Holiday Ideas & Strategies

The Complete 2021 Guide to Preparing Your Ecommerce Store for Holiday Magic

Susan Meyer / 21 min read

The holidays are coming yet again. Last year, we were prepping for an unprecedented year. Many were spending holidays apart from their loved ones and delivering holiday cheer through the mail. Many shoppers were also avoiding in-store shopping. 

The result? To no surprise, ecommerce had massive growth. According to data from Adobe Analytics, the last holiday season saw two years’ worth of growth in a single year, increasing by a whopping 32% from 2019 to reach a total of $188.2 billion. 

This year, people are starting to come back together and looking forward to a return to normal. A survey by Numerator found that 85% of people expected to “celebrate normally” by Thanksgiving and 92% by Christmas. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean ecommerce numbers are returning to normal any time soon. 

Ecommerce share of the retail market remains high, and so too does the competition. To become shoppers’ go-to for gifts, you need to make the shopping experience easy, flexible and include options that suit their needs. And a good time to start to do all of that is right now. 

In this guide, we’re looking at everything you need to get your online store ready to make holiday magic. We asked ecommerce experts from across the industry to provide their best insights and advice to make sure you leave no stone unturned. 

Steps for Preparing for the 2021 Holiday Season

Each year, retailers rely on the holiday season to make a heavy portion of their annual revenue. To stay ahead of the competition and make this your strongest holiday season yet, these are the steps you need to address. 

  1. Prepare for incoming traffic. 
  2. Create a hassle-free customer experience.
  3. Surprise and delight with shipping and fulfillment options.
  4. Create strategic holiday marketing and promotions.
  5. Ramp up customer service and support.

1. Prepare for incoming traffic. 

Holiday shopping means increased traffic for your online store, and especially during peak shopping days like the Cyber 5. There’s nothing worse than a site outage during one of these pivotal times. 

Make sure your inventory is stocked. 

Increased shoppers means increased inventory needs. To avoid long wait times and frustrated customers finding out their must-have gift if out of stock or on back-order, check in with suppliers now to make sure you’re appropriately stocked, especially for likely gift items. 

Check your reliability.

Jon Provisor, CIO of Guidance recommends as the key thing to prepare for the holidays: “Work on speed and security.  There is a direct relationship between page load speed and revenue.” 

Your site needs to have the scalability and stability to handle increased demands on your web infrastructure. Your site needs to be up when you need it despite increased levels of traffic. BigCommerce had 99.99% uptime for January 1, 2020 through June 1, 2020 and 100% during the Cyber 5 for the last seven years. Check with your ecommerce provider on current stats, so you know how well covered you are. 

Evaluate your third-party integrations. 

Take a look at your third-party integrations. Are they up-to-date? Test them, make sure they can handle the load and then don’t add any others. Additional or last minute app add-ons can break aspects of your flow or slow down your site. 

2. Create a hassle-free customer experience.

Today’s holiday shopper wants to be able to get what they need easily and with as little friction as possible. That means your site needs to provide options that are catered to their specific needs and a seamless path to checkout. Is your online store up to the job? 

Let’s take a look at some of the crucial ways you can update your site to meet — and exceed — customer expectations to deliver holiday magic.

Test your site speed. 

In addition to reliability, you also need to make sure your site is fast. According to one survey, 70% of consumers said page speed affects their decision to buy from an online retailer. Now is the time to have your team check page load times for every element on your site. Reach out to your technology provider like BigCommerce. These companies can help you perform load testing to determine visit numbers and traffic patterns.

Take your storefront experience up a notch.

Use your website design to bring your brand to life and create a custom experience. Update your site with a new theme and use tools like BigCommerce’s Page Builder to easily make updates to the look and feel of your site. 

Here are a few other tips for getting your site experience mobile ready from Oskar Nowik, Head of SEO at Epos Now: “Make sure your website reflects your branding. Don’t overwhelm your customers with too many options and excessive information. Keep it minimalistic and easy to navigate. Prioritize mobile experience above any other device. Use contrasts to guide your customers to the buy now button and make sure their check out process is as quick as possible.”

Enable cart abandonment notifications. 

There are many reasons a customer might leave your website with a shopping cart full of items. Sending them a push notification will remind them of the products they left behind, with a goal of convincing them to make the purchase. Abandoned cart emails have excellent conversion rates — based on data from Moosend, they have a 10.7% conversion rate.

