Over the past five years, U.S. holiday
e-commerce sales have risen from $70 billion in 2014 to $123 billion in 2018.
Of course, the 2019 holiday season will be the biggest e-commerce season yet. In general, our e-commerce clients at TBA Outdoors will generate about 35% of their total online revenue from Black Friday through Christmas. With that much of your online revenue concentrated into such a condensed time period, it is important to have all of your ducks in a row.
In our shop, we like to have checklists. They help keep us focused during chaotic times (like the holidays) and help us make sure that no balls are dropped and that we are getting the maximum results from our efforts. We use this checklist just like a pilot would before taking off — just to make sure that we are perfect in our execution.
Don’t Forget Last Year — Whatever you do, analyze last year’s numbers. Look at everything you did. Identify what worked and what didn’t. Review your keyword lists, dig into your emails, study your paid media, and make sure that you learn from both the wins and the losses to help optimize your strategy for this year.
Mobile Optimization — We know that we have to meet our customers where they are Last year, mobile-generated e-commerce jumped by over 32%. We go to great lengths to test our clients’ mobile user experience and look for ways to enhance features and functions that will lead to increased conversions. This may include comprehensive user testing, multivariate testing and focus groups.
Easy Checkout — Nothing takes the fun out of the holidays like seeing a huge spike in your abandoned shopping carts. Consumers today expect a smooth, easy checkout process. Online shoppers lose interest if there are too many payment and shipping fields to fill out. They want it easy and fast. Most smartphones today have stored credit cards and also support Apply Pay, Google Pay, Masterpass or Visa Checkout. Make sure that your payment gateway accepts all these forms of payment, and test your checkout user experience.
Promotion Calendars — We like to know before we go and enter the season with all of our offers locked and loaded with creative, messaging and executions ready to roll well in advance. Many of our clients start with a Black Friday offer and then continue to change their offers throughout the season. With over 15 e-commerce clients in house, this could create chaos. But clear calendars and timelines really help smooth out what could otherwise be a crazy time. Each promotional offer then has its own checklist for creative, ads, analytics, etc.
Gift Guides — One of the easiest ways to stimulate holiday sales on your website is to help shoppers make decisions. Gift guides are the perfect way to do this. Gift guides should be very visual, highlight specific products and help guide shoppers to products that fit the person they are shopping for. It could be a duck hunter or a bass fisherman or a camper. Help them understand why a particular product is a great gift for that special someone. It will make a difference.
Refund & Exchange Policies Matter — Shoppers want a smooth process to easily return and exchange items. There are lots of third-party tools out there that make this easier. But make sure that your return and exchange policy is simple and easy on the customer. They read it more than you think.
Email Is Still Top Dog — For now, email remains the number one driver of e-commerce sales for our clients. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and there is a deeper checklist for just the emails we will send out. If you include our automated drip and triggered campaigns, one client may fire over 75 different emails during the holiday season. At a minimum, make sure that you have your lists segmented (if you can) and that you are using subject line and creative testing for all of your emails to make sure you are driving the best results possible.
FOMO — Never forget that the fear of missing out is a powerful psychological shopping tool. While you may have your promotional calendar perfectly set up along with your ads and your creative, if your offer is only good for a limited time (let’s say 3-4 days), you need to be prepared to continue to remind your audience that time is running out. It’s not good enough to say it once and forget it. You have to continually remind them.
Push Gift Cards — Whether the last day to guarantee delivery before Christmas has passed or your customer just can’t make a decision, gift cards are huge during the holiday season. And the best part is your client gets to keep this money until the gift card is redeemed. So, make sure that your gift cards are easily findable and easy to buy on your site.
Landing Pages Stimulate Sales — If you have a promotional offer — say a Free Gift With Purchase going on for the holidays — don’t rely on your website to be able to deliver the message to the customer who is clicking through from an email or ad. Take them to a specific landing page where the offer is clear and it is easy to shop the offer. Landing pages are critical to holiday sales success.
Say Thank You — We all love it when someone thanks us for doing something. Make sure that you have a holiday-themed thank you email going to your online customers, thanking them for shopping with you and inviting them back. The thank you email should be separate from your order confirmation. It should be signed by someone significant in the organization and make the customer feel special. You would be surprised how this will help your overall customer satisfaction scores.
Touchpoint Audit — Audit all of your consumer touchpoints and make a list. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, catalogs, mailers, Pinterest, paid social ads, pre-roll, OTT, website, etc. — wherever your offers can be seen, make sure you have creative to support the promotion in all channels and are ready to change them out throughout the season. Everything works together, and there can be no gaps.
Communicate the Last Shipping Day and Countdown — Whatever your client’s last day to ship for Christmas arrival will be must be clear and always present on your site. Use pop-ups, messages inside of shopping carts and whatever other means you can to make sure shoppers know.
Analyze and Optimize — The beauty of digital marketing is that we can track everything we do and then adjust, shift, and change our strategy and tactics on a dime. To do this, we have to have all of our pixels, tracking codes and analytics set up in advance and then have a system to analyze results in real time so that we can improve results with tweaks as we go. In some cases, we will take advantage of artificial intelligence engines to do this, and in other cases, we will use human analysis. Suffice it to say that you need your analytics set up properly to maximize results.
I hope this list helps you get your head around your holiday sales this season and next. Most importantly, get outside and enjoy the great outdoors, and if you can, take a young person with you.