Preparing Your eCommerce Website for the Holiday Shopping Season

Companies that do business in part or entirely online have to think about the holiday shopping season very differently than strictly brick and mortar stores do. Although the traditional shopping season begins the day of or the day after Thanksgiving, the ecommerce holiday season actually starts much sooner. In fact, August and September are becoming the next big ecommerce shopping holiday as people choose to avoid the mad rush of October, November, and December.

Why the Shift in Holiday Online Shopping?

Even the shoppers who eagerly await Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales from major online retailers are choosing to start their shopping weeks or months in advance of these dates. Many customers wish to avoid the online crowds and access the best selection of products. Others have justifiable concerns that shipping dates could see significant delays. Frequently, customers are scoping out what they want to buy so that online shopping is even simpler.

Clearly, planning for this kind of activity takes a lot of time. These are some strategies that will help you make the most out of this essential sales period.

Start Early By Creating a Holiday Marketing Timeline

Begin thinking about developing your holiday marketing strategies well in advance. As the holiday shopping season expands from six weeks to twelve, an additional lead time must be allowed in your planning. In reality, July is not too early to begin thinking about some holiday shopping preparations. Start by creating a list of essential tasks that need done and then arrange those on a timeline.

The time required to complete these tasks will vary depending on the kind of business you manage and the nature of your sales. For instance, some ecommerce sites will need to order seasonal goods several months in advance; others will not. Regardless of the type of business you do, revitalizing your online storefront should be part of your holiday preparation timeline.

Making a Visual Difference on your Ecommerce Website

A fresh storefront shows that your company is active, responsive, and ready to do business. New layouts and seasonal themes show a higher level of engagement, which enhances the user experience.

In most cases, a top to bottom redesign of an ecommerce storefront is not necessary. Some storefronts, especially those with lots of information displayed on the front page, can lose traffic by shifting the location of popular menu items. Nonetheless, there are some elements that always benefit from a fresh look, especially around the holidays. These can include:

  • Graphic page headers
  • In-text pictures
  • Group photographs of team members
  • Personalized service messages, including automated email text
  • Newsletter graphics

Shifting the color theme of a site to reflect the season is another idea to consider. Many storefront software packages will allow you to choose various color themes from a drop down menu.

Highlight a Product Category that may be great for the Holiday Sales

Lifting up a certain category can make it fresher and more appealing to customers actively looking for new items. This is a good way to highlight inventory with seasonal qualities, such as candles or greeting cards.

Shifting the arrangement of your menu items is generally quite simple. The management side of your website should give you a menu tree where options can be entered. Simply rearrange some of these categories while taking care not to destroy the applicable links. Some category menu functions allow you to add a new product category for a limited time. This is a good way to highlight time-sensitive sales and seasonal specials in a single location without disrupting a lot of website architecture.

Update Your Catalog

The holiday shopping boom is a great time to roll out new inventory and fresh product lines. You can begin generating buzz for these new additions in the days and weeks leading up to the start of the holiday shopping season. You can also provide sneak previews to customers who have signed up to receive company newsletters. In fact, newsletters can be a highly effective marketing tool to prepare people for seasonal shopping. Send an email or two on a schedule with information about upcoming seasonal sales, specials, discounts, and other perks. This is a good time to remind people of important holiday shipping dates and other time-sensitive information that will affect their purchasing choices.

Start Early and Keep Records

Ecommerce moves at a slightly different pace than brick and mortar sales, so different seasonal strategies are called for. Be sure to start your preparations early, develop a timeline to guide key strategies, and keep track of your choices so you can make improvements next year.

Do you need help with your eCommerce site for this Holiday season? Our team here at 121eCommerce are seasoned (get it?) experts ready to assist!