Prep For Holiday eCommerce With These Holiday Selling Tips
Make the most of your holiday sales with our extensive guide to holiday eCommerce, and use the checklist to prepare and evaluate your holiday readiness.
Holiday eCommerce season is upon small business owners!
Prepare in advance with this holiday selling guide and our holiday eCommerce preparedness checklist, plus get holiday selling tips you may not have considered to assist with holiday eCommerce sales.
Table of Contents
- Prep Your eCommerce Holiday Schedule For 2022
- eCommerce Holiday Selling Tips & Checklist
- Plan Your Promotions & Social Marketing
- Revisit Your Store’s Shipping & Return Policies
- Add Additional Payment Methods To Your Website
- Communicate Shipping Deadlines
- Fight Shopping Cart Abandonment
- Hire Extra Help If You Need To
- Beat Back Chargeback Claims
- 10 More Holiday Selling Tips For eCommerce Sellers
- 1. Test All Your Promotions Before Launching Them
- 2. Sell On Multiple Sales Channels
- 3. Save On Shipping
- 4. Invest In Shipping Software
- 5. Partner With A Complimentary Brand
- 6. Create Holiday Gift Guides
- 7. Offer Personalized Gift Options
- 8. Find Accounting Software Before Your Year-End Wrap-Up
- 9. Finance Additional Inventory If You Need To
- 10. Use Automations Whenever Possible
Prep Your eCommerce Holiday Schedule For 2022
There are several holidays celebrated in the US and around the world, including:
- World Kindness Day: November 13th
- Thanksgiving: November 24th
- Black Friday: November 25th
- Small Business Saturday: November 26th
- Cyber Monday: November 28th
- Giving Tuesday: November 29th
- Green Monday: December 12th
- Free Shipping Day: December 14th
- Hanukkah: December 18th-26th
- Christmas Eve/Day: December 24th/25th
- Kwanzaa: December 26th-January 1st
- Boxing Day: December 26th
- New Year’s Eve: December 31st
- New Year’s Day: January 1st
There are two important parts of success for businesses when it comes to the holidays: acknowledgment and active marketing. This means that you don’t have to build a marketing campaign for every holiday, but you should acknowledge most of them or be intentional with the holidays you choose to highlight.
Consider making a social media post for all commercial and spiritual holidays (not just Christmas) to promote a sense of inclusiveness and to reach more people online. Then, decide which events you want to actively build marketing campaigns around.
You can also engage with niche holidays that are relevant to your business. For example, did you know November 23rd is World Espresso Day or that Cyber Monday is on the same day as National French Toast Day? These lesser-known holidays could be marketing gems for your business. (Or, you could even invent your own retail holiday!)
The important thing is planning for the holidays ahead of time so you can have a game plan for marketing and promoting your holiday deals.
eCommerce Holiday Selling Tips & Checklist
There are a lot of tasks to complete throughout the holiday season to grow your business, which is why we created this eCommerce holiday selling tips checklist.
Bookmark and save the checklist now to reference later on when you’re trying to keep track of everything from shipping practices to whether you found a gift for every friend and family member yet.
eCommerce Holiday Readiness Checklist
This checklist is broken down into three sections: actions to get organized before the holiday rush, things you can do to keep your business running smoothly during the holidays, and what you should do after the holidays to improve your business in the future.
The more expansive checklist topics, such as social media marketing and handling chargeback disputes, are broken down more later on in this article.
Before The Holiday Rush
Before the hectic holiday rush (for you and your customers), do these things to get as organized as possible:
- Revisit Past Sales Data: Comb through sales data to find out where most of your buyers find you online, what kind of people are most interested in your products, which products perform well in your online store, and how events like promotions or price increases have affected your sales. If you don’t have much sales data to work with, you can send out a survey to previous customers to find out more about them and where they found you online.
- Prepare To Collect More Data: 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.