According to Alan Moore, Group Managing Director, at RANDEMRETAIL abandoned cart emails are a great opportunity if tailored for the holidays: “A key strategy that is often overlooked is ‘targeting your abandoned carts.’ Take some time to make a campaign plan to amend these emails to be relevant from November onwards to commence right from the Cyber 5 up to the January sales. Make sure they are linked to the relevant URL, offer discount codes, promote payment services and immediate delivery options if available, etc.” 

Update your merchandising strategy.

Showcase your holiday products. Start by determining which products you’re going to sell this holiday season. Are there specific holiday bundles your target audience has been wanting? What about seasonal favorites? 

Hadas Peretz, Marketing and Sales Ops Manager at Fast Simon talks about the importance of holiday merchandising: “Good merchandising convinces them to buy that product and ideally suggests upsell and cross-sell opportunities. AI adds science to the art of merchandising. It allows merchants to move from static presentations into dynamic ones tuned to both the shopper’s desires and the merchant’s needs. By taking instant, adaptive control of the shopping journey, merchants can reduce cart abandonment.”

Next, consider how you’ll display these seasonal items on your site. For example, you could have a holiday-specific category in your site navigation. Make shopping easy by organizing gifts in one place. 

Jared Frank, co-owner of Mojo Active, adds: “Prepare by getting inventory in place and products available on your ecommerce store with accurate pricing and effective descriptions. If appropriate for your products, turn on the ‘compare products’ feature and ensure you have complete information on all products to make this an effective experience for shoppers.”

Personalize the experience. 

Give customers an experience that’s unique to them. Nearly 89% of marketers reported that using personalization resulted in increased revenue. By analyzing behavioral and contextual customer data, as well as business-related data like margin and inventory, merchants can surface relevant products to inspire customers and encourage them to make a purchase. Basing product recommendations on customer data — such as geo-location or demographic — leads to a significant increase in conversion rates and a decrease in cart abandonment.

Retailers can also use insights from previous browsing history to surface relevant content to shoppers, perhaps reminding them of the perfect gift they browsed last time they visited or showcasing something related to a previous purchase.

As part of our Big Open Data Solutions, BigCommerce merchants can leverage several personalization partners to find the best option for their holiday promotions:

“Personalize the experience for your customers in real time by using AI to interpret their buying behavior as signals to what they’re interested in. Serve up personalized product recommendations, content, collections and hero images to give customers the perfect items to buy as gifts or add to their wish list in as little time as possible,” says Chris Cano, Content Lead at dotdigital.

Jake Cohen, Head of Customer Marketing at Klayvio, recommends one way to do this: “Ask people ahead of time (via surveys and pop ups) who they have to shop for this holiday season. Tag their profile so when it comes time to send promotional content, you can send content that’s relevant to shopping for a specific person (e.g. cousin, uncle, daughter, etc) to people who actually have to shop for that specific person. This will increase conversion rates and revenue.”

Help them find what they need.

In line with the personalization efforts above, fine-tune site search for each customer. The same search data you’re using for SEO can give you a boost with your on-site search. Make sure your website’s search results return accurate products to help your customers find exactly what they’re looking for.

“​​Your site design should obviously feature several search features, such as a succinct menu and a prominently displayed search bar — but you should also consider advertising top-selling, high-converting products and categories right at the top of the homepage. The sooner you can get customers in front of what they want to buy, the better,” explains Mike Esposito, Content Producer at 1Digital Agency

Not only will a customer get to the item faster, but a seamless shopping experience will not go unnoticed. Customers are loyal to brands that make shopping easier, especially during the holidays. If they run into problems and can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, they’ll find it somewhere else.

Christian Little, Director of Marketing at PayHelm, offers this tip for helping shoppers find what they need: “Break down all your promotions and bundles by who is likely the recipient of the gift.   Search terms for ‘gifts for women,’ for example, are huge in the holiday season.”

Hadas Peretz, Marketing and Sales Ops Manager at Fast Simon adds: “Take the time to go over your internal search function as well as your collections, and ensure that it identifies shopper preferences and intent, to present the most relevant results.”

The great thing about updating your own search is that you’ve got complete control over the keywords, pages and results. Use it to your advantage while creating a frictionless experience for holiday shoppers.

Optimize checkout. 

By the time a customer reaches the checkout page, they’ve already decided they want to make a purchase. Optimizing your checkout page means making the process as smooth as possible, so the customer doesn’t leave before completing the purchase. According to one survey, 21% of online shoppers in the United States have abandoned their shopping carts due to a long, complicated checkout process.

