As an eCommerce merchant, you may feel a little stressed about the upcoming holiday season. You are not alone. A recent survey of 2,500 consumers found that 87% of shoppers are concerned about saving money, with 40% trying to offset rising grocery costs and inflation. That means that the vast majority of shoppers will be more discerning when it comes to their holiday spending this year. It also means that eCommerce stores will face stiffer competition than usual when it comes to attracting seasonal buyers.
The same survey revealed that 76% of shoppers plan on buying from brands they are already familiar with. However, 75% would consider purchasing from another brand if an item was available at a lower price, and 42% if they received a digital offer. For eCommerce merchants, the survey underscores the importance of a holiday eCommerce strategy. Without a plan, merchants may lack the resources to reach their sales goals.
What Makes a Great Holiday eCommerce Strategy?
The best holiday strategies begin in September. It's the time to crunch numbers, make projections, and set goals. In short, it's time to assess the economic potential of holiday shopping. Although eCommerce sales are expected to grow by 11.9% this holiday season, total retail sales are only expected to increase by 4.5%. ECommerce sales are likely to make up around 20% of all holiday spending, with the remaining 80% being spent in traditional Brick-and-mortar stores.
Before creating a holiday eCommerce strategy, merchants need to run some numbers. They need to revisit the holiday season sales from prior years as well as sales in the prior three months. Consumer behavior changes during the holidays, so comparing prior holiday sales can provide added insights.
Prior data can tell when sales peaked and what items were purchased. Balancing that information with sales in the prior three months can help you identify what products are likely to sell during the holidays. For example, a gourmet foods store is likely to see a big boost in sales as consumers prepare for holiday parties. However, given the current economic downturn, shoppers may not be as willing to purchase higher-priced items without an incentive, which is worth keeping in mind.
As part of a holiday eCommerce strategy, merchants need to look at their direct costs. Have certain products undergone a price increase? Are shipping costs the same as last year? What about packaging? Knowing how much prices have increased allows business owners to determine how to price their products to maintain profitability.
Given that holiday buying drives retail profitability significantly in the online sector, developing an effective holiday eCommerce strategy should be considered an essential activity for the ongoing success of your business. As an online merchant, fall is the perfect time to create a comprehensive plan using the following tips.
Make a Sales Plan
Start with your sales goals. How will you achieve your targets? Will you create special promotions? Gift packages that combine your best-selling items may be a good way to drive sales. Take time to think outside the box to attract new customers.
Shipping costs are the number one factor in merchant selection, with delivery speed a close second. If you can't offer free shipping, make sure your fees are reasonable. In a 2023 survey, it was found that while 82% of online shoppers gravitate toward free shipping, 38% of consumers will seek out merchants with reasonable shipping costs.
Add a Holiday Theme to Your Storefront
You don't need to build a new website. Add a personal touch to a stock holiday theme and highlight promotions. Find an innovative way to add a countdown clock to your site. It's a subliminal way to indicate time is running out. Don't forget the call-to-action buttons for highlighted items.
If you don't want to update your site after the holidays, pick a winter theme that evokes the holiday spirit. Remember, people will have the holidays on their minds. When they see snow-covered pine trees, they will make a connection with lighted trees with wrapped gifts underneath.
Promotions can motivate undecided shoppers to buy. As consumers browse the web for gift ideas, highlighted or sale items may attract their attention. Identify your best-selling products and the items that sold the most during the last holiday season. Then, decide how to price or package them for sale.
Gift cards are another great option to offer over the holiday season. Finding the right gift for everyone can be a daunting task. Allowing shoppers to purchase a gift card can take the stress out of holiday shopping. You could also consider the following promotion possibilities:
- Upsell gift wrapping—offer gift wrapping for an added fee
- Personalized messages—include a personalized message for free
- Build your basket offers—allow customers to assemble a gift package by letting them choose a specific number of pre-selected items at a set price
- Holiday bundles—group products into bundles that consumers can purchase at a slightly lower price
In a competitive market, promotions are a key attraction, especially when shoppers are watching their spending.
