Is Your Small Ecom Business Ready for the Big Holiday Season?

Matthew Stafford Oct 26, 2016

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It might be too early to start busting out the holiday decorations, but if you’re not already gearing up for the holiday sales season you’re making a big mistake. The Thanksgiving-to-New Year stretch used to make or break traditional retail businesses—Black Friday earned its nickname because it was the start of the period that put these businesses “in the black” for the entire year. 

Things aren’t quite so desperate for the 21st century ecommerce entrepreneur, it’s true, yet your holiday sales can still be a huge part of your annual profits. And it takes a bit of planning and a whole lot of preparation to make sure you’re getting everything you can from the gift-buying frenzy.

I’m here to help with a few tips on what you should be doing NOW to make sure everything goes as smoothly—and as profitably—as possible in the next few months. What you sell over the holiday season can set you up for awesome growth and scalability in the next year, so read on and put yourself ahead of the pack for December and for 2017.

Cyber Monday Isn’t the Only Day for Ecommerce Holiday Sales Spikes

Cyber Monday, the ecommerce answer to traditional retail’s Black Friday, is one of the biggest sales days for many online retailers. It’s also the only special sales day many ecommerce operators pay attention to during the holiday season. While I think Cyber Monday deals should be an important focus, I don’t think we should be ignoring the season as a whole or the other special sales days we get late in the year.

Green Monday

Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving. Green Monday is usually the second Monday in December—according to comScore, it’s the Monday that falls at least 10 days (but no more than 16) before Christmas Day. It’s also worth well over a billion dollars in ecommerce sales, so it’s worth some special attention. Even most procrastinators are getting around to the gift buying, often from their workplace computers (where they need to make quick decisions), so limited time offers can be a great tool to make your Monday green.

Free Shipping Day

It doesn’t take much to guess what makes this day special. Participating online retailers offer free shipping on all orders coming in on this day, with the idea being that they’ll arrive by Christmas Eve. Average shipping time sets the date, and this year the retail powers that be have settled on December 19th.

Super Saturday

The Saturday before Christmas is one of the biggest shopping days of the year for traditional retail. Desperate gift-buyers and last-minute shoppers are looking for the perfect something, or just about anything, for the special someones in their lives. Online retailers can also tap into Super Saturday with rush shipping options and a bit of extra advertising.

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

Plenty of people are still gift-hunting on Christmas Eve, but selling them on an ecommerce purchase can be tough. Unless all your customers are in the neighborhood, you won’t be able to get your items under their tree. What you can do is offer some great Christmas Eve gift card deals—give them a branded certificate they can download, print, and stick in an envelope. This gives you a way to tap into the last-minute gift-buying frenzy even from afar.

Christmas Day is another big opportunity. While traditional retail is dead on the big day, online sales have been increasing for years. Add-on products to enhance the gifts they got, gift cards and cash from grandma burning holes in the Christmas stocking, making a few exchanges… There are plenty of reasons people are heading online to shop on Christmas Day, so give them a reason to come to you.

Ecommerce Thrives on Advertising, and Holidays are Unique Opportunities

Advertising is a year-round endeavor for any successful ecommerce business, but the holidays are something special. Not only is there a once-a-year chance to angle your advertising message to tap into the gift-giving spirit, you also have an opportunity to target entirely new customers.

Because this is the season that many of your buyers won’t use your products themselves.

When the holidays roll around, you’re not just selling to your customers. You’re selling to their friends, their children, their parents, their grandparents, maybe even their bosses and employees! (OK, probably not those last two). That means new ad copy, for one thing. Even more importantly, it means new ad targeting, and that’s something you need to get a jump on now.

On average, PPC ad impressions go up 50% during the holiday season. The good news is that click-throughs go up 100% and conversion increase by 60%. The bad news is that all those extra ads means you pay more for each impression/click, and you’re facing tougher competition for your consumers’ eyeballs.

They key to success is better targeting. You probably already have a good idea of your ideal customer, now you need to figure out who will be buying gifts for that customer/ Are they married? Do they have adult children? Are they college students with grandparents eager to help them out (and eager to guilt them into the occasional phone call)?

You can learn a lot about your customers and your audience, including who might be buying them gifts this holiday season, using a tool that’s probably already in your ecommerce advertising arsenal. Facebook’s ad targeting can give you TONS of insight into who’s in your target customers’ household and what their family and friends are like. Tap into the power of social media ads to discover the specific types of people to target as gift-buyers, then go to work creating ads that reach out to them and tout the benefits of your products as gifts.

Create ads that specifically target these buyers, touting the benefits of your products as gifts. Work the romantic angle (if you have one) in ads targeting spouses. Highlight the hours of entertaining leisure time your product provides in ads targeting children of retirees. Remember, your ads need to create an emotional hook in just a few seconds, so focus on how the gift recipient—and the gift giver—will feel when your product gets unwrapped on Christmas morning.

If you can convincingly convey that with a few words of copy and a strong image that truly target your ideal gift giver, you’ll see your increased holiday ad spend pay off in buckets.

The Untapped Goldmine of the Ecommerce World: Gift Cards

Major brands have been making major bucks with gift cards for many years. In surveys conducted prior to 2014’s holiday season, 62% of people said they would like to receive a gift card—it’s been the most popular gift request ten years in a row at this point!

Gift buyers are listening, too, with literally billions of dollars in gift cards purchased each time the holidays roll around. And a lot of that money is pure profit, considering that many gift cards are never used. You get to keep the cash even if the gift card is never redeemed. And when people do use their gift cards, they’re likely to spend more than the value of the gift card. It’s like an automatic upsell that you hardly had to work for.

I go into even more detail about the boost gift card can give your ecommerce business in the video below. There are more insane statistics about how profitable gift cards are, and some powerful tips on maximizing your sales and your bottom line:

Make These Holidays Happy for You, Your Family, AND Your Ecommerce Business

Remember, when it comes to holiday planning, there’s no time like the present. Don’t keep your strategy under wraps until the last minute—unroll it now, and be ready for the gift-buying hordes. You’ll earn yourself some merry times this winter, and a very happy new year!


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Matthew Stafford

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