Holiday Ideas & Strategies

The 2019 Ecommerce Holiday Readiness Checklist: Technical and Marketing Preparedness — from Local to Global

Corinne Watson / 39 min read

The 2019 Ecommerce Holiday Readiness Checklist: Technical and Marketing Preparedness — from Local to Global

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Some might say that the holidays are a goldmine opportunity for businesses that sell online. After all, it isn’t rare to hear that certain businesses (especially fashion, packaged goods, and luxury items) do up to 80 or 90% of their revenue during the holiday months.

Plus, global shopping behavior continues to rise. It is truly a seller’s market. More and more consumers are spending money.

Plus, unemployment rates continue to drop — meaning that people have a little bit more spending money.

All of this adds up to: a great time to be selling online.

Holiday retail sales crossed the $1 trillion mark for the first time in 2018 — up from 5.8% the year prior.

US Holiday Ecommerce sales

The story is even better news for ecommerce. While some customers continue to shop for the holidays in person, U.S. retail ecommerce spending rose 16.6% to $123.73 billion in 2018.

Once seen as up-and-coming retail holidays, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now seen as the cornerstone of online holiday shopping — and the numbers prove it.

Out of all holiday digital revenue, almost half of it (40%) occurred during Cyber Week (the period spanning the Tuesday before Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) in 2018.

So how can retailers be prepared for this influx of holiday traffic and sales?

We’ve created this 2019 holiday readiness checklist in partnership with ecommerce experts to make sure you drive traffic, convert new customers, re-engage existing buyers, and do it all with a beautiful ecommerce site that never goes down.

Optimize for Mobile: Meeting Your Holiday Customers Where They Are Shopping

As the holiday sales season quickly approaches, you may have your very own Santa’s workshop ready to make this year a great one.

And, if last year’s holiday sales season is any indicator to what this season will be like, mobile will play a big role in helping shoppers find just the right gift in time for the holidays.

In 2018, it was predicted that ecommerce will be increasingly driven by mobile commerce, jumping 32.6%.

To maximize revenue during this upcoming season, savvy retailers need to focus on optimizing their mobile capabilities to further facilitate their shoppers’ experiences with key features such as enhanced in-app checkout options and personalized communication features.

Let’s consider a few crucial ways you can optimize for mobile before the holiday rush.

Push Notifications: Successfully Navigate the Holiday Chaos

In a season that overwhelms shoppers with advertisements, numerous emails, and the urgency to get it all done before the big day, push notifications offer the kind of direct, personalized communication you need to engage with customers.

To ensure that your push notifications will pertain to your users’ interests and needs, you’ll need to create segments for more targeted messaging.

User segments include gender, device type, and registration status. These segments can be created using multiple profile-based conditions for precise targeting.

1. Perfect your timing.

Push notifications can be used in two ways:

  1. A one-time notification for a certain promo or new product, or
  2. An automated notification based on user activity.

There’s a time for both. Generally, for holiday sales and specials, one-time messages fit the bill when sending special offers lasting for a specified length of time or for product release information or event updates.

On the other hand, automated messages are better for ongoing offers and activity-based re-engagement. For example, if you’re running a special for free shipping in the month of November, sending automated messages throughout the month to promote the offer is smart.

2. Stick the landing.

While the message itself is very important, choosing a specific location for the user to land once they open a push notification is just as crucial.

  • For product or category offers, send your user directly to the product or category page.
  • For cart reminders, send them directly to their abandoned cart and consider adding a promotional code to the cart upon opening for added incentive.

Occasionally, your homepage might be the best bet, especially if you’re hosting a site-wide promo such as a Black Friday sale on all items. But keep in mind: the fewer clicks to purchase, the higher your conversion rate will be.

Social Media: The Season’s Most Magical Tool

One particularly appealing element of mobile marketing is the ability to have app-exclusive offers and events. By positioning your app as the hub for exclusive content, you’ll drive not only downloads, but also engagement and conversions.

While this should be advertised on all social platforms, it’s especially effective on visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. After a quick tease on social media, you can direct users right to your app to access these special items or deals, driving urgency and a sense of exclusivity for app users.

This is especially effective since social media is frequently accessed on mobile devices — your shopper is just a few taps away from downloading your app and accessing those great deals for the holiday sales season.

