Every annual holiday is an opportunity to engage with your customers and drive sales, yet nothing beats the celebrations streak during the last quarter of the year.
The holiday “commercial” season formally begins in October, with Halloween, continues with Black Friday, and leads up to a slew of buildup to the December holidays. You definitely don’t want to miss the seasonal promotional opportunities to maximize your online sales, especially considering your competitors may have started preparing already.
To help you plan for the festive season, here’s a list of the major 2018 year-end holidays to keep in mind:
October 31 – Halloween
November 7 – Diwali
November 11 – Veteran’s Day
November 22 – Thanksgiving
November 23 – Black Friday
November 26 – CyberMonday
December 2 – First day of Hannukah
December 10 – Green Monday
December 14 – Free Shipping Day
December 25 – Christmas
December 26 – Boxing Day
December 31 – New Year’s Eve
That’s a lot of special days to pick from and plan for, but they’re also great opportunities to tap into this year’s projected holiday sales online revenue of $97 billion (that’s a 15% increase compared to 2017)!
Once you’ve decided on the holidays to target – and have your product stocks ready (luckily, for software and digital goods, you don’t need to worry about this!) – it’s time to get into the game! Whether you’ve planned your holiday campaigns in advance or are putting together a last-minute effort to boost sales, we’ve compiled some tips to keep in mind.
Show consumers that you’re in the holiday spirit by using your homepage to feature special deals and holiday-themed products. You should strategically show off your best products, and make the offerings as appealing as possible. Remember that sale items are the main thing shoppers look for when browsing a website, so give your discounted items the prominence they need.
Furthermore, don’t ignore the importance of mobile commerce. Mobile commerce continues to grow. Mobile saw its first $2 billion day on Cyber Monday 2017, claiming just under a third of the money spent online over the entire holiday season.
Prepare for this year by making sure your website is optimized for mobile. 75% of smartphone users abandon sites that aren’t mobile optimized. Ensure also that your mobile app is functioning properly (if you have one). Your website should offer a streamlined shopping experience all the way through to your shopping cart and checkout. Here are some website and shopping cart best practices to maximize your conversion rates and revenue growth:
Don’t forget to check that your web and app hosting servers are up to the challenge of receiving a sudden influx of traffic and transactions, as many shopping sites will crash under the weight of traffic on holidays such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Finally, make sure your site and the product catalog load quickly on any device – since for every 100 milliseconds of load time, there’s a 1% decrease in sales.
If you only dress up your website a little and offer a few small discounts, you shouldn’t expect any miracles. During the holiday shopping season, customers are counting on getting crazy good deals, more of the “you’d be crazy not to grab this deal” or “offer you can’t refuse” type than just generic sales. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean an 80% discount – it can also involve cross-selling and up-selling, bundle deals and so on. Most people are looking for the right price for them at that moment in time – not necessarily the lowest historical price ever. You can add exclusive or time-limited deals, thus creating a sense of uniqueness and urgency.
You should always calculate the magnitude of your discounts based on your financial model, previous sales results and ROI forecasts, to make sure the deals will actually generate profit instead of net losses at the end of the holiday period.
If you’ve promoted your campaigns well, you’ll likely receive a lot of traffic over the holiday season. That should lead to many conversions and micro-conversions. Make sure everything’s working fine with your analytics, so you can monitor your website’s performance, the traffic, purchase flows, and so on. For instance, if shoppers are abandoning their shopping carts, you want to know immediately so that you can take corrective action in real time.
It’s more important than ever for brands to stay consistent across channels and provide increasingly personalized experiences. You can leverage shoppers’ previous browsing behavior to personalize the offers shown to them on your home page, and use up-selling and cross-selling with related products and accessories on cart pages. You can build campaigns that focus on customers who haven’t purchased in a while, or those who engage well with emails.
You can also interact with your customers by encouraging them to share their purchases and reviews through their own social channels, to extend your brand awareness and trust. Buyer behavior surveys have shown that brand reputation and product reviews are some of the most important factors that influence the decision to buy.
Finally, give shoppers reasons and opportunities to tell you about themselves. The more you know about them, the better you can deliver personalized experiences.
Expanding your sales through affiliate networks could bring you a revenue uplift of more than 4%. Products that can benefit the most from affiliate sales are security & utility software, audio/ video, and multimedia/ design software. For some of these categories, the revenue uplift can be much higher, around 25%. Therefore, if your brand and business model allow for affiliate expansion, you can find some tips about how to leverage that channel here.
During the holiday season, one issue is perennial: customer requests for support tend to surge dramatically. Companies might get overwhelmed by the increased number of orders and customer service tickets and requests. The first thing you should do is check last year’s trends, to know what to expect. Also, narrow down the main channels that customers are using to ask for support or send complaints – email, social media, your helpdesk platform?
Make sure your customer support team is very well trained and prepared to deal with difficult customers and stressful situations, and that your escalation infrastructure works properly. You might need extra hands on deck, or extra hours of work, at all levels of the company. If customers don’t get the help they need, when and where they need it, they may well avoid your business in the future; you might also acquire a negative reputation online.
Special tip: try to “underpromise” and then “overdeliver.” This will help manage your customers’ expectations and always provide them with a positive experience.
To conclude, the online sales opportunities around the holidays are immense. Be ready to deliver and make sure you have a great festive—and profitable–season! Any tips or important holidays that we missed? Just add them in the comments!