This year online shoppers will spend over $3 billion in sales during the whole holiday season and almost $1 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) alone.
In just a couple of days, all ecommerce stores will be competing to woo customers for their holiday campaigns by promoting the stores on all fronts. Experts predict that mobile and voice will play crucial role in getting the most sales. With this much at stake, where do you see your ecommerce store standing?
If you haven’t still started prepping for the holiday season, now is the right time to get your foot in the door. And, if you are not sure how to capture holiday shoppers early on, we have it all worked out for you.
Here are the top ecommerce tips from 29 entrepreneurs to help you make improvements to your holiday marketing.
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Top Ecommerce Tips from Experts
- Create Email Campaigns for Pre-Hype
- It is all about timing!
- Market with Merchant Center on Google Ads
- Capitalize on Pre-Sale Promises
- Market with Limited Inventory
- Create Pre-Holiday VIP Lists with Bots
- Build Your Brand
- Focus on Visibility
- Don’t Worry about Spending a little on Marketing
- Create Pre-hype Urgency
- Create Instagram Story Highlights
- Try to Understand Customer Behavior
- Create Hooks for Returning Customers
- Run Ads Early
- Create Urgency with Countdown Timers
- Implement Persistent Carts
- Promote Through Local Events
- Get Featured By Online Media Outlets
- Consider Outsourcing
- Better to Create Strategy for the Entire Year
- Spice it up with Holiday Lingo
- Multi-step Marketing to Avoid any Pitfalls
- Invest in Marketing Automation
- Promote User-Generated Content
- Create a Reputation Funnel
- A New Way to Give Discounts
- Focus on Gathering Leads
- Get Up To Speed Early
- Offer Several Delivery Options
Want to gear up for #BFCM?
Use our preparation guide to get up to speed and maximize your sales.
1. Create Email Campaigns for Pre-Hype
Josh Braaten – CEO, Brandish Insights
The best tip I can give you for capturing early interest during holiday campaigns is to run email campaigns early in Q4 asking people to indicate what holiday season events / campaigns they want to be notified about.
This will help you create a fresh opt-in list for each campaign. You can then re-engage when the campaign launches and use as the basis for your paid media lookalike audiences.
It works ridiculously well for anyone I’ve seen. Try it.
2. It Is All About Timing!
Tim Grinsdale, Owner of TOAD Diaries
We’ve found it’s all about timing when it comes to the Christmas Holiday e-marketing campaigns.
Here’s an overview of what we did last year, and what the data suggested:
- We tested our Holiday E-marketing campaigns on different segments of our database at different times (same offer and collateral).
- The results showed that Mid-October was too early, with a very poor uptake.
- We had similar results in our ‘last minute’ shouts (12th Dec)
- Early November seemed to be the ‘sweet spot’. (We presume this is because people tend to start thinking about Christmas shopping, but have not committed to too many purchases by that point)
- Irrespective of the reasons, that’s what our data showed, so this year’s campaign will go out to the entire database on the 4th Nov.
3. Market with Merchant Center on Google Ads
Reuben Kats, COO of FalconMarketing.com, LLC
Get a Merchant Center on Google Ads and start promoting your products with it.
I have a few clients and they hit their peak season every year around the holidays. In order to get promotional codes and subscribe to their newsletters, one needs to create an account.
The products they have in stock are very popular amongst the population and have earned a good brand recognition. The unmatched beverage service with competitive pricing is truly the main reason why people choose them.
4. Capitalize on Pre-Sale Promises
Nicolas Straut, SEO marketer at Fundera
My top advice for taking advantage of capturing sales before Black Friday is promoting a pre-sale activity, promising your lowest prices for the season via Facebook ads and your newsletter.
Your ad campaign and email should advertise up-front that this will be your sale of the season. It should end either by the end of the Thanksgiving or Cyber Monday. Highlight this to capture an exclusive deal that will be unavailable during the rest of the season.
The deal itself could be a percentage off on your products or services, a buy-one-get-one-free offer, or a buy-one-give-one to a friend offer. By pre-empting the offers of your competitors, you can capture more sales that customers know they will have to wait to see if they can beat.
5. Market with Limited Inventory
Nicholas Kinports, EVP Strategy at Lonelybrand
As an ecommerce store owner and a marketer by trade, I can tell you that the sooner you attack the challenge, the better.
