2020 has thrown many challenges at us, there’s no doubt about it! The eCommerce world has seen growth it’s never seen before due to COVID-19 and the upcoming holiday season is expected to be the biggest yet for online sales.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports a 21.2% increase in online and other non-store sales from April 2019 to April 2020. Fueled by stay-at-home orders and a surge of consumers buying online for the first time, this increase was a life saver for many store owners who were concerned about how the pandemic would impact their business.
We may have just turned the page on the calendar to August, but it’s time to begin mapping out a plan for the 4th quarter. After all, you want 2020 to be remembered as the year that broke records for your company!
As you begin planning out your holiday strategy, here are some tried-and-true things that we recommend you implement in order to make gift buying simple and easy for your shoppers. These recommendations are simple to put into practice and should be ready to turn on beginning Thanksgiving Day:
Create holiday category pages. Some products are better suited for gift giving than others. Put your best gift items together on category pages that make it easy for shoppers to find your holiday collections. Consider leaving these category pages up year-round for search engine indexing. Also, put a graphic on your store’s home page touting your holiday gift section, and make the holiday gift section part of your site’s navigation structure.
Publish gift lists, targeted to your core buying audience. Holiday shoppers who buy online are looking for convenience and speed. Give them what they want! Create multiple gift lists, with different shoppers in mind, including gift lists that are relevant to different holidays, or for specific recipients – gifts for mom, dad, college students, golfers, gardeners, sports fans, gadget-lovers, etc. Customers also appreciate gift lists divided up by price, such as “Gifts Under $25.”
Update your product descriptions for search relevance. Some customers will arrive at your site and go straight to your search box. Think about how your customers might describe an item that you sell, and work these terms into an appealing description of the product. You’ll have the dual benefit of making items easier-to-find and better-merchandised. Ask your friends how they search for gift items; incorporate their advice into your product descriptions and keywords.
Add seasonal elements to your site design but don’t change the essentials. Seasonal images, graphics, and colors are the online equivalent of holiday-specific window-dressing, and send customers the clear message that your site is a great place to shop for holiday items. That said, the holidays are not a time to redo your site navigation or completely redesign your site. You don’t want to confuse returning customers who are familiar with how to find what they’re looking for in your online store.
Enable gift certificates – and promote them. If you haven’t enabled gift certificates, now is the time. Many customers prefer to give the gift of choice, with an electronic gift certificate to your online store. You can offer gift certificates in multiple denominations, and offer a great last-minute gift-buying opportunity that extends your holiday sales into the new year. Make sure your gift certificates are easy to find — feature your gift certificates on your homepage, and create a navigation link or button for your gift-certificate product page accessible from anywhere in your site.
Search and test your site. Invite friends, staff, and colleagues to test your changes, review your holiday content, and search your site. You’ll quickly be able to determine whether customers can easily navigate to your holiday merchandise or whether you need to make some more changes. Advance planning will help you work out any bugs and increase the effectiveness of your merchandising.
Learn from last year. Glean all the information you can from your previous sales seasons. If you’ve been in business more than one year, consider what programs were more effective during the holidays. As you’re putting these marketing programs in place, be sure to plan out how you will evaluate each program’s success. You need to know whether your marketing spend is paying off, so you can invest in successful programs and stop spending on initiatives that don’t give you adequate return on your investment. Keep good notes, and do a post mortem on what worked and what didn’t.
Send holiday wishes and discounts. You gained many new customers since the last holiday season, now is the time to market to them and be top-of-mind when it comes to buying gifts. Use email newsletters to offer exclusive offers or discounts to current customers, encouraging them to revisit your site and boost your holiday sales.
Email newsletters can be very effective, but only if they have a hook. People sign up for email newsletters because they want to get special discount offers from you, so make it worth their while to subscribe. And always make it easy for someone to unsubscribe to your email newsletter.
Cross-selling and Merchandising. Suggest complementary products at the point of purchase. For example, if a shopper has added a holiday bathrobe to their cart, you might suggest matching slippers as an additional purchase. As an added incentive, set discounts on cross-sold items when they’re purchased together.
Working on these now ensures you have enough time to roll them out just in time for the busy season without rushing at the last minute, Of course, our team is here to assist you in making 2020 your best year ever. Feel free to contact us at email@example.com for help with holiday graphics, getting your products listed in Google Shopping, adding advanced search to your site, assisting with mobile optimization, or any other needs.
BONUS: Want more tips, tactics and expert advice for a successful 2020 holiday season? Download our free 2020-guide-to-holiday-planning from BigCommerce and Your Store Wizards.
Scott Sanfilippo began his eCommerce journey in 1994 by co-founding one of the Internet’s first online retailers, TheFerretStore.com, which was acquired by PetCo in 2006. In 2001, he co-founded the eCommerce design and marketing firm Solid Cactus, which was acquired by web.com in 2009. Today, Scott is the General Manager of Your Store Wizards and lives in Delray Beach, FL. Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.