5 Steps to a Successful E-commerce Holiday Season

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In the U.S. alone, the e-commerce retail sector drew in $138.65b during November and December of 2019. According to this Forbes article, Deloitte predicts e-commerce holiday retail sales to grow between 25% to 35% in the same period, reaching $182 billion to $196 billion in total. With the holiday season technically already among us with Halloween around the corner and November beginning right after, it’s certainly time to prepare for a successful e-commerce holiday season. 

As well as traditional holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah,and Christmas taking place throughout November and December, we also have Cyber Week making a big splash in this time. Cyber Monday, for example, generated $7.9b in e-commerce revenue, 19.7% more revenue in 2019 than it did in 2018. 

[source: Qreuz]

All of these figures seem very promising, but we do have to keep the pandemic in mind. Many people are feeling insecure about the current situation and may be less inclined to spend as much as they have in previous years. However, there is a case to be made that maybe now, more than ever, it might be more favorable to buy online. Deloitte’s prediction above certainly suspects as much. 

1. Basic Calculations

Firstly, collect some key data before any influx of traffic onto your site. Information such as how many visitors you get on average per day and how many visitors you usually have simultaneously. You’ll want to be able to compare this data before, during and after the e-commerce holiday season. 

It’s also a good idea to take this time to evaluate how your store is currently performing and what you would like to achieve during the holiday season. Whether it’s a financial marker, such as return on ad spend, a conversion goal, or boosting the average order values to a certain amount, having goals to hit will motivate you through the challenging times of a hectic holiday season. 

2. Marketing Calendar

If you haven’t already started planning your blogs, videos, tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts, you better start now. After Halloween, you still have eight key events to leverage for our e-commerce holiday season success:

November 11th – Veteran’s Day

November 28th – Thanksgiving

November 29th – Black Friday

November 30th – Small Business Saturday

December 2nd – Cyber Monday

December 23rd-30th – Hanukkah

December 25th – Christmas

December 31st – New Year’s Eve

Having a calendar specifically focusing on holiday season promotions is a good idea to know what to expect and when. You will want to send out promotional content, ads and newsletters to make the most of the high traffic this time of year. 

3. Holiday Marketing

Now you have your calendar set up and ready to go, let’s consider the campaign you’re going to fill it with. When determining your ad budget, look at past holiday season data from your ad campaigns and decide whether it’s worth increasing your budget this year or not. Make sure you are using a smart user tracking system that will give you the best attribution on your sales, so you know for next year which campaigns yielded the most returns. 

Prepare promotional content for those ads, as well as blogs, newsletters, videos, etc. for each event. 

Seeing as this is the time of year your site will see the most traffic, make sure that every touch point along the user journey is optimized and make sure all of your website, product pages, and social proof are all up-to-date. 

In our typical user journey article, we talk about utilizing the AIDA framework and how important urgency is in the last step, “Act”. The e-commerce holiday season is a great time to do this effectively. Using language like “Christmas special” or “limited edition” are easy ways to evoke excitement and urgency. 

Another fun way to do this is by adding a countdown clock on your website or product pages. You can set the time to how long they have until the big event, or how long the offer will last.

[Screenshot from: Woodies Party Zone]

4. The Website

Let’s look at an incredibly important piece in your business; your website. Is it ready for a boost in traffic? In step 1 of this article, we suggested making some basic calculations, one of them being; “How many visitors does your site usually have simultaneously?”. But what happens when that number doubles or triples as a result of your holiday promotions? 

Here are some aspects of your website I suggest checking before the e-commerce holiday season:

What is the capacity of your hosting setup?

There’s no point planning promotional campaigns in anticipation for an influx in traffic if you don’t know that your site can handle it. Basic hosting setups ten to be able to run normally with 10-20 simultaneous visitors, but what happens when you get 100 or 200+?

To test your hosting capabilities, you can run a test day before the holiday season starts. You can boost your ads one day and have them optimized for site clicks. Try to get as many visitors at once as you can. Then go to your website and check it’s functionality. You can do this by using it yourself, tracking server load metrics and by testing your page speed at that time. 

How fast does your page load?

A slow load time is one of the most common reasons for high bounce rates. A one second delay in your page speed, can result in losing 11% of your page views and 7% of your conversions rate. If you are successful in your ad marketing, then the traffic to your store will increase. However, if your store is lagging, you are going to miss out on a lot of those new visitors. 

It’s a good idea to check your page speed now, before an influx of traffic, to where you stand at the minute. You can use a platform like Pingdom, GTmetrix, or Google PageSpeed Insights to test your pages speed. 

[Screenshot from: Google PageSpeed Insights]

If you’re not happy with your page speed, check out our complete pagespeed guide on how to optimize it. 

Is your site secure?

This question is always a crucial one, but especially during times of high traffic. You stand to lose a lot if your shop goes down in the middle of “rush hour”.

Make sure you are using a reliable security plugin for WordPress with a firewall. You will also want to have a login brute force protection.

5. Fulfillment, Shipping & Returns

Now that you have a plan for the marketing of your holiday promotions and offers, you need to make sure that you have the stock and infrastructure in place to fulfil those orders. 

Have plans to reinforce your inventory. Look into dropshipping as an alternative if you don’t have the space to hold so much stock physically.

Also, if you are considering offering different shipping deals and fast-track options over the holiday season, get planning now; you will have to update your checkout pages to make sure users are getting the correct delivery options.

Unfortunately, as sales increase, so too will returns. Are you prepared to process a higher volume of returns over the next few months? If not, get ready. But it’s not all bad, returns can be a great opportunity for you to show your exceptional customer service skills. 

Let’s Round Up

The holiday season tends to be a very demanding period for most business owners, especially retail e-commerce entrepreneurs. There is a lot you can do to prepare yourself and your store to ensure holiday season success in 2020. 

Make sure you have made your calculations on how your store usually performs and what your expectations are. Be prepared with a promotional calendar and fill it with targeted ad campaigns and festive content to share over the coming two months. Do a once over of your website and make sure it is ready for more action than any other time of year. 

Finally, make sure you have the stock needed to fulfill your expected orders, have shipping options all set up and be prepared for a spike in returns also. 

So don’t delay, November is only days away! It’s time to get your business ready for an exciting holiday season.

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