposes. While TikTok is gaining popularity fast, it’ll only work for targeting a younger audience as roughly 41% of TikTok users are between 16 and 24.
Another example is Twitter—a platform where people voice their opinions, discuss public events, or let off some steam. Roughly 80% of Twitter users are affluent millennials. Pinterest, on the other hand, is purely visual and used for design or lifestyle inspiration. 32% of all Pinterest users are 18-29 years old, and 34% are 30-49.
As you can see, TikTok, Twitter, and Pinterest user demographics don’t exactly match. So, it’s fair to say that what’s popular on Pinterest won’t be as engaging on TikTok or Twitter and vice versa.
7. Prepare the visuals
People remember up to 80% of what they see, and only about 20% of what they read. So if you want to stand out from the crowd this holiday season, invest some time into creating eye-catching imagery for your marketing campaigns.
Depending on your plans for the holiday season, you might need to create visuals for:
- Product showcases
- Email campaigns
- Social media posts
- Blog headers
- Store banners
The good news is that you don’t have to take all the photos yourself. Use the Printful Mockup Generator to download lifestyle mockups of your products. If you want personalized shots of your unique designs, trust our talented Photography Services team to take care of it.
For general visual materials, browse websites like Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay to get royalty-free images that fit your store’s aesthetic. If the pictures need some adjusting, make sure to check our list of free Adobe Photoshop alternatives.
8. Announce order deadlines
It’s important your customers order in time to receive their orders for the festivities. Clearly communicate the dates by which orders have to be made for them to arrive on time a.k.a. order deadlines. To make sure your customers get the information:
- Create an order deadlines page and/or add banners to your store
- Send an announcement email and schedule reminders
- Incorporate deadlines in your marketing copy
- Add the deadlines to your social media profiles or cover photos
We usually share Printful holiday order deadlines in October. Keep an eye out for any updates, inform your customers, and always keep them up to date.
9. Schedule your campaigns
You’ve done the work, now it’s time to put the plan in action. No matter how great your content is, it can get lost in the sea of offers during the busiest shopping season. That’s why it’s important to schedule the content to go live when you’ll reach the largest audience.
Best time to send emails
Based on the data of 14 different studies about the best email sending times, you should prioritize your send days in this order:
The data on this varies, yet most have these days in common. I suggest experimenting to find out what works best for your customers, as some people might only visit the promotional section of their email on weekends.
And let’s not forget how important timing is. Sending an email at the wrong time can make your open rate plummet. These are the best times to send emails:
- 10 a.m.
- 8 p.m. to midnight
- 2 p.m.
- 6 a.m.
Best time to post social media updates
I did some digging and found that the best times to schedule content on social media are:
- Facebook: Mon–Wed at 12 p.m.
- Twitter: Mon–Wed at 12 p.m. or 1 p.m.
- Instagram: Tue, Thu, Fri at 12 p.m.
- LinkedIn: Mon and Wed at 7:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., and 5:45 p.m.
I suggest following these tips, but it’s possible everything won’t go by the book. You know your customers best. If you’ve done the research about your niche, you’re aware of any particular daily habits they might have, such as hitting the gym at sunrise or spending the whole night playing video games. Try out our suggested times, but keep an open mind and adapt.
10. Communicate with your customers
Once your content starts reaching its audience, you’ll have another important task—keeping up with customer comments, replies, and questions. Schedule time in your day to spend just on answering your customers; it’ll be more productive and less stressful that way.
Make sure your customers know how to reach you, and that they can rely on you answering. Communicate using the channels your customers use the most.
Remember to keep your tone and voice consistent throughout all communication. And don’t stress over a few bad reviews. As long as most customers are satisfied with your products and service, you’ll be just fine.
BONUS: Make sure your customers stay with you after the holiday season
Following the suggestions in this article will not only help you plan ahead for the holiday season, but also bring quite a few new customers to your business. But the real art is keeping them. It’s at least 5 times more expensive to find new customers than retain existing ones, so make sure you’re doing what you can to make them come back.
We’ve all heard how important it is to make a good first impression. Make yours memorable by:
- Sending a personalized welcome email
- Writing a thoughtful About Us page
- Introducing yourself or/and sharing your brand story on social media
- Thanking your customers for choosing your store
You’re off to a great start
There’s a lot to do in the upcoming months so start now and it’ll pay off. Download the free holiday checklist below, and use it to make your holiday season organized and as stress-free as possible.
If you need some more marketing inspiration, check out these articles:
- 10 Holiday Email Marketing Campaign Ideas You Must Try
- Marketing Trends for Boosting Holiday Social Media
- Top 10 Trending Products to Sell Online in 2021
Is this your first holiday season, or are you an experienced player in the game? Let us know in the comments below!
This article was originally published in August 2017; it has since been updated.
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