Give the Gift of Easy Checkout

It’s a well-known fact in ecommerce that the checkout stage of the purchasing process experiences the most cart abandonment.

Online shoppers quickly lose interest if there are too many payment and shipping information fields to fill on a checkout page.

However, apps offer expedited checkout options. This is one of the strongest benefits apps provide to users — a reprieve from long, clumsy shopping during the holidays, when customers simply don’t have an extra minute to spare.

First, allow your customers to log into your app and save their profile and login information to eliminate the need to fill out their contact information in your app for future purchases.

Second, offer more options beyond manual credit card entry. Equip your app with a credit card scanner that will fill in the numbers with just a simple snap of a camera and save that information forever.

If you want to build and market the hypermodern app that consumers are demanding, it’s time to catch up with the age of digital wallets.

Let your customers check out using Apple Pay, Android Pay, Google Wallet, MasterPass, Visa Checkout, and/or PayPal, and they’re far less likely to abandon their cart at the checkout stage.

Light Up Your Advertising

While investments like catalogs and store displays are generally a necessary part of successful holiday marketing, you can give them added value by connecting them back to your app.

Whether you’re using a Facebook ad, magazine feature, in-store poster, or any other marketing material, give your consumers the ability to shop the images directly — like with Instagram Shopping.

instagram shopping

When an app user views that image, they’ll see links to those exact products, without needing to expend extra time tapping and searching for the item that initially caught their eye.

This is a useful solution for a number of holiday retail worries.

While consumers love the cheer and nostalgia of flipping through a mail order catalog, they may easily forget which items they were interested in purchasing.

Likewise, while your customers may still be loyal to your busy brick-and-mortar store, allowing them to scan displays for products that are out of stock in your store will help drive more sales.

You Better Watch Out — Mobile Shopping is Coming to Town, Again!

You’ve got the tools, and now you’ve got the know-how. It’s time to optimize for mobile!

Remember: to compete against the major retail players this holiday sales season, you’ll need to provide your customers with unique value through your app.

This includes simplified checkout options, exclusive access, personalized communication, tempting offers, appealing to seasonality, and your own unique blend of marketing expertise.

Meet The Author

Casey Gannon is an experienced tech marketer, driven to develop marketing strategies that blend traditional techniques with emerging technology. With over ten years of experience in mobile, she believes that mobile apps are the modern solution in helping retailers directly connect with and impact consumers. When she’s not looking ahead to the next opportunity, Casey is a busy mom, soccer player and adjunct professor at her alma mater, St. Edward’s University.

SEO Updates for the Holidays: The Back Door of Organic Traffic

Everyone knows that earning top positioning with search engines through SEO can sometimes take months to achieve, depending on the keyword competitiveness.

So how can you quickly modify your SEO to capture holiday traffic in time for the winter months?

Getting a jump on your holiday SEO now is critical to make sure you capitalize on seasonal SEO opportunities. Not only can a great holiday SEO plan help reduce your dependency on PPC advertising, it can also help improve performance through other marketing channels.

Where should you start? Try these low hanging fruit for most ecommerce sites.

1. Start optimizing for promotional keywords.

Once people realized they could buy things online, they did what only comes naturally — they started to look for the items they wanted at a lower cost.

Around the holidays, usage of promotional keywords sees dramatic growth. Long tail keywords that rely on terms like “sale”, “discount”, “offer”, “coupon”, “cheap”, and “deal” spike.

Do a bit of keyword research to find out what gets the most interest in your vertical, and start optimizing pages for your base keywords plus these modifiers.

2. Prep holiday-specific title tags and meta descriptions.

Title tags and meta descriptions are the primary pieces of content that customers engage with on search engine results pages (SERPs) before they make a decision on what link to visit.

Selectively optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions for the upcoming or current holidays and your promotions can help increase click-through rates (CTR).

Better CTR means more traffic, even if your ranking doesn’t change (although higher CTR can correlate to improved ranking).

3. Create “evergreen” holiday URLs or revive ones you’ve used previously.

A big mistake most ecommerce brands make is killing off their landing page URLs for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Cyber Week, Christmas, and New Years after each event is over.

Keeping those same URLs live throughout the year is essential for SEO success. If you use them year after year, you begin to accrue more authority to that particular page.

