Online growth off the charts

The weekend after Thanksgiving, starting with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and extending into Cyber Monday (often Cyber Week) is the time when many businesses sell more than they usually do during the rest of the year.

Online holiday sales in the U.S. will surge 34% year over year for the 2020 season, nearly tripling the 12% growth registered in the prior year, according to new projections from software provider Salesforce.com Inc. The pandemic-induced spike in ecommerce this year will carry into the holidays making up 30% of seasonal spending.

The pandemic pushed many more consumers online, and they’re not all going to Amazon.

Fareeha Ali, Digital Commerce 360

This holiday season is expected to be the strongest ever for online shopping. Is your online store ready?

Here are some things you can do to prepare.

Prepare content ahead of time

If you can take care of something before the holiday rush, you should. Of course there are certain things for your promotions that can only be done during the big shipping times, but a lot of your content can be created at any time and then used when needed. For example, blog posts, social media graphics, videos, and other such content can be prepared early and saved until they’re ready to be posted online. Since some of these things might take a few weeks to produce, now’s the perfect time to start. Regardless of how frequently you post on your blog or to social media, if you have a lot of content prepared ahead of time it is easier to adapt as you go along. I actually try to do this throughout the year, often having content for up to two months in advance, but this is especially important prior to the holidays.

When it comes to what kind of content to prepare for the holiday season, remember to stay on theme. Here are some suggestions:

  • Holiday-themed fun pieces. These might be memes, instructions, and other items that don’t necessarily revolve around promotions. If you prefer a more friendly and personal approach, you can release casual content that still follows holiday themes. Think: “How to Make Your Own Christmas Ornaments” or “Ways to Spend a Snowed-In Weekend”. The important part is the holiday theme; that’s what people want to engage with during the holidays.
  • Gift guides. As a retailer, you’re seen as an authority on shopping. That’s why customers ask you for advice on what to buy their loved ones. Gift guides are popular content during the holidays for this precise reason, and they also give you the opportunity to highlight specific products and specific product variations or features.
  • Comparison charts. If gift guides are too simple, you can advance to comparison charts. Particularly skeptical shoppers—which there are a lot of—prefer more in-depth content regarding purchase decisions. Comparison charts that deal more in details, like specific features and prices, can be especially helpful for online shoppers.
  • Create Graphics. Once your sales and advertising are planned out, get to work creating the graphics and other holiday-specific content for your ads and website. You’ll need fun holiday banners, ads, email templates, and more. Check out this post for various sources to get graphics. Get it all ready ahead of time, so when the day rolls around, you can overhaul your store with a festive look. Get customers into the holiday spirit, and they’ll be inspired to buy more.

Plan Your Sales

Build a comprehensive plan covering all the promotions you’re going to run during the holiday season. Structure the schedule around popular shopping holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday.

Green Monday is the biggest online shopping day in December. It falls on the second Monday of the month. That’s when shoppers realize they only have around 10 shipping days left before Christmas.

Thanksgiving is a good day too — it seems shopping online from a smartphone has become a common way of passing the time before dinner or while recovering from a food coma, and each year sees more Thanksgiving online shopping than the year before.

Here are the dates to plan your sales around:

  • Veterans Day, November 11
  • Thanksgiving, November 26
  • Black Friday, November 27
  • Small Business Saturday, November 28
  • Cyber Monday, November 30
  • National Sock Day, December 4
  • St Nicholas Day, December 6,
  • Green Monday, December 14
  • Free Shipping Day, December 15
  • Hanukkah, December 10–18
  • Super Saturday or Panic Saturday, December 19
  • Christmas Eve and Day, December 24–25
  • Boxing Day, December 26
  • Kwanzaa, December 26–January 1
  • New Year’s Eve, December 31

For an online store, the weekend after Thanksgiving (Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, through the entire week ofCyber Monday) are by far the most important, with Green Monday, Free Shipping Day, and Panic Saturday are close runners-up.

Add Wish Lists

If your online store doesn’t already let customers create wish lists, it’s a good idea to implement this feature. Wish lists serve two purposes during the holidays: people can use them to list the items they want to receive as gifts, and share the list with their friends. Or, they can use them to keep track of the products they’re planning to come back and buy for others.

You could also consider adding gift registries, since many people will be planning holiday events and parties in addition to regular gift giving. A side benefit of both wish lists and gift registries is the word-of-mouth advertising they can generate, as people will direct their friends to buy from their registry or wish list on your store. The same plugin can be used for both wish lists and gift registries.

Consider Gifting Features

Holiday customers have some different needs from year-round customers, because they’re even more pressed for time and money. You can help them out — and make shopping from you more appealing in the process — by providing services to smooth out the workload of gift shopping. The three main features to offer are:

  • Gift certificates: Online gift certificates are the perfect last-minute gift, as they can be delivered instantly through email. If you are using WoCommerce, I recommend the PW Gift Cards plugin.
  • Gift wrapping: You can save your customers a huge hassle by providing an affordable gift wrapping option, and earn your store a little extra profit at the same time.
  • Same-order multiple shipping destinations: Implement a way for your customers to split a single order to be shipped to different addresses, and you’ll save them the trouble of delivering the gifts themselves. They can buy gifts for several people and have each shipped directly to the correct address. Combined with gift wrapping, this is very powerful.

Start Marketing

Now that everything’s ready, start building up some anticipation. Send out your first “upcoming sale” emails, place a countdown timer on your store’s homepage, and get customers excited. You want them at the edge of their seats waiting for your sales to start. You can have some fun with this — send out surprise coupons, encourage people to make wish lists, and whatever you can think of as long as it spurs interaction. If you have collected cell phone numbers, this is a great time to send text messages to your customers to build anticipation. Be creative! Keep up the marketing throughout the season so your customers (and you!) don’t miss out on a single opportunity. Here’s your chance to finish out the year on a strong note.

Note: Some of the links provided in this article may be affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, if you purchase one of the products through these links, I may earn a small commission for my recommendation. If you need any help implementing these features for your online store, contact WebStores Ltd at 877-924-1414.