Are we really talking about Christmas already? Yes, yes we are. Selfridges, London’s most famous department store, has already opened its Christmas section. We know, you haven’t even had a chance to figure out what you’re wearing for Halloween yet!
There’s no reason to start getting in your customers’ face about the holiday season – don’t break out the snowfall plugin for your online store just yet – but right now is the perfect time to make sure your business is ready and to start to plan ahead. The more you prepare now, the happier you’ll be later.
So what should you be doing?
Keep Your Online Presence Updated and Consistent
This is the perfect chance for you to get ahead of the game and make sure everything is up-to-date online. This doesn’t just mean your website either; this is all social media channels your business is on. Every year, the amount of people who choose to shop online increases, so you have to stay ahead of the curve.
You’ll want to make sure your hours and locations are current (if you have brick-and-mortar locations), contact information is correct, and any policies you have on returns, exchanges, etc. are clear and up-to-date. If any of this information is hard to find or seems off, your potential customers will click away, guaranteed.
In addition to consistency of information, you’ll want to make sure you’re consistent across all channels. It’s important to make sure your theme is the same from your website to Facebook Shop to Instagram ad campaigns. Not only will this boost your online image overall, but a consistent brand voice will help your customers connect with you across any platform they find you on.
Finally, make sure your processes are fully integrated between all of these channels. The last thing you want is to botch holiday returns because you didn’t have your website and Facebook Shop properly linked up – inventory errors are the surest way to kill customer satisfaction and turn people away forever.
Optimize for Mobile
Sigh. It’s 2018, and we shouldn’t have to be saying this, but make sure your website is optimized for mobile. All of your customers are headed online, but more specifically, they’re headed to their phones. A huge amount of shopping is happening on mobile, with social shopping rising rapidly in the ranks. You can set up shop on your Facebook page, implement Instagram’s shoppable tags, and even experiment with buyable Pins on Pinterest.
However, at a bare minimum, you have to make sure that your website is optimized for mobile users. If a user tries to browse your shop and can’t figure out how to easily navigate between categories, and your buttons are hidden or are weird sizes – nothing will make a mobile user click that big red “X” faster.
In addition to making sure your website is optimized, you really should hop on the social shopping train this holiday season. This is the perfect way to catch shoppers’ attention early and promote different holiday deals all season long. You can do giveaways that encourage liking and sharing, promote various coupon codes, and just boost your engagement stats in general.
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Update Your Email Marketing
You know you’ll be using email marketing pretty heavily during the holidays. This is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning – or fall cleaning – of your email marketing lists. Anyone who never opens your emails? Gone. Invalid emails? Deleted. This is a great opportunity to clear the clutter and focus on those who actually care open and read your blasts.
A great bonus of doing this is it will greatly improve the accuracy of your stats. When you’re tracking how various email ad campaigns and coupon codes are doing, you’ll get a much better idea of who is actually engaging with you and your content.
When you know who that is, why not reward them?
After cleaning out your lists, you can start experimenting with segmenting your market and sending out more personalized emails. You can reward previous holiday shoppers, loyal customers, or newcomers, or dig deeper into your demographics and cater to different parts of your customer base more specifically – whatever works best for your business.
Set Up Pre-Ordering
Pre-ordering is the kind of scenario that’s a win all the way around, and there’s no reason not to get it set up now so that it’s ready to roll out when you need it. Your prepared, early shoppers will thank you for being ahead of the game, and they’ll be able to check things off their list, even if they don’t have it in hand. They’ll love you even more if you let them choose their own delivery date.
This will also be a huge boon to your business. First, you’ll get a number of guaranteed sales and revenue. You won’t have to worry about unsold stock, because you’ve already sold it before it’s even available. Second, you’ll get an accurate idea of what the demand is like for your product. By knowing how many people are willing to buy the product before it’s available, you’ll be able to extrapolate a lot better how much product you’ll need for the season.
Finally, this is a great opportunity for you to advertise on social media and generate some buzz around your product – you can notify your current followers or customer base when the pre-order is going live so that they get first crack at it, and also advertise to others once it goes live – whatever works for your model.
However, to implement this correctly, you’ll need a solid handle on exactly how long your product takes to produce and when it will be in your customers’ hands. All that good buzz you generated will be tanked if you run into delays and they feel like they’ve been misled.
Decide on Your Shipping Strategy
The last tip: now is the perfect time to decide on a shipping strategy, and make sure you have a plan to advertise it. Will you be offering free shipping across the board? Free shipping with a minimum purchase? Maybe free ground shipping with the option to upgrade to faster delivery times?
Whatever it is, work out all the kinks before the holiday season gets underway. When you choose a strategy that you think will appeal most to your customers, you can start building email blasts and ad campaigns around it – especially if the offer is only available up until a certain point. For example, guaranteeing shipment by Christmas gets tougher as the date approaches, but if you plan ahead, you’ll have a solid strategy in place and keep your customers happy.
It can seem a little overzealous to start planning for the holidays this far ahead, but really, this is the perfect time to do it. Getting as prepared as you can during a lull will mean you can stay calm during the rush and already have strategies in place while your competitors are scrambling to keep up.
This is a guest post by Jake Rheude. Jake is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.