- Run A Website Checkup: In 2022, there’s no way you’ll get found online and keep viewers on the page without a website that’s fast, secure, and easy to navigate. There are many ways to improve a website, but for starters, make sure your online store is:
- Maintaining PCI compliance and other security standards, which ensures your customers’ credit card data is safe
- Fast and functional on desktop, mobile, and tablet devices
- Optimized for keywords that your potential customers are searching for this holiday season (e.g. include keywords in alt-text for product images, product titles, URLs, and blog posts)
- Full of beautiful, fast-loading product images/videos
- Connected to your social media profiles, press releases, and other online marketplaces (like Etsy and Amazon marketplace, if relevant)
- Displaying product reviews and testimonials
- Free from any spelling/grammar mistakes, and functional mistakes such as broken web links
- Plan Out Your Holiday Inventory: When you plan your inventory for this season, consider where you’re sourcing products/materials from, potential sales volumes, high-performing versus low-performing products, and whether you want to make any custom items. If you plan on making custom gift items, you’ll need to factor in how long it takes you to make those things and prepare yourself (and your customers) accordingly. Order your materials or find your dropshipping suppliers now before shipping carriers are flooded with packages. Don’t forget about gift wrapping, either!
- Plan Out Your Promotions & Social Marketing: After you’ve figured out what you’re planning on marketing around, decide what kind of promotion you want to do: a holiday-related coupon code, free shipping, free gift item with a purchase, buy-one-give-one promotions (which work especially well on Giving Tuesday), or something else to entice customers to buy. Then, plan out which social media channels you want to advertise on. Use graphic design software like Canva or hire someone to create your social media images/graphics/videos, and use a social media post scheduler like Buffer to schedule your posts to automatically publish.
- Revisit Your Store’s Shipping & Returns Policies: Your store’s shipping and returns policies should clarify shipping expectations, explain exactly how returns work, and explicitly discuss fees associated with shipping/returns. This is one of the best ways to avoid unhappy customers, shipping issues, and payment problems. Also, consider offering free shipping and/or rush shipping to compete with companies like Amazon.
- Add Additional Payment Methods To Your Website: If possible, make sure payment options like PayPal, Google Pay, and Apple Pay are available, in addition to credit card payments. Also, consider offering buy now, pay later installment payment apps to your site, so people can finance their holiday shopping.
During The Holidays
While thorough planning will reduce the amount of work you have to do during the holidays, you still have to:
- Communicate Shipping Deadlines: Your customers are anxious to get their packages, so provide them with package tracking numbers, send email or text shipping updates, and inform them if there are any unexpected delays. Consider finding a shipping app that can be synced to your sales management software, automatically send order tracking numbers to your customers, and provide both you and your customer with shipping updates.
- Fight Shopping Cart Abandonment: Make buying from your website as simple, fast, and low-commitment as possible to keep buyers from feeling overwhelmed or exhausted during their online shopping experience. To reduce shopping cart abandonment and reclaim abandoned carts, here are some tips and things you can do:
- Make your checkout process fast and easy using one-page checkout, guest checkout, and saving cards on file, if possible
- Be upfront about your costs so buyers won’t be shocked at the checkout page
- Display installment payment options to reduce the upfront payment commitment
- Let buyers know that they can return items
- Offer a discount in an abandoned cart email to get shoppers back on your website
- Provide Excellent Customer Service: Great customer service is always important, but during the holidays, try to be extra polite, responsive, patient, and flexible with your buyers. This is the season of cheer and goodwill, after all.
- Hire Extra Help, If Needed: If you need to (and your budget allows for it), hire a freelancer or part-time employee to help with customer service, picking and packing orders, managing marketing campaigns, etc. Hiring someone else on a temporary basis can help you give the best customer experience (and keep your head on straight.)
- Beat Back Chargeback Claims: A chargeback claim is when a customer directly contacts their bank to request a refund for a purchase, rather than working with the retailer. When customers win chargebacks, you typically face a chargeback fee from your payment processing provider. To prevent chargebacks and win disputes if a customer files a chargeback claim:
- Make sure your advertisements match your products, so customers know exactly what they’re getting
- Communicate with customers directly to resolve any purchasing issues
- Be fair when it comes to sending exchanges and refunds
- Make your shipping, return, and refund policies very clear
- Keep detailed receipts so that you can defend yourself against totally fraudulent claims
- Make sure your company name is descriptive so customers don’t get confused when they look at their bank/credit card statements
After The Holiday Season Ends
Take a little time to rest after the holiday rush! You’ve earned it. After that rest, though:
- Re-adjust Shipping & Returns Policies, If Needed: If you extended your expected shipping times to cope with any shipping delays or added rush shipping as a special holiday option, don’t forget to change those back, along with any other shipping policies. If you offered extended return periods or other returns policy adjustments, change them back. Alternatively, if any shipping or returns policy changes are effective (and sustainable) marketing strategies, leave them up on your website.