Go back to your analytics for last year, and find out what URLs or landing pages you used for those events. Either reenable the same URL or redirect it to a more permanent URL that you can use going forward.

Avoid date specific URLs when you can. For example, in most instances /black-friday-sale/ is better than /black-friday-sale-2019/.

4. Improve internal linking towards key holiday landing pages.

Internal linking refers to the links from one page of your site to another. The most prominent internal links are those that occur in your primary menu.

Develop an internal linking strategy that increases the frequency and prominence of links to your key holiday landing pages. This will improve their indexing and crawling by search engines, and cues search engines that these pages are important to you, and therefore something you should rank with.

5. Build links with the holidays in mind.

Many publishers dedicate a lot of resources to holiday-centric content like buying guides or gift-giving lists.

Start developing relationships with publishers in your space who have top-ranking gift guides relevant to your customers now! Trying to get into a list at the last minute rarely works, and the sooner those links are live, the sooner they start passing value to your site.

PRO TIP: Aggressive loss-leader type offers for the holidays are commonplace in marketing today. Fewer brands use them as part of a link-building strategy that passes semi-permanent value to your domain. Don’t limit the value of your biggest promotions by failing to use them in link building. — Jordan Brannon, President at Coalition SEO

6. Optimize your influencer campaigns.

Search engines aim to make their rankings a reflection of what’s most likely to appeal to search users, based on what’s most appealing across the web. Because most social media influencers operate public-facing pages, search engines will crawl and index their content.

Influencer campaigns through social networks are a great way to build stronger keyword relevance for your site, but most brands don’t take that into account. When working with influencers or affiliates, try to ensure your efforts tie back to some of your key holiday landing pages, holiday keywords, and your brand name or URL.

Even if a direct link isn’t achieved, citations can have a link-like impact on your SEO.

7. Help refresh old holiday gift guides.

A great holiday-focused link-building strategy is to reach out to publishers with aging gift guide content from years prior, and suggest ways of improving or renewing it.

Pointing out that some of the products are no longer available, have fallen out of fashion, or now have upgraded versions or models can be a great way to land some new links to your website.

Work up a list of prominent gift guides online (most consumer products will have a solid 20 or 30 every year), identify their author or editorial team, and craft a great pitch.

Make sure to include:

  • a link to the old content,
  • a clear reason why it needs an update,
  • a link to your product or landing page,
  • and a short but direct reason why they should consider including you.

8. Work on your off-page ranking. 

A lot of SEO strategists make a grave mistake by emphasizing only your primary domain for their ranking efforts.

Different websites or platforms have an innate opportunity to rank better than others for specific types of terms or search results. Platforms like YouTube are frequently included in Google search results as a way of enhancing the content diversity and UX for search users.

Look to create and optimize video content around holiday keywords. Other platforms or websites are also frequently included as a way of diversifying ranks on different devices or in different locales. Try running through a few of your priority keywords in search today, and see what sites turn up!

Frequently there are ways for your content to be featured through these third parties in a way that helps you achieve rankings you may not otherwise have a shot at.

The holidays present a great opportunity to develop long-term, sustainable, high value rankings through SEO, especially when you follow some of these strategies!

Meet The Author

Jordan Brannon is President at Coalition Technologies, a leading ecommerce SEO agency. Jordan has helped head up over 600 successful ecommerce projects in the last decade with Coalition. His experience includes work in industries such as fashion, health and beauty, B2B, and numerous BigCommerce merchants.

Campaigns and Promotions: Closing Holiday Deals with Higher AOV

In 2019, ecommerce businesses have seen a lot of changes when it comes to marketing techniques to help raise conversions.

Whether it be new technologies or promotional strategies, merchants have had to adapt their stores to the constant flux and flow of an ever-changing industry in order to sell their products in the most efficient way.

This statement could not be truer when it comes to merchants preparing for the craziness of promotion and selling during the holiday season.

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 back-to-school, 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.

Personalize Your Customer’s Shopping Experience

One of the best ways to increase holiday spending at your ecommerce store is to make sure you personalize the shopping experience for all of your customers. This means that if you’re having a specific holiday sale on different products, you should cross-sell and up-sell products that directly complement the sale for visiting customers.

