With the holiday season right around the corner, consumers are already starting to plan out their holiday shopping. In order to get in front of these eager shoppers, online retailers must make a concerted effort to prep for the busiest shopping season of their year. This foresight will help businesses to meet customers right when their wallets are wide open and purchase intent as at an all-time high.

If you’re working alone or on a small team, the holiday sales season can quickly creep up on you. But planning a week or even a month ahead may not be sufficient when it comes to winning at the holiday sales game. The closer you cut it to popular sales “holidays” like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the less time you have to develop your promotional ideas, create promotional assets, and even buy available ad inventory.

Holiday sales are the best opportunity for businesses to rake in the most possible revenue during the year, so failing to prepare for the holiday season can have a large negative impact on your business. Furthermore, when it comes to planning for holiday sales like Cyber Monday, a failure to prepare can mean that:

  • You won’t be able to accommodate large amount of customers, crashing your website.
  • You won’t be able to meet demands if inventory hasn’t been planned with holiday sales in mind.
  • Your lack of promotion can affect Q4 sales.

According to Website Setup, holiday seasons account for 20% of the retail industry’s annual sales. Furthermore, holiday sales are often responsible for up to 30% of some individual retailers’ total sales.

As a business owner with an e-commerce website, can you honestly claim that you’re ready for the holidays? If not, or if you want to double check your efforts, we’ve put together a guide for planning holiday sales promotions for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and everything else during the holiday shopping season.

Plan Your Holiday Sales Campaign Early

As we’ve already established, the busiest holiday season occurs during the last quarter of the year. Although there are other holidays that deserve your attention, it is the last two months of the year that you should expect things to be at their most hectic. At the start of the year, you might be tempted to tell yourself that it’s too early to plan for this holiday season, and you’ll end up pushing it off indefinitely.

But there are many more reasons to start planning early than to wait until the last minute. One of the major elements has to do with the way SEO works.

SEO can be one of the most important pieces in your e-commerce marketing strategy. Anyone who’s taken the time to try and understand it knows that SEO doesn’t produce results in a few days or weeks—It can take months to rank for certain keywords you’re targeting (and that’s a best case scenario).

If you’re using SEO as a major tactic for promoting holiday sales for your e-commerce store, you’ll want to initiate those efforts well ahead of Q4.

If you’re looking for an exact date to start planning holiday sales for Cyber Monday and beyond, consider these stats. According to Hubspot, 49% of marketers begin their holiday campaign before Halloween, and about 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween.

Rupert Cross, Digital Director of 5874, mentions that if you develop your marketing strategy early, you can just easily edit later rather than starting from scratch during your busiest time of the year. Planning ahead can also give you a clear goal/target to hit. This also helps to align all of your efforts: preparing your inventory, shipping, customer service, and overall managing and marketing.

Review Data and Metrics

Customers are the make or break element when it comes to creating a successful e-commerce holiday sale plan. Of course, it’s just as important (if not more) to retain new customers as it is to spend this time working to acquire new customers. Consider the facts that:

  • Returning customers accelerate profitable growth.
  • Focusing on acquiring new customers can cost up to 7x more than customer retention.
  • Customer retention means increase in customer lifetime value and loyalty.

Magento reports that a high-value, loyal customer can generate revenue of up to 10x more than the normal baseline—especially during holiday sales. In order to prepare for a focus on your important existing customers, you’ll need to review your consumer data and website metrics thoroughly.

A thorough analysis of your existing data will help you to become more familiar with things like your consumers’ buying behaviors, their last purchases, and campaigns that resulted in the most conversions. A couple specific things to make sure you review during this time:

  • Track which sources send the most traffic to your e-commerce website and focus on optimizing these and improving underperformers.
  • Check your website’s abandonment rate, or the pages they last visit before exiting without purchasing. Find ways to improve these pages.
  • Determine how consumers are finding you, and how likely they are to purchase a product from you.

Use this data to plan Cyber Monday holiday sales and more, with a focus on driving past customers back through your online shopping cart during the busy holiday shopping season.

Prepare A Holiday Sales Calendar

We’ve already mentioned that the holiday season during the last quarter of the year is not the only holiday season worth planning for. It also might make sense to think about other popular and widely-celebrated holidays throughout the year, such as Easter, Quebec/Canada Day and Labor Day. There are other special dates that don’t necessarily result in time off work and school, but are still celebrated nonetheless: back to school, Mother’s/Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day.

Start your holiday sales planning by first taking note of important dates of celebration (and spending) during the year. While planning, consider what is being celebrated and make an effort to match a relevant promotion with the holiday. Ultimately, the holidays you choose to participate in will be a function of your specific business and the customers in your target market.

Regardless of what holidays you choose to participate in, some of the biggest for e-commerce brands are Black Friday (Friday, November 24) and Cyber Monday (Monday, November 27). If you create promotions for only one or two “holidays” during the year, make sure they involve at least one of these two options.

Provide The Best Customer Experience

It’s easy to get lost in the craziness of the holiday sales season, but don’t neglect the all-important customer experience. Consider the demands of your consumers and scale your customer service demands during the holidays.

Providing the best customer experience mean preparation in terms of:

  • Checking your website performance. Mobile sales are continuously growing each year. Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly and responsive. While you’re at it, check your website’s page loading speed. Consumers can get impatient over a slow loading website and will leave without completing a sale if your website loads too slowly.
  • Offering free shipping. 83% of shoppers are willing to wait up to two days for free shipping. When it comes to last-minute holiday shopping, same-day delivery is something that 25% of consumers consider to be important.
  • Offering discounts. 65% of consumers are price sensitive. Therefore, consumers are likely to compare the prices of competing e-commerce stores to see which one offers the best prices.
  • Fully staffing your customer service team. Have a customer service representative available for contact when consumers need them—in other words, 24/7. Besides live chat, offer customers multiple access points for support: email, live chat, and social media.

On a final note with regards to providing a good customer experience, holiday shoppers expect you to be clear with your payment options, delivery options, and return policy. A failure to make these things obvious may mean that customers will pass you up for another business that better attends to their holiday shopping needs.

Planning your Cyber Monday E-commerce Holiday Sale

Preparing a holiday sales campaign is not something that you can easily do on a whim. It will take a lot of time, thinking, effort, and strategic resources.

If you want to stand out among the sea of e-commerce shops during holiday season, take your promotional efforts to the next level. Prep early, and make sure that your holiday marketing budget aligns with the goals you set out to achieve.

The holiday sales season has the best potential to launch your business into success for the upcoming year. If you need help with digital strategy or Magento e-commerce development, get in touch with the holiday sales experts at Le Site.