You can create a seamless checkout experience by only having one checkout page, enabling guest checkout, and offering several payment and shipping options.

1. Simplify checkout to one page. 

Having all of your checkout-related forms on a single page makes the process easier and quicker for customers. Loading a single page versus waiting for multiple pages to load — especially on a mobile device — can be a game changer. Don’t give customers time to leave your site. All of these factors boil down to one: customer satisfaction. A single checkout page adds to the overall user experience of your site and you want people to walk away feeling satisfied with all of it.

2. Enable guest checkout.

Anonymous checkouts are especially important for first-time customers. Online shopping requires trust in the merchant, and many customers don’t feel comfortable saving their contact information during their initial visit to a store.

Requiring a registration also interrupts the shopping process. Once customers decide to buy, they want the checkout process to be easy — which should be the aim of merchants as well. Checking out as a guest is often quicker than creating an account, is viewed as a lesser commitment and erases the potential perception that you’re after user data.

3. Offer several payment options. 

When a customer is ready to enter their payment information, the last thing they want to see is that you don’t provide their payment method of choice. Consider offering more payment options such as PayPal/Venmo or American Express. Providing as many secure payment options as possible is convenient for the customer and they’ll appreciate being able to pay however they wish.

Daniel Zielinski Technology Partnerships Manager at LiveChat also recommends: “Offering support for digital wallets, Apple Pay/Google since mobile shopping is on the rise.” 

If you want to learn more about the best payment options for your store, check out our 2021 Consumer Spending Trends report.

4. Enable multi-recipient functionality. 

Instead of having your customers place a plethora of orders for holiday gifts, enable multi-recipient functionality to remove unnecessary stress during the busy holiday season. This functionality allows customers to send specific items to other addresses, making your store a one-stop shop.

5. Let shoppers select their preferred shipping option.

With some shoppers waiting until the last minute to place their orders and others who buy gifts months in advance, you’ll want to offer a variety of shipping options. And making sure you have that selection in checkout can make the decision to purchase much easier. ShipperHQ gives your shoppers accurate rates, estimated delivery dates and the right choices in checkout. 

6. Give shoppers peace of mind with shipping insurance. 

Don’t let porch piracy dampen your customers’ holiday. By offering them shipping insurance, you can ensure they’ll get their order — and have a great customer experience. For example, Route offers a connected suite of post-purchase solutions. Customers can easily add package protection against loss, theft and damage — right on the checkout page. 

3. Surprise and delight with shipping and fulfillment options.

To execute on a great customer experience strategy, you’ll need a clear plan on where to sell your products and how to ship and fulfill orders.

Expand your sales channels.

Your ecommerce store isn’t the only place to spread holiday cheer. Consider other sales channels, such as:

  • Online marketplaces: Connect to major players like Amazon and Walmart Marketplace, but don’t forget about other popular options, such as Wish and eBay.
  • Social commerce: Update your product catalog and tag items to sell them on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Brick-and-mortar shops: Ensure your efforts are consistent across online and offline channels. 
  • Cross-border: Consider selling internationally with marketplaces such as Mercado Libre.

More importantly, connect these channels together for a seamless experience. Jan Beke of Adyen explains: “Your customer can buy via multiple devices and channels and across multiple markets. Instead of each interaction being managed by separate systems, with unified commerce you will make sure that the entire payment flow from your customers through different channels is all consolidated into one system.

Add BOPIS. 

If you’re selling in a brick-and-mortar, offering the option to buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) will be vital. BOPIS is a great option for shoppers who prefer to browse online, but also want the items in their possession on the same day.

Connie Wong, Marketing Manager at Silk Software explains: “With BOPIS, merchants can improve the shopping experience by giving customers the opportunity to place orders from the comfort and safety of their own home and collect the items ordered in-store at their earliest convenience. This can also help to eliminate the barriers of shipping and processing and increase in-store foot traffic. Utilizing a physical store as a place of fulfillment for online sales can help get merchants’ products in the hands of customers faster and avoid delivery delays.”

Determine how you will carry out shipping and fulfillment.

During the holiday season, you’ll likely experience an increase in orders. To prepare for the heightened traffic, you’ll need to determine how you will handle shipping. There are three primary options:

  • Handle shipping and fulfillment in-house.
  • Outsource shipping and fulfillment with a third-party logistics provider (3PL).
  • Outsource shipping and fulfillment with a dropshipper.

