It’s that time of year once again when our minds move to maximizing sales and serving the mass of holiday shoppers our website will be serving. I write one of these posts every year to help you prepare, market and maximize your holiday sales season.
Preparing for Holiday Shopping
Here is a pretty helpful list of things to check, secure and generally optimize to make sure your company, website and customer service are all shored up and ready to bust out the best sales numbers of the year.
Remember, that although “Black Friday” is generally known as a physical shopping day you will still see increased sales. Many retailers are controlling the masses of people flooding their brick and mortar storefronts with special holiday bonuses, sales and deals for shopping online.
From “Black Friday” you move in to “Cyber Monday”, which is your day as ecommerce owners. “Cyber Monday” is the day that shoppers shop from work to get holiday bargains and things they need for the gift giving season. Note that the biggest time of the day you will see traffic is lunchtime EST. While many shop on the clock, many more will eat at their desk shopping away their lunch hour.
Being prepared for these sales is certainly no joke and requires that you put forth extra effort and planning to be successful. Here is a list to get your brain juices flowing.
- Check your website for broken links (http://validator.w3.org/checklink)
- Place several orders on your website. Check the flow, ease and function in FireFox, IE and Chrome browsers.
- Check that there are no “broken lock” errors for your SSL pages in your checkout. (http://pro-webs.net/blog/2009/08/26/ecommerce-checkout-suicide/)
- Contact information on your website is prominent, easy to find and use.
- Shipping fees, holiday shipping schedule and return policy are clearly stated in the simplest manner possible, with high visibility.
- Special sales, coupons and shipping campaigns clearly posted.
- All specials for each sale are in place and any product data feeds (such as Google Shopping) are up to date.
- Check your bandwidth (transfer) use for the month and make certain your hosting account has enough to cover a 100% increase.
- Check that you have ample products in stock and ready to ship.
- If you are using an API such as USPS, FedEx or UPS to deliver shipping quotes make certain that you have a standard table, flat or zone rate turned off but configured for use if the API for your carrier fails. This has happened in the past and can be down for days.
- Check with your processing gateway to make certain that daily and transaction limits are going to be adequate for the increased sales. We certainly don’t want to lose sales because we have done to much sales in a day!
- Make sure you have ample staff to handle calls and emails.
- Ready to ship? Don’t wait, start shipping orders as quickly as you can. Many times very quick shipping notifications will lower canceled orders and actually help promote your store with your shopper’s co-workers and friends.
Holiday Marketing Ideas
Holiday marketing techniques are a dime a dozen, and you cannot do them all. However, have a look at the ideas below to see if any will help you in your niche to maximize sales this holiday shopping season.
If you plan to do an email blast for Cyber Monday… You better get it out by Saturday night. Many people will shop from work on Cyber Monday. Get them your deals early so they can take it to work.
Use a awesome subject line to engage the shopper. Most people will read the subject at least before deleting your email, so your subject alone carries most of the burden in email marketing.
Keep the email, clean, informative and short…. Holiday shoppers are an impatient bunch.
Segment your email list to help you send offers best related to your shoppers. If you are using email software to segment your list, now is the time to flex your marketing mojo by hitting each of your segments with a planned and targeted email offer. Cyber Monday is not the only opportunity this holiday season…. so make certain you also have the ability to properly measure your results for improvement.
Consider offering special coupons or information to your subscribers only…. They are generally intrigued and will check it out!
Linkbait – PR
Any kind of great link / promo bait is going to be very effective… For example, create a press release that Santa himself or one of his elves is at your shop answering your phones. This will get people’s attention and if you have the right product, folks will be happy to spend money in your store… Not to mention all the great social share links you can grab as well.
Create a category and link products in to a “gift giving”, “gifts for her” or “holiday gifts” category for quick access and promotion of products that are expected to make great gifts for holiday shoppers.
Offer free anything… Free gifts, free shipping, free gift wrapping, BOGO etc. Free is always good marketing.
Run silly and fun Holiday Pay Per Click Ads… Target some very tight terms and throw up Ads like, Santa dropped the load at our shop! This will grab attention and get some folks in your door… send them to a page with great deals and Holiday offerings.
Submit a Holiday themed coupons to a bunch of FREE coupon repositories.
Offer gift certificates in BOGO or get $20 for $15 types formats…. Shrink on these is awesome. Make sure you advertise that your Zen Cart can deliver these to anyone, anywhere in an email!
Run a holiday contest or give away in your shop… Customer # 333 will receive a $25 gift certificate for their next purchase… Then track the winners and results in a very prominent location for all to see. this would make an awesome Facebook promo!
Add special product bundles to your store, Holiday shoppers are in a rush and will be more inclined to checkout with a item bundle containing everything they need… Like the mp3 player, case and headphones all in one shot.
Swap out some template images for Holiday themed, feel good images to get your shoppers in the “mood”. Maybe even make it snow on your website with a pinch of Java Script!
Advertise your ability to ship directly to the gift recipient and offer holiday wrapping and gift messages.
Addon Orders – Offer a coupon, which very simply enables the shopper to return in a set time frame (such as 24 hours) to shop for more items and pay no additional shipping for the additional items; the orders are combined.
Include a coupon in your order confirmation emails to entice shoppers to return again. How many times have you shopped for your early and then had to return to the same store later and shop again. Bounce back coupons are 100% safe as they do not affect the checkout ability of the current order, but rather attempt to get the shopper to return for additional sales.
Shoppers are in an absolute crazy frenzy this time of year. They are shopping around, price and selection and service checking… Comparing shipping and delivery options. Often in this process the can get “lost”. If you are using the abandoned cart module for Zen Cart, you have the opportunity to “recover” these lost sales by emailing them their cart contents and a nice letter to persuade them to return and checkout.
If you are using Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platform, then use it to maximize sales this holiday season. Offer “Facebook Only” specials, promos, gifts and coupons, write about great gift ideas and ask for others from your fans… Most importantly make sure your fans know you HAVE the holiday spirit. Believe it or not, people want to know that you are a company comprised of “real” people and are not all business this holiday season.
Use gift selectors like “gifts for guys”, “gifts under $50.00” and other vertical browsing options to help shoppers better find and BUY what they need. This type of ease in shopping can easily convert a “one item cart” sale in to a really nice order. Shoppers appreciate this and will share their ease in shopping with friends as well.
Shipping promotions is big business in the holiday season. Free shipping is always a huge holiday shopping promotion. I, however, prefer to use the “spend x$ to get free shipping” type promotion. This guarantees a minimum (necessary) profit margin, increased your average order total average and adds additional sales you may not have gotten otherwise. You will find holiday shoppers more likely to stay on site longer, navigate deeper and find more things to purchase in order to attain free shipping.
A guaranteed delivery promo is most effective the closer we get to Christmas. It can be bit tough to administer, but can also maintain the holiday sales increase for another week to 10 days past the “grey shipping period”. Big money here, but plan and explain carefully, as it only takes one bad shopping review to ruin the remainder of the year’s sales.
Once more for emphasis… Don’t wait, start shipping orders as quickly as you can. Many times very quick shipping notifications will lower canceled orders and actually help promote your store with your shopper’s co-workers and friends.