Product recommendations that speak to the consumer as an individual shopper can have a lasting impact. By using vital consumer data points that are specific to individual customers (such as search, shopping cart, and purchase histories), you can boost sales during the holiday seasons and help raise your overall conversion rate.

Update Your Return Policies Around the Holiday Seasons

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 is for you to do is build trust by making sure your return policy is fully transparent and fair.

Also, have an extended return window around Christmastime (usually until the end of January) so consumers have time to return gifts. This will increase overall customer satisfaction and keep them coming back even after the holidays are over.

Email Marketing Strategies for the Holidays

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.

This also goes for email reminders about abandoned carts. Since consumers are shopping across multiple online stores during the holiday seasons, they might forget to check out at yours. A gentle reminder to your customers if their cart is abandoned will be a great way to boost your holiday sales.

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.

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.

If you’re searching for apps, Smile.io is a good place to start looking for your reward system service needs.

Update Landing Pages for the Holiday Seasons

It’ll be more important than ever during the holidays to make sure that your landing pages are top notch — because these pages will most likely be redirected from content searches or direct links from emails or advertisements.

It’s a vital aspect of your store to have landing pages with designs and layouts that are appealing and easy to navigate. Elements such as the shopping cart and social buttons need to be visible and easily accessible so that holiday shoppers can browse once they’ve been redirected from a link.

If you’re worried that your store’s visual content needs updating, look into apps that will help you create landing pages and raise conversions well before the holiday season approaches.

Holiday Social Media Campaigns and Marketing

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 make sure that you are set up with Instagram’s new feature, Instagram Checkout, you can start campaigning special discounts and deals way in advance of the holiday season, and utilize this cool new feature by selling directly on the app.

Optimize Holiday + Seasonal Promotions and Campaigns

Sometimes it’s essential to use the holiday seasons as a part of your marketing strategy to increase overall sales. This means that you should run sales that are specific to a certain holiday in order to increase festivity and enthusiasm among your consumers.

Offer LGBT-specific products during Pride Month, add patriotic designs to your landing pages around the Fourth of July, or maybe add special discounts and deals on winter merchandise around Christmas.

The possibilities are bountiful when you consider your own brand and products and how you can bring in customers with promotions while simultaneously helping them celebrate a specific holiday or holiday season.

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. This is why planning contests and giveaways before a certain holiday season starts will be an effective marketing strategy for your ecommerce store.

Consider Free Shipping in Your Holiday Marketing Plan

Since Amazon has made free shipping a staple part of online sales, you can expect to drive more sales and conversions if you offer some sort of free shipping deal during the holidays.

Potential customers will most likely go through with a sale if free shipping is involved. This could mean you offer free shipping on orders over a certain price or maybe offer free shipping during a specific time period, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

If you’re lost, maybe take a look at your competitors’ shipping plans and see how you can adjust your store to attract the most customers possible during the holiday seasons and boost your conversions.

Content Marketing During the Holidays

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 autumn/Halloween 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.

Flash Sales and Urgent Selling

Another convenient way to increase shopper turnout during the holiday seasons with marketing techniques is to make sales limited. Incorporate specific time limits into sales or discounts, offer limited bundles on products, or make sure that low or limited stock indicators are prominently displayed for your fastest selling products.

If your store is able to foster urgency during the buying process for your customers, they might be less indecisive when it comes to adding things to their shopping carts and completing the sale.

Foster a Sense of Community and Moral Responsibility

Your shoppers don’t want to think of your store as having no values when they are searching through your products and looking for something to buy.

That’s why during the holiday seasons, there should be marketing techniques in place that promote your overall ethics and values. Maybe commit to donating to one of your favorite charities that aligns with your brand values, or encourage your patrons to pay a small price difference that will go to a good cause.

By doing something small like this, you’re not only fostering a sense of community with your holiday shoppers who want to feel good, but also reflecting your brand’s values. This way, you’re promoting your business as well as a shared sense of moral responsibility with your customers.

Meet The Author

Chelsey Giambrone is a senior marketing strategist at DigitlHaus Agency where she strategically manages paid ad accounts for ambitious eCommerce brands. DigitlHaus is an Elite and Certified BigCommerce partner specializing in user and brand experience, re-platforming and custom integrations.

Update Your Holiday Merchandising Strategy: Show Customers What They Know They Already Want

This holiday season, retailers face massive competition for consumer attention.

Digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to up to 10,000 ads every day.

Interestingly, bounce rates actually rise over the holidays — particularly in the U.S. where there is an average increase of 12% on Thanksgiving and 5.2% on Black Friday. This is especially evident on mobile devices, as people scan quickly through pages and sites for the best gift and shopping ideas.

A recent study found that mobile visitors to online stores only stick around for about 163 seconds (compared to 239 seconds on desktop).

So how do brands cut through the noise and maintain the attention of today’s mobile-savvy shopper?

The key is personalized merchandising: analyzing each user’s unique shopping behavior to deliver content and product recommendations that are relevant to them.

During the holiday season, if retailers don’t have something relevant to show shoppers within three to four seconds of visiting a site, they risk losing a sale — particularly on mobile devices, where screen real estate is limited.

To capture attention during this brief window of opportunity, it’s important to have a robust online merchandising strategy. Follow these online merchandising strategy best practices to make holiday magic this season.

Tell A (Personalized) Story With Product Recommendations

Content is still king, although personalization is the crowning glory.

By analyzing both 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 an exponential increase in conversion rates and a decrease in cart abandonment.

For example, say a particular toy is trending in New York City. Parents of a certain age that live in the city can be targeted with content related to that must-have toy, which simultaneously removes an entire step (searching for the toy) in their buying journey and leads them deeper into the site (and closer to checkout).

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.

For example, a customer who had previously bought a baseball glove returns to the site for holiday shopping. The retailer can then display the most popular baseball bats of the season as a way to acknowledge the shopper’s affinity for baseball gear. The experience becomes next-level personalized storytelling once the customer clicks on one of the bats and lands on the product details page (PDP). The retailer can then recommend related “stocking-stuffer” items such as batting gloves or baseball doughnuts.

By understanding the landscape of gifting during the holidays, as well as the context and behavior of each customer, retailers can build entire stories simply by guiding site visitors through relevant product recommendations.

If telling an intricate, multi-page story with personalized product recommendations isn’t in the cards this year, then retailers should at least start with location-based gift recommendations on each category page.

Create Urgency And Minimize Obstacles With Unique Content

To reinforce shoppers’ interests or trigger responses from hesitant shoppers, retailers can adopt strategies like “continue shopping” recommendations and targeted pop-ups.

Targeted pop-ups evoke a fear of missing out and elicit an immediate response from visitors, especially if the messaging communicates a time limit (such as “x hours left to order to receive before the holidays”).

“Continue shopping” recommendations lower the barrier to purchase and increase upsell potential by making the transition from cart to category page a seamless experience.

Personalized remarketing email campaigns are another way for retailers to make sure hesitant shoppers are as empowered as they can be when it comes to making informed purchases.

Emailing past purchasers and cart abandoners with popular gift items related to their previous behavior can ease consumers’ gift-searching experiences by minimizing the search aspect of their experience.

The second part to this is the concept of going beyond simple pop-ups and information triggers to provide more robust content. People are often more stressed than usual during the holidays; therefore, the less stressful their buying journey can be, the more likely they are to reach the checkout page.

Often this content can be something as simple as offering transparent information about shipping costs — but other examples include category gift guides and curated holiday bundles.

Some retailers today are explicitly offering guided shopping experiences by asking site visitors about their shopping goals, then serving up content and experiences to help them meet these individual goals.

Going above and beyond to not only show customers they care about them but to also simplify the entire shopping experience can drastically increase both a retailer’s conversion rates and their average order value.

Again, if building out a multi-channel, holiday-specific content strategy isn’t in the cards for this upcoming season, then retailers should start with a simple, curated holiday gift newsletter.

Create a Seamless Cross-Device Experience

A personalized shopping experience goes beyond optimizing the ecommerce experience on the desktop alone.

It’s especially important to pay attention to the experience across mobile devices, where retailers have less time and space to capture a customer’s attention.

If a retailer uses two personalization elements on their desktop experience, on mobile they should use five.

They should also aim for cross-device personalization to create a frictionless journey from desktop to mobile, including cart continuity.

Guaranteeing a visitor doesn’t lose all of their progress when switching from one device to another can mean the difference between converting that visitor into a shopper and losing them altogether.