Prepare Reminder Emails
Email campaigns should be a part of any holiday eCommerce strategy. However, be selective in how you use them. Send existing customers repurchase reminders. If you have sufficient data, include recommendations for future purchases. If you offer free shipping or a discount, set a deadline to encourage an early purchase. For example, offer free shipping through December for orders over $50.
Use emails to retarget visitors to your site. According to research, about 98% of visitors will not complete a purchase on their first visit to your site. This means that only 2% of first-time visitors actually make a purchase. The rest will simply browse or add some items to their cart before navigating on to something else. Use any data collected during these visits to send emails reminding shoppers about your store or their abandoned cart. Recent data shows that retargeting can bring 26% of abandoned cart shoppers back to a site.
Consider Gift Guides
Develop gift guides for your store. Whether you categorize products by age, price, or interest, creating gift guides helps consumers narrow their potential selections. They save shoppers time as they browse your site and take some of the stress out of shopping.
If you plan to create a gift guide, begin early. Many consumers begin shopping in late October, especially if money is tight for them. If you add new products to your store throughout the season, be sure to update your guide regularly to reflect those changes.
Analyze Your Customer's Experience
Be your customer. During the holidays, traffic is higher, and customers quickly lose patience. To ensure that every visitor has a frictionless experience, look for ways to expedite the process. If checking out takes too long, shoppers may abandon their carts.
Assess your site's navigation. Can you reduce the number of pages a shopper must view to decide on a product? Are there ways to display information without the need to navigate to a new page? If you decide to make changes, do it early so existing customers are familiar with the new site layout before the holiday rush.
Check Your Mobile Site
Don't forget to analyze your customer's experience on mobile devices. Most websites should automatically adjust to display appropriately on a mobile device and carry the navigation experience over seamlessly. However, it never hurts to check. After all, 61% of online shopping orders were made from smartphones in the first quarter of 2023.
If your target market is anyone aged 34 or under, take extra care to ensure your mobile experience is error-free. Younger shoppers are more likely to use their smartphones for shopping than any other group.
Use Social Media
Take advantage of social media. You can use Facebook or Instagram to announce promotions or discounts. Create valuable content and add it to your LinkedIn page. For example, bicycle merchants could write a guide on how to select the right bike for children. They could include instructions on how to measure for the best fit for a child.
Think about the questions or feedback you've received on your products. Is there something that could be turned into a guide? Providing information that helps consumers determine the appropriate product can help drive shoppers to your store.
Rethink Your Return Policy
Return policies not only impact your bottom line, but they also affect brand loyalty. A 2023 report found that 96% of shoppers are more likely to repeat purchasing if the merchant has a favorable return policy. The report also found that 84% of shoppers read the return policy before buying, and 44% will look elsewhere if they do not like the policy.
Make sure your policy is easy to find. During the holidays, shoppers are not going to spend time looking for a return policy. They will simply move to a competitor. You might consider extending the return period or offering free returns on items purchased before December 1.
Check Your Inventory
After you have your sales plan in place, check that you have sufficient inventory to fulfill those goals. If part of your holiday eCommerce strategy includes special packaging, place your orders early to avoid any shipping delays later. No one wants to run out of their best sellers during the peak buying season.
This past year has been challenging for anyone in retail. If you're a little short on funds to beef up your inventory, ask for help. Look for short-term solutions that can get you the inventory you need to make the sales you want.
Inventory is not the only resource that may need some extra cash. Website updates may be necessary to increase customer engagement. You may need money to hire holiday help to handle packaging and shipping. There may not be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything in your strategy. Before you look at disregarding your plan, consider Onramp.
Onramp is a finance solution designed for eCommerce. We offer financing with a unique repayment plan. Instead of paying a set monthly charge, you’ll pay a percentage from each transaction until the loan amount is repaid. If you have a slow month, you’ll pay less. Schedule a call with us today to ensure you have all the financial resources you need to make sure your holiday eCommerce strategy succeeds.