- Tackle Your Year-End Accounting: Tax season looms after the holiday season. So, tackle your year-end accounting now, while all your sales and receipts are still readily available in your mind (and your inbox.) Read our year-end accounting guide to learn how to balance your books by tax time.
- Analyze Your Holiday Performance: Reflect not only on your sales trends but on your experience, and keep all this information in a centralized place to prepare for the holidays next year. Ask questions like:
- Did I have enough time to prepare for the holidays?
- Were there enough people on my team to make this season run smoothly, or could I have benefitted from hiring a part-time employee/freelancer to help?
- Did I keep enough records to complete year-end accounting?
- Did I order the right amount of materials/inventory for the holiday season?
Plan Your Promotions & Social Marketing
There are several types of holiday-themed promotions you can offer and various ways to advertise to your shoppers. You can offer holiday-themed discount codes, sales on specific items or your whole store, free shipping, buy-one-get-one or buy-one-give-one deals, donation-matching deals, giveaway or mystery items with a purchase, and more.
After you decide how your promotions will work, decide when and where to advertise to shoppers.
This will depend entirely on who you’re marketing to. Ideally, you’ll have enough data from past sales and marketing efforts to know your average customer’s buying and browsing habits. If you don’t, though, consider who is most likely to buy your products, then research their purchasing habits.
Lots of social media platforms allow you to not only promote your products but actually list your products for sale. You can make TikTok sales, sell on Facebook, and make Instagram posts shoppable. In-app social selling streamlines the shopping experience for customers, which will help you sell more of your holiday inventory.
Don’t forget about email marketing, either. You can embed buy buttons in your marketing emails to take people straight from email to checkout.
To make sure your marketing efforts are successful, design your advertisements, schedule your marketing campaign posts/emails using tools like Buffer and Drip eCommerce CRM, and make sure to test your promotions ahead of time.
Revisit Your Store’s Shipping & Return Policies
You should look over and update your store’s shipping and return policies before the holiday season starts because:
- Shipping delays are common during the holidays
- Higher order volumes may take longer to process
- Expected arrival times are much more important during the gift-giving season
- Rush shipping can make or break a late-in-the-season purchase
- Transparent return policies can help reduce chargebacks and increase buyer confidence
- Handmade and custom gift items take longer to make and ship
Make sure you update your shipping and returns policies on your website, plus any other social media channels and online marketplaces you’re selling on.
Creating A Holiday Shipping Policy
If you don’t have one already, read our comprehensive guide on how to create a shipping policy that answers all shipping-related questions and concerns.
A good holiday shipping policy should include:
- Order confirmation and tracking numbers
- Rush shipping options
- Information about arrival times for standard and custom-made items
- Gift wrapping and personalization options
- “Order by”/”ship by” dates so customers can keep tabs on when they need to order to get an order delivered by a specific day (e.g. “standard ship by December 12th to ensure Christmas Eve delivery”)
- Free shipping options to compete with eCommerce giants like Amazon and Walmart
Read our holiday shipping guide for more information on which shipping carriers and shipping software are the best for your business during the holiday season.
Creating A Holiday Return Policy
Read our post on how to create an eCommerce return policy if you don’t have a return policy already. Then, consider the following factors of a holiday return policy:
- Return Windows: Most eCommerce businesses extend their return windows on most, if not all items. Which item returns will you extend, and for how long?
- Gift Receipts: Do customers need to show a gift receipt for returns past the standard return window?
- Discounted Item Exchanges: Will you allow customers to exchange items they received at a discount, or only return them?
- Custom Item Returns: Will you accept returns or exchanges on custom-made gift items?
Also, consider what you will do with returned items. Some businesses like Leesa, a mattress manufacturer, donate returned items to charity organizations. During the charitable season (and during the rest of the year), consider donating any items you can’t restock.