We launched a pre-holiday sale last week in one of our stores with a limited inventory that was transparent to the customers. We then placed some strategic Facebook advertising that drove traffic with urgency. The products in the special sale sold out overnight and we woke to an early holiday!
The Best Part?
We are going to offer discounts beginning on the week of Black Friday anyway, so now my team gets to come up with a new set of products to focus on during the key buying season.
A Few Other Ecommerce Tips:
- Send an email to your customer list offering a loyalty discount for early purchases.
- Remind customers and visitors to your site that inventory is limited, and once a product is gone, it won’t be back in stock before the holiday.
- Be transparent with shipping times and remind your customers – by email and on site – about the last possible date to ship before major holidays.
6. Create Pre-Holiday VIP Lists with Bots
John Max Bolling, Head of Marketing and Sales at Engine
A holiday tacit or tip for generating sales early is actually building a secondary level of communication.
What we’ve been doing this year is using messenger bots to build pre-sales and VIP lists. First of all, we tend to identify our higher-value audiences within our email list and then we craft an email for that audience pushing them to a messenger.
We will also run Facebook ads against our high-value audiences pushing them to a messenger saying: ‘Hey, if you want to get in on a VIP sale, go ahead and activate this messenger bot and we’ll push a sale to you before anyone else gets it.’
It’s a way to push exclusivity as well as create a unique experience for users. It allows you to pre-sale and build momentum going into Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
7. Build Your Brand
Joe Goldstein, Director of SEO & Operations, Contractor Calls
Shoppers need a distinct reason not to do all of their shopping on Amazon, especially when they already have an account there, and competing on price is often a race to the bottom.
With that in mind, focus on building your brand and earn media channels aggressively before the holidays hit. If you’ve already earned their attention and respect, converting a casual subscriber to a customer becomes so much easier.
8. Focus on Visibility
Alexandra Tran, Marketer for Hollingsworth said:
The biggest factors in our clients’ success are communication and visibility. Communication and visibility are key to getting customers year round and not only during or before the holiday season.
Keeping track of merchandise as it moves along the supply chain in REAL TIME is of utmost importance for both the supplier and consumer. Having tracking tools that allow the customer to anticipate a product shows both transparency and reliability.
Communication is the second most important factor. We cannot stress how important it is to have a clear plan with your 3PL or order fulfillment department. Make sure your expectations and instructions are clear and that the customer orders are fulfilled in a fast and efficient manner.
9. Don’t Worry About Spending a Little on Marketing
Amna Rizvi, CEO of LatestGadgets.Tech
My advice is to be prepared and plan ahead.
First of all, make sure your websites can handle the additional traffic. Secondly, this is the best season of the year and many people wait for this time to get deals. Bring out your BEST deals and target shoppers. Don’t worry if you have to spend a little extra on marketing (make sure it’s targeted), the returns will be greater if you do it right!
If you need any more information or have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
10. Create Pre-Hype Urgency
John Crossman, CEO of Crossman & Company
Start a count day to savings. Start it today with the number of days left until the first sale.
More ecommerce tips:
- Call all of your vendors and ask them to participate.
- Offer unique gifts for every day of the sales.
11. Create Instagram Story Highlights
Mackayla Paul, Marketing Manager at Plann
Right now is the perfect time to start letting your social media audiences know about your upcoming Holiday Releases and limited edition items.
I’d recommend creating an Instagram Story highlight that shares what you will launch with a banner to your store. People will then be able to put it in their diaries and it’d be even better if you could host an Instagram Live to talk through your best gift ideas for 2018.
12. Try to Understand Customer Behavior
Elizabeth Bradshaw, Owner of Canvas Art Boutique shared her top tips:
As a marketer, my best ecommerce tips are to prepare in advance and understand buyer behavior in order to craft your campaigns.
I’m planning Black Friday deals in September, and Boxing Day deals for October. Additionally, I will make an effort to understand my market.
I know that within the realm of home decor, people make bigger purchases during Boxing Day (such as couches or TVs), and make smaller purchases during Christmas. Every sector will have a slightly different take on this, but this is what I’ve learned through a lot of research and personal experience.
13. Create Hooks for Returning Customers
Amy Kilvington, Content Marketing Manager at Blinds Direct
Holiday shopping is no longer just about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Instead, the extended period of November until the middle of December should be considered for a differentiated marketing strategy.
Here are my other top ecommerce tips for capturing holiday shoppers early:
- We recommend that prior to the holiday shopping period, make sure your product descriptions are up to date. Aim for unique, clear and accurate descriptions of around 350 words.
