Holiday shopping doesn't kick off on Black Friday or even after Halloween. Instead, about 20% of consumers start holiday shopping by October. That means retail stores need to prepare for holiday shopping even earlier. There's a lot of work that stores need to manage behind the scenes to launch the holiday season, including both preparing their inventories and generating demand.
This guide focuses on that latter aspect of eCommerce holiday sales so you can get to work as soon as possible. It takes time to plan marketing campaigns, create the copy and images, and get the money you need to make it all come together—and the last thing you want to do is fall behind.
But before you can jump into choosing your focus keywords or queueing up your Facebook posts according to your marketing calendar, it's important to start with a robust marketing strategy that encompasses all the different phases and aspects of holiday marketing. Adopting the same strategy you used in 2022 won't work; the holiday shopping trends, marketing technology, and market factors are all different. So read through this guide to:
- Identify your core objectives for your 2023 eCommerce holiday marketing strategies.
- Determine what tactics and marketing channels you want to prioritize.
- Start setting up your analytics infrastructure so you can monitor engagement and get data to guide your campaigns.
- Secure the right type of financing for your market campaigns, inventory, and other holiday shopping expenses, so you can boost sales.
Split Your Holiday Shopping Season Efforts Between Two Objectives: Demand Generation and Demand Fulfillment
eCommerce businesses need to break down their holiday season efforts into two main categories:
- Demand generation: Advertising, marketing strategies, customer engagement, and relationship-building
- Demand fulfillment: Inventory management, shipping and tracking, and other logistics
You can't have a successful season without a strong focus on both elements. Without demand generation, your store won't see activity—and you'll have low sales, high expenses, and lots of excess inventory. Without good demand fulfillment, you'll have frustrated customers, fruitless marketing expenses, and a tarnished brand reputation.
In the past few years, the focus has been on inventory and demand fulfillment. Cracks across the supply chain made eCommerce store owners become increasingly creative about securing suppliers, managing on-time order shipping, and creating consumer-friendly solutions to out-of-stock favorites.
The fulfillment strategies that you built out in 2022 and have strengthened across 2023 may already be in a good place for the end of the year. So let’s turn our attention to strategic demand generation efforts: the nuts and bolts of what online marketing efforts matter the most, when to plan and when to publish, and what mechanisms can secure the greatest amount of profitable sales volume in 2023.
Strong Marketing Strategies to Capture the 2023 Holiday Shopping Demand
These are all time-tested best practices for the holiday shopping season. But each one will be particularly important this year.
Dedicate your September to planning out as much of your marketing as possible so you can hit the ground running by October 1. Here's the breakdown of when shoppers are likely to start shopping in earnest this year:
- Before or during October: Approximately 30%
- Before or on Thanksgiving: Approximately 57%
- On or after December 1: Approximately 15%
Creating all of your marketing materials now (or at least the first campaigns or waves of content) means you can reach the early shoppers before the competition gets fierce. It also means you can start increasing touchpoints and building familiarity with late shoppers.
Make Your Website Festive
Having holiday graphics and festive themes is a great way to cue shoppers that you're ready with holiday deals and gift products. For your business's website, you may have full control over the color palette and holiday-themed landing pages. You can even add different gift categories to your shopping menu.
If you primarily sell products through Amazon and Walmart storefronts, you can make those platforms festive by updating your product images with holiday-related ones that still highlight the product but showcase it as a winter-related or gift purchase.
Pro Tip: Combine your demand generation and demand fulfillment goals by putting shipping deadlines on your product pages. Late or stressed shoppers want to know that their purchase will arrive before their big holiday party or the holiday itself. By including dates, you're giving them peace of mind and adding time motivation.
Offer Promotional Deals that Incentivize Shopper Activity
Paid ad campaigns are increasingly expensive, and 38% of SMB sellers are worried about those rising costs. During the holiday shopping season, especially, the cost per click of particularly popular keywords can quickly burn through the initial campaign budget. But that doesn't mean you should shy away from those high-budget keywords. Instead, it means you need to combine them with promotional deals that are most likely to convert leads to customers. For example:
- Match popular keywords with 'impulse buy' price ranges. When products are comfortably in the impulse buy range, consumers are much less likely to shop around or forego the purchase. The clickthrough rate will actually translate to sales.
- Have pricey keyword ads go to dedicated landing pages that tightly align with the objective of the campaign, whether that's getting a viewer to subscribe or pushing a sale.
- Display the promotional details in the paid ad. Use time pressure and clear discounts so online shoppers are only likely to click on the ad when they're ready to make a purchase.
Prioritize Cart Abandonment Responses
In 2023, the cart abandonment rate is slightly over 70%. This is a costly problem, especially since you've used marketing dollars to get shoppers onto your site in the first place. Instead of just using retargeting ads to catch those shoppers' attention again, set up automated shopping cart reminder emails. You can:
- Remind shoppers at frequent intervals about their waiting purchase.
- Incentivize their return with a small discount. (Pro Tip: Be careful with this tactic! If it's overused, shoppers will deliberately pause between adding to their cart and completing the transaction just to get a discount. Then they may forget about you in the interim.)
Use Social Media
The importance of social media in holiday shopping can't be overstated. It shot up from being used by 16% of sellers in 2021 to 41% in 2022, and that trend is by no means slowing down. You can boost organic traffic by publishing engaging, entertaining, and helpful content on your social media profiles, such as curated gift guides or holiday how-tos. Also, you can generate more visibility with social media ads. A combination of both gets the best results.