Lastly, make sure you adhere to any return policy requirements on sales channels such as Etsy, eBay, and Amazon.
Add Additional Payment Methods To Your Website
While credit and debit card payments are still the most common form of cashless payments, there are several popular alternative payment methods to consider adding to your site, including:
- ACH Payments: Accepting ACH payments and bank transfers on your website typically costs less (and can be more secure) than accepting debit/credit card payments. It’s also a great backup payment method if a customer experiences card payment glitches online.
- Peer-to-peer Payments: Payment methods like Stripe, PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle are increasingly popular secure payment methods, especially among younger audiences.
- Mobile Wallets: Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay are mobile wallets that can also be used at online checkout. If you sell online and in person, strongly consider accepting mobile wallet payments.
- Buy Now, Pay Later Apps: Buy now, pay later installment payment options like Klarna, Affirm, and Sezzle allow customers to finance their holiday purchases, which often leads them to spend more on your site.
Offer flexible payment options to make payments faster, easier, and more secure for your customers. You might also save on payment processing fees, too.
Communicate Shipping Deadlines
When you communicate your shipping deadlines to customers, you help them manage their shipping expectations and can create a sense of urgency among potential buyers. Customers also really appreciate getting an accurate idea of when their packages will come in.
To figure out your hard “ship by” dates, you’ll have to decide which shipping carriers to use this holiday season, then look up their “last day to ship” lists for different shipping methods.
Post your shipping deadlines on your website’s shipping policy page, FAQ page, marketing materials, and product pages.
Fight Shopping Cart Abandonment
Abandoned online shopping carts are common, but they can be minimized by taking the following actions:
- Make sure your site is secure and looks professional, so people are more confident about entering payment information on your website
- Point out extra fees (shipping, handling, taxes, customizing) in product pages, so people aren’t shocked at price increases during checkout
- Use a good shopping cart software that offers a seamless (ideally one-page) checkout experience
- Offer those additional payment methods so buyers have more choices
- Include simply-worded return policies, warranties, and guarantees on product pages to make online purchases feel less “final”
- Display product reviews so buyers have more “real user” information about the products they’re interested in
- Offer free shipping, which you can do by slightly raising prices to offset shipping costs
To regain those lost customers:
- Send abandoned cart reminder emails, which you can easily do with good email marketing software
- Send a few reminder messages, spaced apart, so that a person’s cart remains fresh in their mind without feeling pressured or annoyed
- Include a link to their checkout page, not your website’s homepage, other product pages, etc.
- Offer special discounts to get lost customers back to your site
If a user still doesn’t return to their shopping cart after up to three reminder emails and a discount offer, let them go. They were probably just window shopping and bought from another company.
Hire Extra Help If You Need To
If your product or customer service quality is decreasing because you’re so busy, there’s no way to make your business processes more efficient, and can afford to hire a temporary part-time employee or contractor, it’s probably time to find extra help.
Use this guide on how to hire your first employee if you’ve never hired someone to help (or you haven’t hired someone new in a long time.)
Beat Back Chargeback Claims
Customers typically file chargeback claims with their bank when they cannot reach an agreement with a retailer for an exchange or refund. They either cannot contact a retailer, or feel they deserve a refund and do not receive one.
They may also file a chargeback claim on an unrecognized purchase on their bank statement, which can happen if your company name is not clearly stated on online receipts.
Chargebacks can lead to lost money, unhappy payment processors that may raise your payment processing fees, lost product, and general frustration for you and for customers.
The best ways to beat back chargeback claims are to prevent return requests in the first place and to communicate clearly with customers who do request a refund.
