The holiday season is the most important time of the year for businesses. It is the ultimate shopping season, and online stores need to prepare to make sure that they take full advantage of this time. The official shopping “season” starts right after Thanksgiving, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and continues all the way through New Year’s, and even to the end of January. The “sweet spot” is before Christmas, since most people will be shopping for Christmas gifts. Here are 8 ways to prepare your online store and increase your sales.
1. Analyze Last Year’s Stats
If you’ve had your online shop for over a year, look back at your numbers during the holiday season in 2016. You’ll want to analyze a few things:
- How much traffic did you have? How many sales? This will help you get a better idea of what to expect this year.
- Who were your buyers? Do they have something in common? Maybe you can create campaigns that target a certain audience group.
- What problems did you have last year? Were there technical difficulties or issues with your conversion funnel? Now is a good time to learn and improve.
The idea is to look at your experience from the year before and see what you can work on, and what insights you can gain to create more successful campaigns. Make sure to set up Google Analytics, heat maps, and everything you need to track your success and activity so that you can gain even more insights for next year.
2. Prepare for the Technical Issues Ahead
There are a few technical issues you’ll want to address before going live with the holiday sales.
- Can your site handle the additional traffic over the holidays?
- Is your site’s loading time fast enough?
- Is your site secure against malware and hackers?
- Is your site secure for your buyers?
- Is your site mobile-friendly and responsive?
Even after everything looks good and is working properly, it is best to have someone on standby to help you out with technical issues if they come up. See if your hosting service or website builder offers increased support for the holiday season, and check their response time.
3. Check for Special Holiday Features
Are you using a website builder? If so, check for any plugins, apps, or features that you can use for the holiday season. For example, Wix has a free add-on that allows you to add holiday badges to your site to wish visitors a happy holiday. You can customize the badges’ text and color, and use them to write “Merry Christmas” or even to promote a special discount. Many website builders have e-commerce features and apps you can use during this time, so make sure to check the updates in their blog or news section, and browse the latest apps.
4. Make Sure Your Website is Ready
First, go over your entire site and make sure there are no broken links, no outdated content, etc. Review everything while checking that navigation is clear and working properly. You’re bound to find things in content, design, and navigation that you can improve just by doing this. Next, review your inventory and make sure you aren’t low on items that you expect will sell more than others.
Now that everything seems in order, it’s time to bring the holiday spirit into your website design. Add banners and design elements that are in line with the holidays. Create holiday-focused category pages, or pages with gift ideas for moms, dads, siblings, friends, etc. that link directly to various products in your store. Remember that most people will be searching for gifts, and not all of them know what to buy so offering gift ideas and making things easy to navigate is a great way to help your buyers out and increase sales. Adding product videos to your pages with links to how the product is used or what it looks like is also known to increase sales, so it is highly recommended (if possible).
5. Offer Holiday Services and Products
Add services and products for the holidays, for example:
- Free gift wrapping
- Holiday-designed gift cards
- Online gift cards
- Live chat and increased customer service options
- Better return conditions
- Free shipping
- 24-hour shipping
The last three are especially known to increase sales. Since people are buying gifts, great return conditions are important, so be sure to highlight that in your product pages. Shipping is also a big deal, especially if you offer 1-day shipping, which is ideal for last-minute shoppers.
6. Bring People Who Didn’t Buy Back to Your Shop
A lot of people visit shops and don’t buy, and there are many reasons for this. The holiday season is no exception, especially with so many people searching for gifts. Many shoppers browse different sites looking for ideas, great deals, and specific items, and they move on to the next website if they don’t see something appealing enough.
There are a number of ways to get these people back to buy your products:
- Off-Site Retargeting
Retargeting ads are ads on various websites and social networks targeting previous website visitors. It is a great way to show them products they looked at, offer exclusive discounts if they come back, and get them to keep seeing your brand and products everywhere they go.
- On-Site Retargeting
This method is very effective, and targets your audience before they actually leave. This is usually done in the form of a popup with an exclusive deal or discount whenever someone tries to leave the site, or the checkout page.
- “Abandoned Cart” Emails
This works for registered buyers who put things in their cart and then don’t buy. Basically, you send them an email telling them they forgot a few items in their cart, and you can add a unique coupon for another small discount if they come back and complete the purchase.
7. Plan Your Budget for Marketing and Advertising
Ideally, you’ll have huge campaigns running on all of the relevant social networks, PPC campaigns, email marketing campaigns, and more promoting your shop. In reality, that costs a lot of money, and it’s not always needed. Plan your budget for all of your marketing and advertising activities during this time, and choose the channels and methods that you know work with your target audience. A few options to consider are:
- Social media marketing on networks your target audience is active on, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc.
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
- PPC and paid ads on relevant blogs and websites
8. Create a Promotions Calendar
The holiday shopping season isn’t just a couple of days, it lasts almost two months. If you want to keep people interested, you need to update your promotions. Create a promotions calendar with all of your sales after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Plan how you’ll advertise each promotion, the banners and designs you’ll need, when you’ll update your website, etc. This is a busy time, and the more you can plan ahead, the better!
So, hurry up and get your online shop ready for the biggest shopping time of the year. Make sure everything is ready for the increased traffic and purchases, and always see what you can learn from it for next year.