10 Ecommerce Best Practices for Holiday Planning

Every year, holiday seems to somehow happen suddenly. eCommerce retailers, both small and large, often wait until the very last minute to plan their holiday marketing strategies. Why? Because they are busy doing a million other things throughout the year.

Every year, the holiday season seems to sneak up on ecommerce retailers. Many businesses, small and large, often wait until the very last minute to plan their holiday marketing strategies. Why? Because they are busy doing a million other things throughout the year.

And we get it. But the truth is, the holiday season is too important for ecommerce retailers to wait until the last minute. The most critical factor to online holiday marketing success comes down to planning. 

So: Are you planning ahead? Meaning, right now —  for this holiday season?

We’ve put together this list of best practices to help our busy ecommerce friends plan for every element of a digital holiday strategy.

Start Where it Matters Most: with Your Products

The foundation of a great holiday plan is a solid, timely, and somewhat new product line. Defining what products are available for holiday – and whether there will be new and/or special options – is vitally important. Ask these questions:

  • Are there special products that will be offered only during the holidays?
  • Will new products be available?
  • Are there any gift bundles that will be available to drive up transaction value?
  • How will you show your customer that your products make good gifts?

Clearly Identify Your Promotions and/or Offers

With your products firmly squared away, it’s time to start thinking through the myriad of ways you can incentivize your customers to buy from you this holiday season.

  • Do you offer gift cards? If not, can you offer them?
  • What holiday specials will you run?
  • Will you offer any special discounts during the holidays?
  • Can you offer a giveaway to your customers? What exactly can you give away?
  • Will you offer gift guides to help steer your customers to the products that are most important to them?

Black Friday is Great, but Don’t Forget about Cyber Monday

This day is huge and it can be quite easy to take full advantage of the digital push! Think through the promotions you'll offer on Cyber Monday, and be as unique and valuable as you can.

  • Can you tie those promotions into existing specials, but make them stand out so as to be extra irresistible?
  • What is valuable to both current and new customers?
  • What can you offer to insure satisfaction for both?

Offer Gift-Wrapping to Support Your Customers

While important year round, gift packaging is a great way to stand out during the holiday season. Ask these questions now to prepare:

  • Do you offer gift packaging for holiday purchases?
  • If so, is there anything extra special you can do for the holidays to promote the service?
  • If not, can you offer gift packaging on items over a certain price point?
  • Operationally-speaking, would you be able to offer special packaging if you don't currently do so?

Consider Offering Free Shipping and Free Returns to Make Customers Happy

Online shoppers can sometimes be a bit wary of making a purchase if they feel the need to pay an additional fee to receive it. Ask the following:

  • Can you offer free shipping?
  • What’s your return policy? Is it clearly stated on your product pages?
  • Are you clearly communicating your shipping and return policy on your promotions and holiday offers?

Capture Your Promotions and Products with New Photography and Video

This is where advanced planning really matters! It’s always nice to have holiday-specific assets to get the most out of your promotions and campaigns:

  • How can you stage your products to align with your holiday promotions?
  • Are you using stock images? Yes, you can totally add the “holiday spirit” in Photoshop, but it’s much more fun to do something original!
  • Do your videos show how your products will make great gifts? Do they show off the best qualities of your product?

Use Your Website and/or Landing Pages Strategically

Outline your promotional schedule to ensure your website aligns with the overall holiday strategy and what is being done promotionally (via email and PPC) to support the strategy. Ask the following:

  • What offer will you promote on your homepage?
  • When will you want to promote specific products on your homepage?
  • What promotions will you feature on your category pages?
  • Can you create a landing page for any special offers that you will run during the holiday?
  • Is your shipping schedule clearly communicated on every page of your website? (We’re all guilty of being last minute shoppers!)

Make Sure Paid Ads are In Sync with Your Holiday Message

PPC can be a massive revenue generator during holiday, provided you have a well thought out strategy. Plan thoroughly by asking the following:

  • Are your banner ads and search ads aligned with the holiday promotions you're running?
  • Does your creative include any new photography you’ve shot for holiday?
  • Is your ad copy (the text on the ad itself) clearly aligned with your promotions?
  • Do you know what banner and text ads are running, when they are running, and where they are running? Always have a clear schedule at hand!

Don't Underestimate SEO's Impact

During holiday, content is king for your search performance - but launching a killer piece of content once the season has begun  won't immediately impact your organic visibility.  You should be doing the following right now to rank when it matters most:

  • Do you have an editorial calendar created around your holiday promotions?
  • Have you identified the terms and phrases you want to rank for during holiday?
  • Are you creating relevant promotional content for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other sales?
  • Can you repurpose content you already have? This is where your gift guide can become a powerful asset.

Email is Huge for Holiday

Simply put, if you aren’t doing email, start now. If you are doing email, it’s time to up the quantity. Then ask yourself the following:

  • How often will you send a promotional email to your customers?
  • Will you offer special incentives to your email subscribers?
  • Are you crafting subject lines that will win the attention of your customers?
  • Are you communicating your shipping options directly in the email itself? Are you telling your consumer about returns?

Get the Most Out of Social by Being Social

Social is more than cat pictures, but you already know that. Here’s what you should be asking to generate engagement and awareness around your holiday offers:

  • Are you making it easy for shoppers to share your promotions and your products?
  • Which channel does your model consumer use most? Make sure that your most active content is reserved for this channel!
  • How will you use your holiday photography and video assets to create interesting posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest?

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that need attention as you prepare your business's holiday strategy. It can be intimidating to get started, but we hope this gives you some inspiration.   If you're looking for even more tips, tricks, and best practices on how to plan for holiday, check out BigCommerce's    Ecommerce Holiday Readiness Report .

Ultimately, your success during the holiday season is directly dependent on how well you plan. Get started now and your business will thank you come January.