Do you feel like the holiday season is getting longer and longer each year? You are not wrong. This year’s holiday deals have started earlier than ever, and while inflation and supply chain issues are to blame for the record-breaking dates this year (think early October), the early bird has always gotten the worm.
For this year, we’re going to assume you have a few things in place: a website, some products and an “x” number of customers that you wish to grow to “y.” Having spent the last decade immersed in the world of marketing and ecommerce, I’ve identified 13 key areas to invest in right now that can generate the best ROI for your ecommerce businesses in preparation for a holiday frenzy.
Related: 3 Predictions and Tips for Attracting Customers This Holiday Season
1. Optimize your website speed
The faster your website loads, the happier your customer will be. And just like the 100m race, every second counts! This is especially true during the holiday season when people are doing last-minute shopping, tensions are high, and there is a lot of virtual window shopping. Specifically, every second you can reduce, the wait time increases conversions by 17%.
The go-to case study for all things website speed has been Amazon. When the biggest ecommerce giant in the world says every 100ms of added page load costs them 1% in sales, then it’s time to listen.
2. Optimize your mobile experience
Are you reading this article on your mobile device? According to the latest research, there is a 50% chance that your customers are. Why does that matter?
Quick and easy! These are the two golden rules regarding the mobile experience you want to offer customers. And to do that, investing in a mobile-friendly website and design is a top priority for any business owner with an ecommerce store. Forcing customers to zoom in to see the product or text or scrolling horizontally are big nos, as are forms that take too long to complete.
A few years ago, the luxury beauty brand Lancôme did a high-level overhaul of its website design, focusing on creating a streamlined, app-like experience. The result? A 53% increase in mobile sessions on iOS and a 10% decrease in bounce rates.
3. Email marketing automation flows
What is an email marketing automation flow? In one phrase: right place, right time! In addition to keeping customers engaged, targeted emails show them that their experience (and purchases) matter! Plus, it frees up valuable time you can spend focusing on other matters.
For maximum impact, emails need to be targeted and relevant to your audience. Think of a discount after they abandoned their cart or a welcome message after signing up for the newsletter.
While marketing is never “set it and forget it,” this is the closest you can get to developing communication lines that match a specific action or behavior. Case in point? The $0 to $289k per month success story from high-end home decor brand, Eternity. Starting at zero with their email marketing, they set up clear, automated flows to cover every aspect of the customer journey, from cart abandonment to post-purchase upsells.
Related: 6 Things to Consider for Putting Together Your Best Holiday Marketing Plan Yet
4. Plan your campaigns ahead of time
How soon is too soon for holiday deals? This year, Target started their Deal Days on October 6, which is excellent news for early-bird shoppers or mildly annoying for those who hadn’t even picked a Halloween costume. Mid-October remains a safe bet for most businesses to start introducing deals without coming across as overly pushy to make a sale.
Even if you don’t add Christmas-themed decorations across your website, strategizing, planning and deciding on your holiday campaigns takes time. The earlier you start, the more time you’ll have to research your target audience and avoid making rushed last-minute decisions.
5. Start advertising early
Yet another reason to get an early start? Ad spend! There are two factors to consider here. One is customer behavior leading up to a season of deals and sales. By mid-October or early November, they have already started thinking about the TV, fancy watch or other items they want to purchase. To see what is on offer, they might check out a couple of websites, save their favorites, gather intel and wait until the item goes on sale next month to complete the purchase. Sound familiar? In addition, early planning can help you secure discounts on ad rates.
6. Leverage audience segmentation
Age, income level or location! These are all key factors to consider to set up customized campaigns with tailored messages that will connect with consumers on a personal level.
A great example of a company that does segmentation well is Nike. Fuelled by access to predictive analytics, the Nike Direct initiative can reach customers directly and forecast what style of sneakers customers want at different times of the year, as well as where they want to buy them from. By offering a personalized experience, Nike was able to boost its digital sales by 15%, even though retail revenue declined.
And while only some business owners can acquire a data analytics startup to boost their customer journey insights, your ads, website and email newsletter are a great starting point for identifying subgroups.
Related: 4 Apps to Supercharge Your Ecommerce Site for the Holiday Season
7. Create a sense of urgency
Whether you call it a scarcity mindset or FOMO, the psychology research is clear: Loss aversion is twice as powerful as gains. In other words, people are more motivated to avoid feeling like they missed out on something than they are to gain something.
This technique has been widely used in marketing to persuade consumers to take action now rather than later. It can be achieved by running holiday-themed campaigns that are only available for a certain time, announcing last-minute flash sales or limiting the number of items in stock.
The popular fashion retailer Nordstrom was an early digital adapter. Its discounted sibling, Nordstrom Rack, first launched in 2014, offering 30-70% off on items using flash sale events. And limited-time inventory has been a key driver to its growth, utilizing the urgency model to drive sales.
8. Ad retargeting
Ad retargeting is a foolproof way to boost conversions, especially during the holiday season when consumers spend more time in the “scouting” phase and don’t complete a sale until much later in their buying journey.
According to lead generation platform, Wishpond, retargeted ads have a 10x higher click-through rate (CTR) than a typical display ad, plus website visitors who have been retargeted are 70% more likely to convert.
9. Offer free shipping and returns
Free shipping may not be free for your business, but it has enormous power over your customers’ decision to shop from you. According to research by Shopify — which currently accounts for 11% of the global ecommerce market — 75% of global shoppers are influenced by the promise of free shipping.
The ecommerce fashion giant, Zara, revised its free shipping and returns policy for certain countries earlier this year, leading to many disappointed customers, even though in-store returns were free. Whether or not the move has influenced their profit remains to be seen, and it will be interesting to see the data when it becomes available.
10. Create holiday bundle products
You would be wrong if you think product bundles are as easy as grouping “a, b, c” and then calling it a day. Product bundles are a carefully thought-out strategy that can feel like a win-win for everyone; maximize sales for you, and present an irresistible offer to the consumer.
Product bundling also works great with other techniques, like sense of urgency, to encourage consumers to act even faster. Add to that the fact that it can help you reduce inventory waste, and you have some pretty compelling reasons why they are worth trying.
For Maev, a dog food brand that launched in 2022, introducing curated bundles led to a notable 15% increase in the average order value.
11. Use cross-selling and upselling to increase impulse buying
You’ve heard it before: Acquiring new customers is more expensive than keeping current ones. This is why cross-selling and upselling offer a great revenue-boosting option.
Upselling is when you offer customers to buy something that’s at least a little better than what they initially intended to purchase. Cross-selling is when you suggest a complementary product or service that has added value for the consumer but does not need to be related to the first one.
Amazon is a shining example of how well cross-selling and upselling can work, with 35% of their total sales coming through the “recommended products” tab that appears after an order is placed.
12. Create unique, themed landing pages and email campaigns
A well-designed landing page is the backbone of any product launch or conversion funnel. And the holiday season presents a most joyous opportunity to stand out from the competition and get creative with holiday-themed products, services and visuals to support your special deals or discounts.
It is important to remember that even minor tweaks to the design, headlines or visuals can affect conversions — so as always, testing is your best friend!
13. Prepare customer service ahead of time
We have covered a lot of different marketing strategies and ways of using technology to gain an advantage. But one thing we can’t forget is the power of human interaction, even when most of it happens online.
With the holiday season putting extra pressure on customer service and people eager to complete their shopping quickly, being proactive is key to a smooth customer experience. That might mean having enough staff to handle increased demand and setting clear guidelines for returns and exchanges.