Add More Personalization to Email Marketing Campaigns
The more personalized your emails are, the more noticeable they will be in your target market's crowded inboxes. Many of your competitors will also be using email marketing and shopping cart reminders, so you need to stand out from the crowd. Personalization, such as sending content based on each shopper's interests, budget, and needs, will result in more opened and clicked-through emails.
Recognize that 2023 Is All About Mobile Shopping
Just like eCommerce is quickly becoming a significant portion of total retail, mobile shopping is surging forward in online shopping. In 2022, 50% of holiday purchases happened on a phone, and nearly 4 out of 5 people with mobile devices use those devices to shop. Make sure your demand generation efforts reflect that change. You must:
- Prioritize mobile and responsive web design so shoppers can buy something with minimal taps or formatting issues.
- Create campaigns specifically oriented around how your target markets spend time on their phones, not just how they spend time online generally.
- Deliberately create marketing content (product descriptions, gift guides, etc.) so it's pleasant to engage with on small screens.
The Power of Analytics for the Holiday Marketing Season
This raises the question of how to best leverage new marketing investments, especially for maximum return over the holiday buying season. As mentioned, eCommerce holiday marketing can now be pursued with maximum personalization—if you have the proper tools and strategies in place.
While third-party cookies can still be leveraged, follow these tips to personalize your holiday marketing strategy and boost end-of-year sales:
- Personalize your purchase confirmation screens or any follow-up messages with highly relevant purchasing suggestions, gifts, or discounts based on their activity
- Implement loyalty programs to begin shifting to robust first-party analytics
- Reach out to at-risk customers – those who went far into the buyer's journey, then stopped – and show that you care about their exact needs for the holidays
- Gauge and compare sales channels to measure performance and make appropriate adjustments
- Customize interactions based on each customer's position in the buyer's journey and according to their most recent and historical engagements with your content
- Track product performance to better allocate funds, taking into account inventory forecasts and recent buying-habit trends
- Leverage eCommerce supply-chain management analytics to note delivery speeds and accuracy for each vendor
- Correlate sales patterns with inventory for tighter, sales-based revenue financing
Any of these tips will help bolster sales – but only fully synthesizing them will result in phenomenal and lasting returns. The catch is that doing all this manually is almost impossible, and we aren't encouraging you to bury your nose into more spreadsheets—quite the opposite.
Being able to move quickly, even if the change is as small as responding to a lead within five minutes instead of 30, can result in 21 times greater conversion rates. Ever-tighter lead times and increased personalization are crucial, and setting aside funds for advanced and automated marketing tools is now a standard that must be budgeted for. These tools will improve conversion rates for you, the customers increasingly expect the personalized experience they provide, and your competitors are likely already providing it.
Make Both Strategies Stronger With Flexible Funding
The holiday shopping season is the big moneymaker for the vast majority of B2C businesses. But when your ability to buy inventory and launch ads is restricted to the profits you've set aside from earlier in the year, you might not be able to move as quickly or comprehensively as you want. That's where cash advances and growth capital can help.
Rather than using credits, slow-moving business loans, or other conventional forms of financing, eCommerce stores can use merchant advances to get an upfront lump of cash they can use for a range of business expenses. There is a wide array of different programs, such as platform-specific funding for Amazon sellers and funding Walmart sellers or more flexible financing from third-party organizations.
If you're thinking about using growth capital to supercharge your holiday marketing strategies, factor in these five considerations:
1: Forecast Your Spending to Create a Good Baseline
Before you start applying, create a data-backed forecast for your spending. This can give you a target amount for initial funding and let you know if you do or don't have enough money for the season so you can plan accordingly.
2. Explore Different Options and Terms
Different lenders and financing options will offer you very different terms. Conventional business loans may have high interest rates (especially in today's economy), but credit cards are even higher. Amazon and Walmart seller programs offer financing options that are simple to apply to, but they have restrictive terms. Compare different financing options to find ones that have minimal restrictions and have repayment terms that won't impede your future cash flow.
3. Know that You Won't Know What You'll Need in the Middle of the Shopping Season—and Plan for It
When it comes to strategizing, there's a clear distinction between generation and fulfillment. But when it comes to having the money to put your plans into action, there shouldn't be. Flexible cash advance services won't restrict your use of funding to a specific aspect like warehouse management or on-platform ads or advance inventory.
When you're in the middle of the holiday shopping rush, you might need to double the funding for an extremely lucrative campaign that took off or pay for expedited shipping to get orders to loyal customers. But that's exactly when you don't want to have to untangle complex spending restrictions or have to apply for more ad financing.
Instead, apply for a lump sum of advance financing that you can use in whatever way your business needs to get sales all season long.
4. Secure Financing That Won't Sink Your Store in January
Many SMBs struggle with cash flow more than anything else. If you choose a financing option with high interest rates or flat repayment installments, that can choke your cash flow in January and February, when sales naturally slow down. Instead, focus on options that tie your repayment amounts to your revenue and sales so you never have to repay more than a small portion of what your store is actually making.
Win the 2023 Holiday Shopping Season With Flexible Advance Financing From OnRamp
Lining up your campaigns, engagement tactics, and marketing strategies is a big part of the prep work leading up to the holiday season. But lining up convenient, flexible financing is just as important.
At Onramp, we provide your eCommerce business with cash and growth capital to create ads, buy more inventory, and manage all your expenses. You repay the advance over time at a rate of 1% of your sales, reducing your financial risk. We're just as invested in your profitability as you are. Reach out today to get your holiday marketing financing in the bag so you can focus on your customers this season.