Prepare Your Online Store for the 2016 Holiday Season

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It is that time of year again; the holiday season is approaching and as like in previous years online businesses everywhere are gearing up to ensure they are at their best. The holiday season is usually the most profitable time of year for online businesses, as most retailers make up to 40% of their yearly revenue in the last quarter of the year alone.

Let us all be honest though. It is easy to forget to prepare for the approaching holidays when we are busy with the day – to – day hustle of running our ecommerce business. How many times has a holiday come, only for you to realize that you never prepared a promotion for it?

Why Is It So Important To Plan Ahead?

A number of holidays and observances fall within the last three months of the year. This means that retailers and ecommerce businesses are extra busy during these months marketing, managing, shipping and providing great customer services. No wonder retailers feel that this is an important time of the year. It is a time that they can use to their advantage to hit yearly targets, move new products and clear out old inventory.
Taking advantage of these holidays can be tough though. The downside is that many ecommerce entrepreneurs who are yet to get their footing usually miss important holidays because they did not plan for future events well in advance.

Upcoming Holiday Dates

The last quarter of the year is packed with holidays, some obviously bigger than others. Preparing a list of these holidays, and going online and studying about them would help you collect information that would help you strategize and plan your marketing efforts, and stock figures. Familiarizing yourself with the upcoming holidays, and decide which ones are important for your business and to your customers. Some of the main dates you would want to keep in mind are

Shopping Dates in November
November 11th Veterans Day
November 24th Thanks Giving
November 25th Black Friday
November 28th Cyber Monday
Shopping Dates in December
Dec 12th Green Monday Dec 24th Super Saturday
Dec 18th Free Shipping Day Dec 25th Christmas Day
Dec 24th Christmas Eve Dec 26th Boxing Day (Canada, UK)
Dec 24th Hanukkah Dec 31st New Year’s Eve

Plan! Prepare! Stay Ahead!

So now you know why it’s important to plan for the holidays, it’s time to get organized and prepared. There are a few components to an effective holiday marketing campaign. Before you begin executing your campaigns, you need to begin by planning a few critical components. Here is what you could do to help stay ahead of your competition and plan for the upcoming holiday season.

Plan

1. Decide which holidays you want to participate in.

The first thing you will need to do is to decide which holidays your store will participate in. As we mentioned previously, there is some type of holiday almost every week in the last two months of the year. Participating and preparing for all of them would be madness so you will want to strategically choose your battles.

If this will be your first time doing a major holiday promotion, we would suggest choosing two or three to tackle; for example, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas.

2. Create a promotional calendar.

Now that you know which holidays you want to participate in, it is good to start mapping things out. Staying organized will be critical over the busy holiday season to help ensure the success of your campaigns.

3. Plan your return policy and additional payment options.

You will probably want to reconsider a few policies for your store in light of the holiday season and being competitive. Many online and offline stores will offer and more liberal and extended return and exchange policy for the holiday season. You will need to consider if this is the correct move for your store by carefully considering the impact it can have on not only sales, but also how it will affect your already established processes.

4. Determine which ad channels to focus on.

Every business, big and small needs to choose their ad channels strategically. Being too scattered will only compromise your campaigns in the end.

One of the most important parts of preparing for your holiday promotions is to begin preparing your marketing needs and material. Marketing campaigns have many components to them that all need to be in alignment to achieve the most success, which is why it’s so vital to begin preparing these things ahead of time.

Prepare

The months of November and December are guaranteed to be hectic times. If you leave all the work till then, you’ll likely find yourself skipping out of key pieces due to lack of time. That is why it’s so important to begin prepping your content right away so you can leave November and December to executing your promotional calendar.

1. Emails – If you have a email list, this is going to be an important promotional channel for you. If you have written promotional emails before, you know they can take a good deal of time and hitting the send button can be nerve wracking. This is because once you hit send you cannot take it back. This is even more reason to prepare this channel ahead of time. Keep in mind, because of the importance of the holiday season; you will likely want to be planning several emails for each promotion. In addition, you may want to consider segmenting your email list for maximum effectiveness.

2. Ad Copy – Writing strong and compelling ad creative can take time to come up with. This is precisely why it is so important to begin writing ads ahead of time.

3. Blog Content – As things get busy, writing blog content will be the last thing on your mind. This is why it’s a good idea to write blog post ahead of time for the holiday season. Additionally, you’ll probably want to post your blog posts prior to other marketing initiatives to ensure they have time for Google to pick them up and begin attracting organic traffic.

4. Landing Pages – Next to emails, creating landing pages for your promotions and sales can be extremely effective at helping further bump up your conversion rate for the holiday season. You may want to consider creating separate landing pages for your ads as well as your emails. In Shopify, this can be as simple as creating a new collection or page for each promotion.

5. Design & Graphics – You design and graphics will help tie you campaigns together and keep things consistent. From your email designs, to promotional banners for your website, Facebook and Twitter, Graphics can help you visually and quickly help your followers and visitors understand your promotion. Getting design work for your campaigns done early can take a major task of your shoulders when it comes time to execute.

Track

Irrespective of the media you use to market your store and products, it is good to remember that this is only half of the equation. The second half, and arguably the most important, is tracking your efforts. Without proper tracking and analysis, you will always just be guessing the true success of your campaigns.

Execute

The final step is naturally to launch your campaign by closely following your promotional calendar. By the time you get to this step, if you have planned and prepared properly, you should have most of the components ready to go and it should simply be a matter of executing on each step of your plan.

Adapt & Modify

If you have set up your Google Analytics and stay on top of your campaign results, you can modify your promotions while active to help ensure their success.

The holiday season is a busy time for ecommerce stores and retailers across the country. Planning, preparing and executing proper marketing shipping and customer relation strategies would go a long way to ensure that as a business owner, you are able to reap the most benefits and pull in the maximum sales possible.

Source:http://www.qualdev.com/blog/how-to-prepare-your-online-store-for-the-2016-holiday-season/

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