Holiday eCommerce Strategy Guide 2023
Make the most of your holiday sales and evaluate your holiday readiness with our extensive guide to holiday eCommerce.
A good holiday eCommerce strategy can help business owners increase holiday sales while minimizing stress. These eCommerce tips will improve your overall holiday sales in 2023 and provide insight on what to do at the end of the sales season to get ready for next year!
Top Seven Steps For Holiday eCommerce Strategy
A good overall holiday eCommerce strategy should include the following seven steps:
1. Plan Out Your Holiday Inventory
Is your holiday catalog different than the rest of the year? If you plan on making custom gifts or offering a unique item, factor in the amount of time it will take to make or source new materials so you know how far in advance to order inventory.
If you’re not sure how much inventory you should order in advance, you can look back at your stats from 2022 to get a baseline for what to expect.
Your point of sale (POS) system will have much of this inventory and shipping data available within its POS reporting system. If it doesn’t, then maybe it’s time to shop around for something with more robust reporting options. Some of the best retail POS inventory management systems allow you to monitor inventory and packaging costs, and track those easily from year to year.
Of course, we recommend stocking up on inventory and packing materials so customers won’t have to wait long for their orders. If you don’t have the funds to stock up, you can look into getting a working capital loan to cover the cost of additional holiday inventory if needed.
There are also other holiday business loans available — balance the pros/cons of choosing a loan before the holiday rush to see if it might be a smart business choice.
2. Schedule Your Holiday Promotions & Marketing
To start holiday marketing campaigns, we recommend marking important sales and marketing dates in a holiday calendar such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, Green Monday, Free Shipping Day, and any niche special days that fit with your business, such as National Cookie Day if you sell custom cookies online.
Decide what kind of promotion you want to do. For example, you can create a holiday-related coupon code, offer a gift item with a purchase, create buy-on-give-one promotions, or offer free shipping with a minimum spending amount.
Next, decide who you’re marketing to and where to post your promotions. Ideally, you’ll have enough data from past sales to know who your average buyer is and where they hang out online. (You can also use your POS system to track customer data with built-in loyalty programs.) If you don’t have that information, now is not too late to start gathering the data for the holiday season 2024!
eCommerce Holiday Tip: If you want to sell online and in-person at your own store or at events, use one of the best POS systems for small businesses. We especially like Square POS (point of sale) and Shopify POS, which both offer free in-person POS software and affordable, easy-to-use website builders.
3. Update Shipping & Return Policies If Needed
Your store’s shipping and returns policies should clarify shipping expectations, explain exactly how returns work, and explicitly discuss fees associated with shipping/returns. Include this information on product pages, on receipts, and on a dedicated shipping/return policy page on your website.
If you want to compete with a shipping giant like Amazon, offer free shipping. You can also:
- Extend your return window so that people can return any gifts they’ve received and don’t like
- Include gift wrapping and unmarked packaging options
- Offer (and advertise) climate-friendly shipping
- Offer “try before you buy” for items such as clothing, jewelry, or furniture
- Create ship-by deadlines so users can see the last possible day to order before Christmas, New Year’s, etc.
- Send live package tracking numbers and text/email delivery updates
- Include standard and rush shipping options
- Make returns easy with a self-service returns portal on your website
- Accept in-store returns for online purchases
4. Prepare Your eCommerce Website For Holiday Traffic
To make sure that your small business’s online store is well-prepared for the holiday rush and attracts potential customers, there are several crucial steps to consider.
First, prioritize the security of your website. It’s essential to ensure that your site is PCI compliant and adheres to other security standards to safeguard your customers’ sensitive credit card information. You also must have a hosting platform that can handle increased user traffic during peak holiday periods, so your site remains responsive and functional.
When it comes to product listings, optimize them by incorporating relevant key terms into product titles, image alt-text, product descriptions, and URLs. This optimization will enhance your store’s visibility in search results.
Another thing that helps with search results is having high-quality product photos, but make sure they are optimized for fast loading times to prevent potential customers from experiencing delays. Don’t forget to provide detailed product information, including size guides, to assist buyers in making informed decisions and reduce the likelihood of returns.
Promotions and special offers can be effectively showcased through popups, header banners, and product pages, attracting the attention of potential customers.
Don’t forget to incorporate a newsletter signup section on your website to build a loyal customer base and keep them informed about your products and promotions.
eCommerce Holiday Tip: A good website builder will take care of most of these steps, especially when it comes to page load speed, product photo sizing, overall website look, and page copy. We recommend Shopify for eCommerce or Square Online if you want an optimized, polished-looking eCommerce site that connects to online marketplaces and social media platforms.
5. Add User & Sales Data Collection Tools
If you haven’t already, add analytics tools such as social media pixels (which track user engagement on different social media platforms) and Google Analytics (which will inform you about how your marketing campaigns perform). Most eCommerce website builders make it easy to install analytics tools, so you can take data now that will inform future sales efforts.
You can also prepare a follow-up email survey for buyers to get product reviews and receive feedback on things like customer service and package delivery conditions.
6. Add Additional Payment Methods To Your Website
Also, consider integrating buy now, pay later installment payment apps to your site, so people can finance their holiday shopping.
7. Provide Excellent Customer Service
While the holidays are great most of the time, online holiday shopping is stressful for customers.
To minimize buyer stress, provide fast order troubleshooting via phone and email. Offer exchanges, replacements, and special prices or fixes when reasonable. Provide up-to-date information about product availability, shipping, custom order progress, etc. Your kindness will not be forgotten and customers may purchase from you again or recommend your business to a friend.
If you need to and you can afford it, hire someone temporarily to help with the business and give you space to breathe. A part-time employee can help you prepare custom orders, fulfill BIPOS (buy online, pickup in-store) orders, field customer calls and emails, sell at holiday events or assist with marketing campaigns.
Use accounting software to manage employees both during the holiday season and throughout the year.
At The End Of The Holiday Season
If you want 2024 to run smoothly, monitor your progress throughout the 2023 holiday season, take note of what works and what doesn’t, and get a jump on your year-end accounting.
Good luck this season, and happy holidays!