Whichever path you follow, you’ll want to automate your shipping process. Shipping software gives you access to one dashboard where you can compare rates, print labels, manage orders, print shipping labels in bulk and reconcile shipping bills. You can also set shipping rules to automatically select the cheapest rate, fastest method, etc. 

In-house shipping and fulfillment.

In-house shipping and fulfillment means you’re managing the inventory and the shipment for all of the orders. For many businesses, this method is convenient and works just fine. However, once the volume of orders reaches a certain point, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with managing all of the steps it takes to get items safely out the door.

James Messer, Senior Copywriter at Shipstation offers advice for getting ready for the busiest season of the year: “You have to get a good picking, packing and shipping workflow together NOW. Figure out which parts you can automate, where the manual data entry bottlenecks are, and what can cause user error. Addressing these areas by assigning pickers their orders, which shipping services, packaging, emails, etc. to use also can let you figure out the overhead for how many seasonal workers, overtime hours or shifting worker roles you will need to fill for the holiday rush. Fine-tune this now so you can be prepared and keep profit margins high.”

Outsource shipping and fulfillment with third-party providers (3PL).

Working with a third-party provider (3PL) for shipping and fulfillment means that another company will take care of this part of your business for you. With a 3PL, you’ll be able to take advantage of bulk shipping discounts and advanced tracking technology. Utilizing a 3PL also means customers will receive their packages faster and if there’s any questions or issues regarding shipment, they can reach out to the 3PL. All of this frees up you and your team to focus on other aspects of the business that need your attention.

Christian Little, Director of Marketing at PayHelm has some advice for using a 3PL during the holidays: “If you are using a 3PL provider, make sure you have plenty of inventory in their warehouse a good two weeks before the holiday rush. Most 3PL providers get completely bogged down with inbound shipment processing in Q4. The last thing you want is to have three containers of product sitting on the dock at the warehouse the day before Black Friday. Get those containers to the warehouse at the beginning of November!”

Outsource shipping and fulfillment with a dropshipper.

With dropshipping, products are sent directly from your wholesaler to your customers. Outsourcing shipping and fulfillment with a dropshipper cuts down on time and money spent shipping each item. Since products only leave the warehouse one time, there’s less costs involved and you don’t have to keep track of inventory, shipment or returns.

Create a memorable packaging and unboxing experience.

Ecommerce shops don’t just have a “brand,” they often have a deeply rooted story. This story reminds shoppers why they aren’t buying the item from a discount store or a large marketplace, but are instead going directly to your website for your products. 

Yes, it is critical that you tell this story on your website, email communications and social media channels, but there is no denying the power of physically seeing and reading a message to make it stick.

Here are some tips from ecommerce experts on elevating the delivery and unboxing experience: 

  • “Garnish the online shopping experience with festive offlines touches. Add branded goodies to orders over a certain value threshold. Or elevate the post-purchases experience with logo-emblazoned packing slips for a cohesive brand experience that lasts well past purchase.” – Stephanie Chung, Partnerships at EasyShip
  • “Make the unboxing experience special. Instead of delivering a brown box full of bubble wrap, plan to include some extras. One example might be incorporating QR codes into cards that include a personal – and seasonal – thanks from the merchant or links directly to content related to the merchandise. Personal video messages from the gift giver could also be interesting additions that make the second moment of truth more meaningful and exciting.” – Chris Hogue, Global Head of Strategy and Product, LiveArea 
  • “If selling high-value items, do NOT put any logos, pictures or descriptions of your business on the package’s contents on the outside packaging. This is not only a beacon for porch pirates, but it can also cause shipping insurers to reject any claim of damaged or lost merchandise. – James Messer, Senior Copywriter at Shipstation

Also, don’t forget about tracking. Customers want to follow their order from the moment they hit purchase until it’s delivered to their door. With Narvar, you can deliver an engaging, on-brand shipment tracking and messaging experience to your customers — and help to remove any anxiety about lost or delayed shipments.

Have a clear return policy.

One survey found that 96% of consumers will go back to companies who made returns and exchanges as seamless as possible. How can you build the dream return process during the holiday season?