The best way to avoid getting chargebacks is to prevent return requests in the first place, which you can do by:
- Taking several clear, detailed product photos so customers can see exactly what they’re getting
- Creating transparent, accurate product descriptions
- Offering sizing guides/use cases so people get the right product the first time around
- Collecting and posting consumer product reviews, so other buyers know what to expect
- Making sure all the products you ship are intact and high-quality
- Packing products well so they don’t break in transit
Prioritize Customer Communication
If customers do want an exchange or refund, be as transparent and attentive as possible in processing requests. You should:
- Provide order tracking information, including notifications about shipping delays, so customers won’t think their purchase is lost in the mail
- Write out clear, transparent shipping and return policies
- Make your exchange/return policy easy to find online and identical across all sales channels
- Offer an online self-return page online so customers can initiate their own return process
- Display contact information on your website
- Ask customers why they returned an item, so you can address those issues and prevent future returns
- Tell customers when to expect a response time from you or a representative, ideally in an automated email that’s sent as soon as a customer fills out a refund request or contact form/email
- Respond as promptly as possible to customer service calls/emails
- Keep customers informed throughout the lifecycle of the returns process, notifying them of return approvals, when to expect their money back in their bank account, etc.
- Offer free, easy-to-print return packing slips
Unfortunately, there may be instances when a customer wrongfully requests a chargeback, either on purpose or out of confusion. If you suspect a chargeback is fraudulent, read our friendly fraud chargeback survival guide.
10 More Holiday Selling Tips For eCommerce Sellers
We covered a lot of holiday eCommerce tips above, but here are a few more general holiday-selling tips to keep in mind.
1. Test All Your Promotions Before Launching Them
Nothing will squash your marketing campaign efforts faster than sending out a coupon code that doesn’t work or entering the wrong shipping settings so that people won’t get accurate shipping times. Make sure to test every part of your promotions, from sales on specific items to abandoned cart emails.
2. Sell On Multiple Sales Channels
People are turning towards social media and online marketplaces in addition to searching for products through search engines. List your products on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, as well as online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, so that more people will find you online.
3. Save On Shipping
You’ll (hopefully) be spending a significant amount of money on shipping this holiday season. To minimize shipping costs, find the cheapest shipping carrier for your particular product size and delivery locations, pack lightweight but use durable materials, and try to source free packing materials.
You can also read our post on how to get the cheapest shipping rates for more on how to save money on shipping.
4. Invest In Shipping Software
If you haven’t subscribed to a shipping platform yet, now’s a good time to try one out.
Shipping software helps you process orders faster by automating shipping calculations and allowing you to purchase and print postage in bulk online. They also frequently offer discounted shipping rates with select carriers.
Read up on the best shipping software for small businesses to find the one that’s right for you.
5. Partner With A Complimentary Brand
Look for a brand that sells products that complement your own.
For example, if you specialize in handmade soaps, look for a company that sells handmade ceramics. Partner up to offer a discounted (or free) handmade soap dish with every purchase. Combine forces to boost your marketing.
6. Create Holiday Gift Guides
If you keep a blog for your online store (and you definitely should), write a few gift guide posts featuring some of your gift-able items.
Create guides for different target audiences and promote them on your social media channels. You can also include items from your partner brands in your guides.
7. Offer Personalized Gift Options
Whether you offer fully customizable gift items or just custom messages and gift wrapping for standard items, the personal touch will go a long way this holiday season.
8. Find Accounting Software Before Your Year-End Wrap-Up
The earlier you can get your accounting software this holiday season, the easier your tax season will be. You might even be able to get a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal on the best accounting software for small businesses.
9. Finance Additional Inventory If You Need To
For some sellers, purchasing or manufacturing additional inventory in advance of the holiday season could be a financial strain. Maybe your working capital is tied up in invoices and other investments, and you don’t have enough liquid capital to stock up on products before the rush.
If that’s the case for you, read our post on working capital loans. These loans come in many different forms and can get you the cash you need to make those advance purchases.
10. Use Automations Whenever Possible
A good shopping cart software will allow you to create sales with automated start and end dates, generate and send out custom coupon codes, bulk edit products, and sync inventory with other online sales channels you choose to list products on.
Good social media management tools like Buffer, Social, Meta Business Manager, and TikTok Ads Manager will allow you to create, schedule, and automatically collect data about your social media campaigns. Good email marketing software will allow you to schedule emails for email campaigns, automatically send abandoned cart emails, and segment email groups to create the most effective email campaigns possible.
Use all these automation tools to prepare before the busy holiday season, and you’ll be able to focus more on handling sales, customer service, and enjoying the holidays with friends and family!