The holiday season is the most profitable time of the year for online businesses. In the last quarter of the year, many businesses will experience a massive spike in sales, with the last three months accounting for a huge percentage of total yearly revenue.
In fact, in 2014, 45% of shoppers opted to buy their holiday gifts online while only 44% shopped at a department/discount store! Furthermore, eCommerce holiday sales grew 7% in 2014, with online retail sales amounting to $101.9 billion! And the best news yet? Analysts predict 2015’s holiday sales will shatter last year’s record.
Times are-a-changin’, and whether you’re a small or large online retailer, the holidays represent a golden opportunity to maximize profits and attract a wide variety of new customers. But let’s face it, with the stress, hassle and workload of managing a business on a day-to-day basis, it’s easy to overlook the upcoming holidays and forget all about the necessary planning.
Aside from the major holidays, what unofficial holiday dates should you be aware of?
Green Monday - December 14th, 2015. The day most retailers start their competitive sales campaigns and the busiest shopping day in December.
Free Shipping Day - December 18th, 2015. A one-day event held annually in which merchants offer free shipping in time for Christmas. Merchants can participate in this event by signing up here.
Super Saturday - December 19th, 2015. A shopping event that occurs on the last Saturday before Christmas and marks the end of the shopping season. Riddled with hot, one-day only sales that attract last minute shoppers.
Check out the following tips to ensure you’re prepared to make 2015’s holiday shopping extravaganza the best one yet.
- Plan your deals and promotions in advance. The holiday season is the busiest, biggest shopping time of the year, but that also means it's the most competitive. Give your customers an incentive to shop at your store over your competitors with sales and promotions they can't refuse. Once you decide what holidays you want to participate in, create a promotional calendar so that you can plan out how you'd like to execute your specials.
The holiday season is also a time of generosity and affection. Perhaps you'd like to implement a promotion that donates a percentage back to a charity such as Toys for Tots or another not-for-profit charitable organization. Use the holiday season to make it easy for your customers to give back; it's a good deed that will only improve customer relations.
Need help setting up a promotion? Check out our guide here.
- Update your graphics, banners and/or landing page. The holiday season is the biggest shopping event of the year; make sure your site reflects this! Create some awesome designs that showcase just why your sale isn’t to be missed!
Remember, the holiday seasons are also the most competitive, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to attract customers. You may want to look into banners and designs specific to major shopping events such as Super Saturday, Free Shipping Day, etc.
- Focus your marketing. Now is the time to decide which ad channels you’d like to market. Get the word out about your upcoming sales via blog posts, email marketing, Facebook ads, PPC (Google AdWords), and social media. You don’t have to use all of these channels, but the more you implement, the more traffic you’re bound to bring to your store on the busiest shopping days of the year.
If available, take a look at last year's data to assess what marketing strategies worked best for your business. Fine-tune and improve what's proven to work for your business — there's no need to experiment if you already have the recipe for success.
- Reevaluate your return and exchange policy. To remain competitive during the year’s busiest shopping days, extend your return and exchange policy. This is a tactic often implement by online and physical retailers during the holiday season, and you might miss out on potential sales if your policies aren’t up to par with what your competitors are offering.
- Assess your website. Critically examine your site to ensure everything is in working order for the upcoming traffic spike. Are you using a mobile-friendly, responsive design to cater to mobile shoppers? Do your payment options cater to all major credit card holders? Is your site easy to navigate? Are you able to check out easily without running into any hiccups? Make sure everything is working optimally so that customers only experience the best your site has to offer.
- Make your holiday catalog available early. With each passing year, more online holiday shoppers are opting to start their shopping earlier and earlier. According to a report by creditcards.com, 32 million adults started their holiday shopping in September, with 4.6 million having competed their list altogether by September’s third week. Cater to these customers by making your catalog available at an earlier date. Don’t miss out on potential sales by waiting until the last minute to release your products.
- Update security measures. With cybercrime on the rise, it’s more important than ever that your customers and business are protected. Verify that your Security Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is valid and take steps to renew it if necessary. If customers visit your store and discover your site untrustworthy, they won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere.
Furthermore, ensure your own business is protected against fraud by signing up for a fraud-detecting program. The holiday season is the busiest time of year for fraud, with scammers hitting merchants hard while their guard is down. Look into fraud-detecting software such as FraudWatch to catch fraudulent orders before you process them.
Make 2015’s holiday season a memorable one by ensuring your business is optimized for the year’s busiest shopping season. Check your list and check it twice; you don’t want to be on any customer’s naughty list!