  • “Have your return policy prominently displayed. Everyone knows Amazon’s return policies, and that’s why people shop there. No one wants to deal with returns — not customers, certainly not merchants. But, if you showcase that your store will allow returns for orders placed from Black Friday to mid-December through the first week or two of January, you can increase cart conversion.” – James Messer, Senior Copywriter at Shipstation
  • Include instructions on how gift recipients can reuse the original shipping package for returns.
  • Consider adding a return label to each shipment that can be given to the gift recipient. 
  • “Consider including an in-page message that notes any unique aspects of your return policy or how easy it is.” – Michael Wadsworth, Partner Marketing, Justuno 

If your return policy is too strict during the holiday seasons, you risk losing the sale. 

The holidays are a time when you should be a little more flexible and provide convenience for your customers when it comes to returns — simply because things happen. Wrong sizes are ordered, a product is faulty, expectations weren’t met, etc. The important thing for you to do is build trust by making sure your return policy is fully transparent and fair. 

4. Create strategic holiday marketing and promotions.

Whether it be new technologies or promotional strategies, merchants have had to adapt their stores to meet lots of unexpected changes this year in order to sell their products in the most efficient way.

That’s why it’s important to make sure your store is fully optimized and ready with its campaigns and promotional strategies before big holiday spending periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Here are some key planning points on what you can do to make sure your store is fully optimized and equipped for the frenzy of holiday selling.

Start early and plan ahead.

Marketing is often a long-game, so it’s important to start getting your ducks in a row long before your customers are even thinking about shopping for the holidays. 

You should start planning earlier than you think as Jason Young, Founder of Ballistic Agency emphasizes “Basically, once Halloween is over, it’s go time. Be ready to launch on November 1. Have the necessary info to your influencers well ahead of time so they’re ready by then as well.”

As Emma Kimmerly, Partner Marketing Manager, at Gorgias explains, you need to make sure you have the right resources in place to support the campaigns you want to do: “When planning your holiday marketing strategies, ensure your team has the tools they need to respond. For example, if you are expanding your social media campaigns or working with influencers, you should have customer support processes in place to be able to respond to new customers across those channels in case they have questions.”

When considering long-game marketing, SEO will obviously be something you need to plan well in advance for.  Mike Esposito, Content Producer at 1Digital Agency, offers some insights for holiday SEO planning timelines: “For any clients that wish to gain domain authority and generate new, organic traffic through SEO, we encourage them to start right away. Results from SEO campaigns often take longer than six months to develop, with the most pronounced results often taking more than a year to manifest.”

Adopt promotional strategies to engage customers.

There are many ways you can adapt your promotions strategy for the holiday season. Consider using gift cards to upsell at checkout, offering seasonal services such as free gift-wrapping or shipping, or creating limited-time offers to add urgency.

Connie Wong, Marketing Manager at Silk Software explains: “Cyber 5 is always a critical time for merchants and shoppers alike. Free shipping and holiday promotions continue to be big incentives that drive more purchasing. Especially for customers looking to benefit from competitive prices this holiday season, rather than waiting for one particular holiday date, they’ll be looking for promotions and are willing to buy earlier if attracted by the right offer. It doesn’t mean price has to be the only competitive offer. Things like free shipping, engaging onsite content and exceptional customer service especially during a hectic shopping season are all areas that can attract shoppers.”

Plan for holiday contests and giveaways. Enacting different contests and giveaways during the holidays is a great way to help you increase customer satisfaction and engagement while also boosting sales. This can be done directly on your store’s website, or you can utilize social media tools. For instance, on Instagram you could post a picture of one of your products during Christmas, and run a contest for people who comment about their favorite part of the holiday in order to win that specific product. Not only are you engaging customers and fostering a sense of community around your brand, but you’re also promoting specific products and deals you might be running during the holiday seasons. 

Alan Moore, Group Managing Director, at RANDEMRETAIL emphasizes that the messaging around your promotions is as important as the promotions themselves: “Cyber 5 promotions are one of the most difficult campaigns to get the ‘share of the wallet’ as the online market is dominated by offers, and some may say too much choice and promotion by the Big Online retailers means the SMB retailer loses out. It’s important to plan out your communications that are both relevant and timely to the customers, creating urgency as the sale days approach. Think about creating targeted communications, based on what the “customers usually buy” from you? Take a look at the demographics of these customers and create “targeted” social campaigns based on these to attract new customers.”

Have a rewards or loyalty program in place. Having a customer rewards or loyalty system in place that is tailored to your brand before the holidays might be a crucial step for you as a business owner.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, take advantage of all channels for your loyalty program. Randy Kohl, Head of Marketing at Gorilla Group adds: “Ensure loyalty programs tally in-store and online purchases to deliver a true omnichannel experience. Gamify the shopping experience, offering rewards, additional discounts, or ‘gift with purchase’ for customers that complete online and in-store purchases or other desired behaviors.”

