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They’re almost here! …Sort of. As we in the northern hemisphere enter into late summer, Halloween decorations are already hitting the shelves, signaling the imminent rush of holiday shopping. In 2018, e-commerce sales made in preparation for Thanksgiving and Christmas totaled around $123 billion in revenue, according to one statistic. Small businesses of the internet rejoice! This means a whole lot of potential customers might be marching through your site this holiday season.
To get in on this upcoming boom, however, your company needs to be prepared — with streamers, twinkle lights, and tinsel in hand — to promote your heart out to catch the attention of holiday shoppers. In this article, we’ll go over what you simply must know to get your business ready for the most wonderful time of the year.
The Holiday Rush: How to Prepare for Holiday Season
Holiday sales make up 40 – 50% of a small business’ yearly revenue. But with all that money comes a lot of work: manufacturing, stocking, selling, shipping, and managing customer inquiries. By now you’re already an expert at doing all of those things, and you may even have a few holiday seasons under your belt. But new businesses and veteran e-commerce merchants alike can always benefit a refresher course on getting through the commercial tornado that is autumn in one piece. And as technology updates, so do the ways in which companies may address the issues that come with this seasonal influx of customer interactions.
Question number one every online retail business needs to ask itself: do I have everything I need to handle an increased volume of sales and customer interactions? And we’re not just talking about manufacturing and supply, although you should be ready to sell an extraordinary amount of product in the buildup to the holiday season.
In addition, companies must also consider:
- Website bandwidth for increased activity and gift shopping – You may want to consider (even temporarily) upgrading your store or plugging in a few integrations to make things run more smoothly. If you’re a Shopify business, for example, they offer a number of holiday-specific integrations, including gift-bundling apps, holiday-themed gift cards, and gift-specific dropshipping.
- Shopping cart functionality – To avoid abandoned shopping carts, you need to streamline your checkout process by eliminating the need for consumers to create an account, offering a number of accessible payment options, and making checkout a one to two click process.
- Optimizing a mobile experience – Meet your customers where they are by making sure that your store is accessible, navigable, and fully functional on mobile devices. The majority of online holiday shopping in the year 2020 is predicted to be done via mobile, so make sure your store is mobile-friendly, then sit back and reap the benefits.
- Capacity for receiving an elevated inflow of customer service inquiries – Your customer service line needs to be charged and ready to go for the holiday season if you’re going to provide consumers with the support they need. We recommend upgrading Gladly — our omnichannel customer service solution streamlines customer service with all points of communication built in and available on a single dashboard. And customers never have to repeat themselves: their lifetime history with your company will be right in front of service representatives, enabling fast and effective help.
Holiday Marketing Ideas: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and In Between
Now that you’re ready for a mall full of shoppers, here’s how you reel them in with holiday promotions.
Thanksgiving Marketing and Promotion Ideas
- Let your customers know that you’re thankful for their patronage this holiday season by offering promotional discounts to your loyal shoppers. You might consider offering 5-10% discounts to your more casual buyers, and up to 25% for your consistent brand evangelists.
- Share the spirit of the holiday by interacting with your audience via social media: ask them what they’re thankful for, and feature some of your favorite messages on your Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts.
- Take advantage of the theme of “giving” by holding special Thanksgiving giveaways in the months leading up to the holiday. (For more ideas on how to make promotional giveaways happen, check out our other article: Giveaway Ideas for Businesses.)
A success story: Youtube sensation Bon Appetit Test Kitchen creates a fun web series every year, featuring contributing editors to BA magazine attempting to create the perfect Thanksgiving feast: from the turkey to the stuffing. The show is entertaining and also educational, encouraging home chefs everywhere to get creative in the kitchen during the holiday season.
Black Friday Marketing and Promotion Ideas
- Give customers some respite from the madness of brick-and-mortar Black Friday shopping by holding some too-good-to-miss sales of your own. You can decide what discounts your business is capable of offering, based on size and what you sell, but this is one retail boom you must take advantage of.
- Get your audience hyped up for your Black Friday deals by marketing this event well in advance. Most customers assume larger companies will hold promotional sales, but some smaller businesses do choose to opt out. Let no mistake be made: you’re definitely participating.
A success story: Outdoor gear retailer REI took a different approach to Black Friday by shutting down for this commercial holiday: giving employees the day off, and encouraging their customers to go out into nature. While no immense sales were had, REI’s extremely on-brand strategy worked wonders for the company’s reputation and future revenue.
Cyber Monday Marketing and Promotion Ideas
- Online-exclusive Black Friday part II: now is your time to really shine. Cyber Monday accounted for $6 billion in digital commerce revenue of that earlier 2018 statistic. If you like, you can treat this commercial holiday as an extension of your Black Friday promotions, but with even better deals and special bundles.
- The newer generations are easily exhausted by mindless consumerism, so you should consider adding a philanthropic element to your Cyber Monday event. Promise to donate a portion of your revenue to a non-profit organization doing good in the world to make customers feel like their purchases are a bit more meaningful.
A success story: Benefitting small online retailers everywhere, American Express launched Small Business Saturdays, urging holiday shoppers everywhere to support local and online mom-and-pop shops. In a further act of good will, AmEx offers free marketing support and promotional materials for small retailers participating in SBS.
Christmas Marketing and Promotion Ideas
- Delight your shoppers by integrating an especially festive banner or decoration theme in light of this popular winter holiday. Just like a brick-and-mortar store, you can paint your online shop with snowbanks, twinkling lights, or prancing reindeer.
- Think about stocking stuffers. Populate your store with special Christmas bundles at an accessible discount and encourage your audience to stock up on the little things. You might also think about making larger bundles on a theme: by color, by material, or even just by how Christmassy they are.
- Engage your audience on social media by having a 12 Days of Christmas or advent calendar campaign, featuring special limited edition items, customer profiles, or even just lovely marketing images in the days leading up to December 25th.
A success story: Starbucks’ iconic red cups ring in the holiday season, and signal to the world that their infamous seasonal drinks are once again on the menu. For many, this marketing tradition is a wintertime staple, to the point of causing controversy when changes are made. The company has begun to move away from exclusively Christmas-themed designs for their cups, opting for more inclusive patterns and colors.
Last Thoughts: Prepping for the Holiday Season
The last months of the year are a time of prosperity for online retailers — but also lots of hard work and preparation. It’s never too early to get started! Your business should be ready to hit the ground running the minute the pumpkins and witch hats come down off the shelves.