- Another thing to remember is that while your traffic may tail off following Cyber Monday, ecommerce sites need to think about return customers as well as new consumers who are still looking for bargains. Rather than bringing your pre-Christmas sales activity to a halt, consider extending it into the working week.
14. Run Ads Early
Nate Masterson, CMO of Maple Holistics
With the more importance of ads today, you should start running them as early as you can.
In the case of Christmas you want to start running your carefully planned ads the day after the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales are over. That means that you should start working on the ads in mid-to-late August.
i. Grab Attention with Giveaways
Social Media Giveaways are a great way for retailers to take advantage of the increased spending during the holiday season. Contests and Giveaways naturally drive more traffic to your pages and products, ultimately boosting your brand recognition. In addition to acting as a friendly nudge to previous buyers, you can expect to see a rise in the number of new customers.
ii. Email Automation Works Best
MailChimp may be known as a newsletter service, but the marketing automation powerhouse can do much more. In fact, many companies rely on this software to send postcards, create landing pages, and form targeted ads, all of which are crucial for the holiday season.
As retailers across the world prepare for the holiday rush, MailChimp can give your team a much-need advantage by promoting your brand and products with captivating content. Likewise, MailChimp takes marketing automation to the next level for ecommerce companies by enabling to go beyond their traditional digital marketing channels with printed postcards.
15. Create Urgency with Countdown Timers
Matt Warren, CEO & Founder Veeqo
One of the best ways to take advantage of the Holiday Season is to create as much urgency as possible.
Clearly convey to anyone browsing your site that certain deals and products will be around for a short period of time only. Utilizing things like countdown timers and notifications of other people buying can be great. But you’ll also want to show a countdown of stock for each item on its product page.
If people think you’re going to run out of stock soon then they’ll buy now to avoid missing out – especially in the run up to Christmas.
16. Implement Persistent Carts
Emil Kristensen, CMO & Co-founder, Sleeknote
What is your #1 ecommerce tip or recommendation to get the most out of the Holiday Season? Implement persistent carts on your website.
This ensures that visitors who abandon their cart will still have access to it when they return to your site. With consumers going from site to site to find the best deals, particularly on Black Friday, persistent carts make it easier for people to pick up where they left off and also allows people to use their shopping carts to actively save products for later.
Also, sending out an email to remind people of the shopping carts they’ve abandoned should be done immediately on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This gives people an incentive to return to your site to finish their purchase by highlighting the upcoming expiration of the offer at the close of the day.
17. Promote Through Local Events
David Ambrogio, SEO & content strategist at Online Optimism
Focus on smaller local events for less competition and a better chance to stand out.
Here are my other top ecommerce tips to attract holiday shoppers early:
- From small local events to even Small Business Saturday, these lesser-known days give you a chance to celebrate and offer something unique to your customers without the stiff competition that comes with well-known discount days like Black Friday.
- Offer sales before Thanksgiving. Recent trends have most people doing the bulk of their shopping before Thanksgiving, so stay ahead of the competition by offering sales and discounts even before Black Friday. You’re actually more likely to find good deals on Thanksgiving rather than Black Friday — and there are even great deals to be found on the Monday prior to Thanksgiving.
- Participate in Cyber Monday, even if you’re a small local business. The majority of shoppers are done with their shopping by Cyber Monday, and this is also the biggest retail ecommerce day of the year. Shoppers have come to expect deals on this day, so small businesses should take advantage of this by having products listed online and offering sales around this time.
- Encourage early holiday shopping by adding a call to action reminding customers to shop for the holidays in their receipt for online and in store purchases. Be sure to offer an incentive such as a discount code or free shipping to encourage them to purchase your products.
18. Get Featured by Online Media Outlets
Stephanie Wiggins, Django Brand
I fully appreciate the importance of getting ahead of the holiday season. One tip for capturing holiday shoppers early is to get featured by online media outlets and blogs.
Before you say easier said than done, consider this. Almost every media outlet these days publishes endless product recommendation lists. I’m talking about lists like The Top 10 Best Hair Dryers and The 50 Best Cat Gifts for This Holiday Season. These simple yet powerful articles are an incredible opportunity for any e-retailer to get free press and traffic. They will also contribute to your website’s search engine optimization and ranking.