By making an investment in your returning customers (and encouraging new customers to join), you’re adding extra consumer incentive and value to your store.

A good rewards program will be easy to use, have membership-only benefits, place higher value on your products and increase member engagement and interaction. This is a good way to turn one-time holiday shoppers into lifelong customers.

Integrate your marketing efforts.

Keeping a constant stream of content flowing is an essential part of planning a marketing strategy for the holidays.

This can be done with social media channels, blog posts, video content, etc. Any web search traffic directed to your business is good traffic. When your content is original, up-to-date and relevant to the holiday season, chances are customers will be directed to your store and therefore boost your holiday sales.

For example, if you create a blog post on how to properly decorate for the holidays and feature a variety of your products, you have a higher chance of making a sale from customers visiting your blog. This example can be translated across many different brands, as long as the content is relevant to not only your brand but also the holiday/season you’re promoting.

Reach your customers on social media. Posting to your store’s Instagram story, making Facebook posts promoting deals and discounts, and tweeting a product campaign with a #hashtag slogan are just some of the various ways you can use social media during the holiday season.

This is where your brand needs to be unique and creative to garner the attention of consumers. Ensuring that your social media campaigns and marketing techniques are in place (before holidays like Christmas) will help you boost sales and get the word out about why shoppers should visit your store. 

For instance, if you want to increase your success with social commerce on Instagram, use product tags frequently across different formats in feed, stories, Reels, IGTV, captions and Live because people spend time in different places on Instagram. Additionally, using product tags consistently to create more shoppable posts can help you reach new shoppers and get the most out of your shop.

To take advantage of social, merchants can leverage Facebook for BigCommerce. It makes it easy for businesses to list products and offer service appointments across the Facebook family of apps, find people likely to buy, and measure results.

Leverage paid advertising. 

Organic traffic is valuable, but paid advertising can boost your brand in a saturated market. A quick place to begin is Facebook or Instagram Ads, since you can simply boost organic content. Where you’ll want to spend a little more time is search engine marketing and overall conversion rate optimization. If you have an omnichannel approach, investing in paid advertising can help drive traffic across channels, too.

Steph Gillies; Head of Marketing and Communications for Trustpilot has this tip for paid advertising: “Become familiar with Google Seller Ratings as showcasing consumer ratings directly on Google Ads can help businesses increase their click-through rates by up to 10%, and improve overall search performance during the busiest time of the year.”

Connie Wong, Marketing Manager at Silk Software, adds that putting more budget into paid advertising can pay off at the holidays: “If you allocate a certain portion of your budget specifically for holiday-time allotment, the months leading up to and during the holidays are a great time to invest in PPC management services. While it can be expensive to engage in this form of marketing year-round, eager shoppers who are willing to click on — and convert through — the first link that shows up in the search results may make the investment worth it. It can also be lucrative during these most competitive months of the year to outbid your competitors for top-converting keywords when bidding on them could afford you a landslide of impressions, many of which may potentially end up converting.” 

Plan your email strategy. 

Sending promotional emails is a key and essential part of holiday campaigns. If you have specific holiday sales, discounts or special offers — do not wait until the last minute to get those promotional emails out.

By capturing the attention of your customers beforehand, with the help of automated email features, you can get the word out early about any holiday promotions that will increase conversions when you need them most.

Here are some tips from ecommerce experts:

  • “Be explicit with your subject lines. With the expected iOS update in effect, open rates will be an unreliable metric to track. Because of this, make certain your subject lines and preheader text are explicit and as visually appealing as possible. Use emojis to add color and stand out in the seas of other black and white subject lines. Clearly state the content of the email, whether it is a promotion, discount, or sale expiration.” – Whitney Blankenship, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Omnisend
  • “Build up your lists early. You want to have more than enough customers to contact in the run-up to Cyber 5. Remember, don’t just collect email addresses – mobile numbers too. SMS, combined with email, is a winning formula for these kinds of flash sale promotions. Also, it never hurts to utilize urgency and scarcity tactics. If you put a time limit on a killer promotion, or a cap on the number of products include, things start to get urgent. Customers will take positive action faster. This is an age-old trick, but works every time.” – Chris Cano, Content Lead at dotdigital
  • “Think about the tips and tricks you can offer customers to enhance their shopping experience, and give them those all-important gift ideas. For example, if you sell kitchenware you could send some holiday recipes that use some of the items you sell. It’s helpful information, and it motivates them to buy from you. Most importantly, show gratitude to your customers. Reward returning customers with a special discount popup when they visit your store. Use a tone of gratitude: “You deserve this deal.” – Emilie Murphy, Product Marketing Manager at POWR 

5. Ramp up your customer service and support.

The holiday season is quickly approaching and, to be prepared for success, both your business and your customers need adequate support.

