The holiday season is prime sales time for online sellers. In 2017, online holiday seasons sales added up to $108.2 billion. In 2018, analysts predict that online sales will be even higher – rising by as much as 15.3%. The holiday season is especially important for smaller online sellers, which make between 20% and 40% of their yearly sales in the last two months of the year. With this kind of money on the line, it’s worth reading our 11 tips to prepare to make the 2018 holiday sales season a new record.
Holiday shoppers start their purchases earlier than you might expect – with the majority (35%) saying that they begin their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. Post-holiday sales mean that people continue shopping later than you think as well, with holiday sales only dropping in early January.
In between that time, you need to be able to make another push in early December, when another third of shoppers get going, and for Black Friday when 19% of customers start planning their holiday presents.
Use a marketing calendar
With so many dates to bear in mind, you need to use a marketing calendar to plan your promotions carefully. Gift guides are best produced early in the season, before Thanksgiving, while last-minute emails suggesting items with overnight shipping are ideal for the last couple of shopping days before Christmas.
Don’t forget to promote special offers and products on Christmas itself and the days leading up to New Year’s. There are always people who forgot to buy gifts, and then there are gift cards that need redeeming and unwanted presents to exchange.
Prepare your inventory
Successful holiday sales have a lot to do with catching the zeitgeist. That means identifying this year’s trending holiday products and filling your inventory with the items that will sell. Last year, Amazon’s top selling category was consumer electronics. In fact, the top two best-selling products were the Echo Dot and the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote. The next most popular category was Home and Kitchen, so those are good product lines to promote.
Trending products for the 2018 holiday season look set to include women’s beauty products such as laser hair removal, fake eyelashes and teeth whitening sets. Men’s fashion items including watches and shoes are predicted to be popular, and so are home decor products such as terrariums. As always, kids’ toys are set to be popular product categories for the holidays. You can discover this year’s trending products by keeping an eye on social media.
Find the right holiday keywords
Organic and paid search drove the most sales in the 2017 holiday season, so pay attention to your keywords. As well as optimizing SEO for your particular product, look for ways that you can add seasonal keywords to the mix. For example, consider changing your product categories from ‘Women’s Jewelry’ to ‘Women’s Holiday Jewelry’ or ‘Women’s Jewelry Gifts.’
If you aren’t sure what keywords to use, hop on to Google Trends to do some research. Look for the long tail keywords used in connection with your products, and check the Related Queries section to see what people are looking for with regards to your products. Do look across the last three months of the year to see when holiday keywords peak.
Countries outside of the US and Canada can have holiday shopping periods that peak at different times. If you have international customers, think about their shopping patterns. For example, in Sweden the biggest sales take place after Christmas. Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is a huge shopping day in the UK.
Shoppers who celebrate Kwanzaa or Hanukkah can be shopping right through January 1st. Consider timing your holiday offers such as free shipping accordingly, and promoting relevant gift ideas for those celebrations.
Be mobile friendly
In 2017, 33.1% of online sales were made on mobile phones. 46% of all online orders on Thanksgiving Day and 50% of all orders made on Christmas Day were made on a mobile. This underlines the importance of mobile-friendly promotions and emails. Avoid heavy images that take a long time to load, and pay careful attention to how your marketing offers render on a small screen.
Be in all the right places
Research has shown that promotional emails really work when it comes to boosting holiday sales. Consumers expect to get emails showcasing your best products and regularly check their inbox for holiday gift ideas. Focus on sending appealing promotional emails throughout the holiday season. You can even increase the number of emails you usually send.
Social media marketing is also important for holiday sales. Customers browse social media all the time. When gifts are on their minds, they are more likely to click on influencer recommendations and social media ads for holiday products.
Do be warned that the cost of Facebook ads tends to spike at this time of year, and if your spend is too low your ads might just go undelivered. Plan your Facebook ads budget accordingly, or consider advertising on other channels that suit your product line.
Shipping is key
It’s well known that the most effective special offer is free shipping. If you don’t already offer this, consider adding it for the holiday season, perhaps with a minimum qualifying spend.
Adding overnight or same day shipping can make all the difference to your sales in the last few days before Christmas. Either way, make sure that shipping times are very, very clear so that you don’t have any dissatisfied customers who don’t receive their goods in time.
Make first impressions count
Your holiday packaging choices can make a big difference to the number of repeat customers. It’s a good idea to find ways to surprise and charm your customers with packaging inserts. Handwritten notes that wish customers Happy Holidays or say Thank You make a huge impression on your customers. If you can’t manage handwritten notes, printed, personalized notes can be almost as effective.
Small free gifts tucked in to the order package also generate a huge amount of positive feeling for a very small investment. You could include samples of your other products, a tiny package of holiday candy, or a small low-cost gift ordered in bulk from AliExpress.
Boost your customer service
When holiday shopping is at its peak, shoppers don’t have time to wait for sellers to get back to them with answers to their questions. They want to know if you have the product in a different size or color, or how hard-wearing it is. If you don’t answer quickly, they’ll find someone else who does. It’s worth it to invest in a customer service app for your online store, or add customer service representatives to help you manage inquiries.
All hands on deck
If you’re going to be especially busy during the holiday season, you might want to add an extra casual worker or two in advance. The extra help filling orders and dealing with customers can keep you from burning out before Christmas.