An example: DJANGO recently nailed down ahead of Labor Day Weekend. To find these press opportunities, simply start Googling. If you design and sell salt and pepper shakers, for instance, research popular kitchen, recipe, and food related blogs. Google best kitchen gifts and see what holiday guides from the prior year pop up. Reach out to these media sites and blogs, warmly introduce yourself and your product, and kindly ask to be considered for any upcoming holiday guide features. You’ll be surprised at how many blogs agree to feature you!
19. Consider Outsourcing
Julia Luce, Head of Content Marketing at Simplr
If you haven’t started getting ready for the holidays, start today. Ideally, the process would start at the end of summer, but it’s not too late.
Consider augmenting your existing team or services online with tools and on-demand services that allow you to scale up quickly. Prioritize your customer service. Customer service is an important aspect of the shopping experience, but this is particularly true during the holidays, when customers come out in droves to browse, click, fret, vacillate, freak out about 2-day shipping and hopefully click complete purchase on your site.
A solid customer service strategy will steer even the most erratic holiday shopper straight to your payment page. A smaller ecommerce store with a proven record of stellar customer support can consistently compete with the major retailers.
Consider Outsourcing Fulfillment
When it comes to fulfillment for e-commerce companies, retailers have a couple of options: Keep it in-house or outsource the task to a third party logistics (3PL) company. Keeping fulfillment in-house makes sense for many e-commerce businesses, including those that personalize every item, as well as those that are small enough for self-fulfillment to still be manageable. However, as a business grows, they may need to turn to 3PL. Consider using a 3PL outsourcer like ShipBob to help free up important time, space and money during the holiday season.
20. Better to Create Strategy for the Entire Year
Chris Allen, Content Marketing Manager, PhoenixNAP Global IT Solutions
The best solution I have found for marketing around holidays is to plan — far ahead.
Ideally, it would be best if you had a strategy for the entire year on what holidays are relevant to your business and what celebrations will maximize an overall ROI. Of course here in America, Black Friday and Christmas are primary targets. For the busy Q4, we start by dropping hints and having our current subscribers receive special early offers.
Maximize pre-sale offers so that your business is not cannibalized in the surge of promotions that are attacking everyone’s inbox. Utilizing social media to garner new signups or users is an often inexpensive way to reach people. Moreover, respecting your audience’s inbox is essential. Be careful not to pester people with repeated reminders.
21. Spice It up with Holiday Lingo
Laurel Mintz, Founder and CEO, Elevate My Brand
One of the tactics that we have used and continue to use is keeping the conversation on the top of the stack.
We introduce a little holiday language early on in the fall and have product out to influencers to make a hype of the winter product a bit more and get our fans excited.
Having just a few products out and adding those to the lists early on in the fall followed by targeted ads to pre-selected audiences in our Facebook ads makes a big difference for the need of those products as well as makes our budgets go even further when it comes down to crunch time during holiday sales.
22. Multi-Step Marketing to Avoid Any Pitfalls
Michael Lewis, Creative Strategist at Active Web Group
Plan ahead, build traction, use social media marketing, and don’t forget email marketing.
There are many ways marketers can prepare for the holiday season, but these three are most important.
i. Plan Ahead
The level of competition skyrockets during the holidays. Some companies do the majority of their annual business in just a few months. For this reason, you’ll need to develop a multi-step strategy in advance to avoid falling behind.
ii. Build Traction
The success of your promotion will depend on the amount of awareness you’re able to generate. The deeper you get into the holiday season, the more promotions are advertised, so it’s vital to get the attention of your potential customers early! If your company plans on giving big discounts on Cyber Monday, promote it ahead of time and nurture potential customers on the way.
iii. Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing is a great way to nurture customers! Consumers buy from brands they trust. Leverage Social Media by promoting educational content. This will remind them of your messaging and establish trust in your brand to increase sales down the line.
Email marketing is an ideal way to drive sales! Ecommerce email marketing is a powerful tool, but it must be used properly. Analyze the results of previous promotions to determine which performed best. The best performing promotions should be saved for larger events, such as Cyber Monday to maximize sales. Maintaining a consistent brand message is the best way to convert curious shoppers into customers.
23. Invest in Marketing Automation
Jenna Erickson, Marketing Manager at Codal
To get the most out of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas, companies need to be creative!
During this time of the year, marketing campaigns are at an all-time high, for any type of store owner. This also means that consumers are being flooded with marketing messages from many different brands, and in order to stand out, you have to be creative, eye-catching, and personal. Even if you have a boring product, you can still tell your story and get your message out in a creative way.