Make sure your ecommerce platform is available when you need it.

The holiday nightmare: a crashed website on Cyber Week. After months of hard work, your

customers are disappointed and unable to make purchases. It’s often overlooked, but support for your business is make or break for success.

Now is the time to make sure your ecommerce platform has 24/7 global support, premium security features, and industry-leading uptime.

BigCommerce comes with all of this and more. Our support team can help you with anything related to selling online and growing your business, like boosting conversion, improving your shopping experience, managing catalog transfers, and recommending solutions for taxes, payments, shipping and software integrations. 

We also support merchants with ongoing content resources, like our product blog and BigCommerce blog, and our offering of SEO coaching, conversion rate coaching and launch coaching where you will work with a dedicated ecommerce expert.

For added peace of mind consider additional backup as explained by Emma Hyde, Product Marketing Manager at Rewind: “Our number one piece of advice for stores this holiday is to back up your store. A good backup solution makes it easy for you to experiment and change products around the holidays as necessary, knowing you can always turn back the clock if something were to go wrong. With an automatic backup, you’re prepared for disasters, big or small. Downtime is expensive, and holiday downtime is even worse. A good backup solution minimizes the risk of lost revenue, as you’re able to restore data and get up and running in minutes if something goes wrong.”

Develop a robust customer service plan.

You’ve got a dedicated support team behind your store. Now, you must take care of your customers. The holidays are undoubtedly a busy and sometimes stressful time. Be prepared to handle any questions and concerns, and make information readily available.

Have dedicated support and respond to inquiries quickly. Even when something goes wrong, a positive customer support experience can lead to a loyal customer. You should have dedicated support for phone, email, and social media — and be sure to respond to all inquiries within 24–48 hours.

Make your contact information prominent and easy to find.

Adding updated contact information to your website and all order confirmations can enhance a customer’s trust with your store. Creating an FAQ page that offers quick and easy answers can also build trust with new customers. Providing answers to common questions may also lighten the load on your customer service team.

Ask for feedback from customers.

Steph Gillies; Head of Marketing and Communications for Trustpilot predicts: “Reviews will play an increasingly more important role this year in the 2021 holiday season. In fact, the provision of reviews and social proof has been flagged as vital to success. It’s recommended that brands and retailers offer shoppers anything to help educate, encourage and increase the chance of conversion.” 

Gillies adds: “Make sure you’re displaying reviews not only on product pages, but any landing pages a potential customer might encounter along the buying journey. Our data shows that impressions on TrustBoxes always spike around peak shopping season so it’s a good idea to show off customer reviews to improve the experience and build trust in the purchasing decision.”

You can also incentivize your customers to leave a review with a special one-time discount or free shipping. In addition to helping you improve your products and services, feedback and reviews can help you broadcast trust to new customers. 

Wrapping Up

This year, businesses and consumers are looking forward to the holiday season more than ever. After the 2020 holiday season saw many unable to spend the holiday with loved ones, there is hope that 2021 will provide more of a return to normal. 

Shoppers will potentially be shopping in-store, online and across all channels and marketplaces as they hunt for the perfect gifts for everyone on their list. Creating a shopping experience that entices them and offers a smooth path to purchase (and post-purchase!) gives them a strong reason to choose your store over the competition. Make it easy and quick to shop with you however they chose to do it. 

Take holiday readiness with a step-by-step approach, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to welcoming jolly shoppers with ease.

 

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Susan Meyer

Susan Meyer

Enterprise Content Marketing Manager

Susan Meyer is the Enterprise Content Marketing Manager at BigCommerce, where she researches, analyzes and educates brands making more than $10M in annual online sales on tech stack scalability, flexibility and overall growth strategies that alleviate growing CAC. She lives and works in Austin, Texas and her decade of writing experience spans everything from young adult nonfiction to technical documentation.

View all posts by Susan Meyer

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