Coca-Cola has done this very well with their “share a Coke” campaign. Although this was not a digital campaign, Coca-Cola got very creative and personalized by putting names on their coke cans. Simple, but personal and very effective. To get the most out of this busy time of the year, I would recommend investing in a ecommerce marketing automation software. This will help you plan out your holiday campaigns, automate your marketing, capture every lead that comes on your site, and gain more repeat-buyers.
24. Promote User Generated Content
Anthony Capetola, Marketing Manager at Sales & Orders
Take advantage of the fact that 21.4% of users on mobile will be using their devices for holiday shopping by using push notifications for people who have your app on their phones.
A few more ways for ecommerce owners to take advantage of the holiday season and capture a targeted audience early is to:
- You can use push notifications to build anticipation for any sales you may be offering. This is something that Abercrombie & Fitch did successfully.
- Facilitate and promote user-generated content by making use of branded hashtags on social media. UGC not only promotes your brand to others within said user’s network, but it also doubles as a high-quality referral, as well.
- For advertising, make sure to take advantage of retargeting campaigns which allows you to capture people who have previously shown interest in your brand. People are already in buying mode during the holiday season, and retargeting allows you to remind customers of your businesses, increasing the likelihood that they purchase from you as opposed to a competitor.
25. Create a Reputation Funnel
John Pinedo, Founder of Freedom Bound Business
- Abandon Cart Email Automation Series Setup: Have at least 3 follow up emails for visitors who abandon the cart. This is a perfect time to offer visitors holiday coupon codes and to use scarcity.
- Create a Customer Reputation Funnel: After a certain amount of time, send out an automated email asking your holiday customers for feedback on their purchase and/or your brand. In the email, give them chances to leave positive and negative feedback. For positive feedback clicks, send customers to your review platform of choice. For negative feedback clicks, send customers to an internal form only you and your customers can see.
26. A New Way to Give Discounts
Stacy Caprio, Marketing, AcneScar
One way to prepare your ecommerce store for the holiday season is to make it easy for customers to purchase an item for themselves and then to get a discounted or free item to give as a gift to a friend. This is great marketing because it allows you to sell more and introduce new referrals to your product. You can also make gift cards available to make it easier to give your company as a gift to their friends and family.
27. Focus on Gathering Leads
Terry L Raimey, CEO and Co-Founder of Black Streak Entertainment
Make sure you set your site up to gather leads. Even if a new visitor doesn’t convert right away, it’s best to get their email so you can continue to market to them. Set up an email sign up form (pop-ups work best), offering something in exchange for a visitor’s email. This can be a coupon code, a giveaway, or anything that will grab their attention—get creative! Once you have their email, you can market to them via email campaigns and social media ad campaigns, strengthening your chances of converting your leads into customers.
28. Get Up To Speed Early
Marco Baatjes, Founder and CEO of Caffeinated Face
One of my best tips to preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales is to start preparing a week or two away from the sale date. This can be by starting to change banners, sending email notifications of the upcoming sale, which is generally a great way to boost engagement on your eCommerce store. You can take this a step further by creating an
email list specifically for BFCM sales by collecting emails through a unique lead capture form, usually exit intents work best. By crafting irresistible BFCM offers on popular items, customers will definitely take advantage of this and also most likely add a few extra items to their cart which overall improves your average order value.
29. Offer Several Delivery Options
Karl Robinson, Director & Co-founder of Logicata
When preparing for the holiday season a smart thing you can do is create a variety of delivery options – with many people looking to purchase what will be surprised, it might be important for the items to come at different times: for example, a weekday or weekend, where it is easier for them to accept the delivery as well as hide the package. By adding something small like this, you could increase the likelihood of somebody purchasing due to convenience.
Something else to consider is providing feedback on item pages. Many people will be browsing lots of items and providing feedback can really help to build confidence in your business, especially if you have a smaller name that people may not have come across before.
Final Word: Effort is the Key!
These ecommerce tips may look overwhelming, but they aren’t. First of all, choose only those products or services that are the easiest to market and deliver. Once you are done with them, move to the harder ones. Dedicate a good amount of time and resources necessary to capture the interest of your customers and you will automatically outperform your competitors.
With that said, your store hosting will play a major role in keeping the store stable during the holiday craze. It is better to choose a stable ecommerce web host, probably a managed cloud that leaves you with enough time to focus on estore’s growth and operations.
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