Other cross-device features that retailers should look to enable this holiday season include:

  • a responsive site design for both desktop and mobile optimization,
  • a device-specific content hierarchy to prioritize what’s shown first when less real estate is available, and
  • mobile-powered tools (such as image search or voice assisted shopping) that live on one device but enhance the experience on all devices.

Finally, if a full-fledged cross-device strategy isn’t realistic this year, then at bare minimum retailers should ensure their mobile web experience is digestible and easy to use.

Updating online merchandising for the holiday season is often seen as “decorating” the website, simply surfacing universally popular gifts to the top of the page or changing the copy to be more seasonal. But if retailers want to truly ‘wow’ their customers and increase engagement and conversion, they will need to go above and beyond by creating seamless digital experiences that cater to the wants, needs, and behaviors of each and every individual.

Meet The Author

Matt is the Global Head of Marketing at Nosto, the leading personalization platform for digital commerce. Previously, Matt ran marketing at SimpleReach, a content marketing analytics platform that was acquired by Nativo, and Indicative, a behavioral analytics platform for marketers. Spanning his fifteen year career, Matt has worked for numerous technology companies with goals usually related to helping marketers sell their products more efficiently.

Tune Site Search Results: Making Holiday Shopping Easier (And Faster)

Similar to the SEO work you do to rank well on Google (or on Amazon), you can use search data to optimize your own on-site search engine.

Google’s search engine isn’t the only one that needs to be optimized. The search tools on your store’s pages are at the heart of the customer journey, so it’s important that they’re fit for purpose.

Fine-tuning your website’s search results will help your customers find exactly what they are looking for easily. It’s great for them — and for you, too. A superb search experience helps shoppers through the buying process and leads them to the checkout with as little friction as possible.

This is especially helpful over the busy winter holidays, when customers will flock to brands that make the holiday shopping process painless, and even enjoyable.

And unlike Google search results, where SEO success is as much an art form as a science, with site search you have direct control over how well search operates on your site.

But first — why search?

The truth is, on-site search is often something merchants take for granted. And until we encounter a better alternative, it’s easy to overlook just how counterintuitive and unhelpful the majority of site searches are. But once you’ve been introduced to it, you’ll start seeing the flaws of the older, primitive search on sites all over the web.

Search Features to Get You Ready for the Holidays

1. Error tolerance.

You know those ‘did you mean…’ messages that pop up above the search box when you make a spelling error? This is a form of error tolerance. In a nutshell — the search engine recognizes that you made a mistake and attempts to fix it for you.

Until recently, all the possible errors and their corrections had to be pre-programmed into a search engine’s list of possible results. This technology is somewhat primitive today, and prone to problems. What if a shopper makes an unforeseen mistake?

Smarter site engines use the search data they collect on a continuous basis to work out what customers meant, even when they make a spelling or grammatical error.

And it works.

Digital equipment supplier Xpres struggled with their website’s restrictive built-in search functionality. Search results were often incorrect, and some products were undiscoverable. Klevu’s search engine brought them the level of precision their customers needed to find their products, and they saw a 19.8% increase in revenue after switching.

Despite this leap forward and the real-world benefits to companies like Xpres, the vast majority of websites are still using the old technology.

2. Visual search interface.

Amazing search shouldn’t redirect you until you’ve clicked on a product. Instead, search results should be displayed visually in the search box itself, even as autocomplete options while you type.

Visual search interface

Instead of a drop down menu to house your search filters, they are displayed as categories in an open sidebar. All of these visual and predictive features combine to make something that Klevu calls ‘Smart Category Navigation.’

Like error tolerance, it helps reduce friction to the checkout. But it goes much further, too — offering an intuitive interface that customers, once they’ve used it, won’t ever want to be without.

3. Narrow products down based on their reviews.

You can use a custom keyword list to train a search robot to learn the unique elements relating to your store and its products.

So when you want to look for a “great christmas gift for mom”, the results you see will be smart, tailored, and based on the reviews of actual customers.

4. Natural language processing.

In case you’re unfamiliar with NLP, it refers to the branch of computer science that teaches computers how to process and interpret large amounts of natural language data.

A good search engine will be able to understand the nuances of human language to figure out what the shopper wants and then display it. These capabilities will be especially helpful when dealing with higher volumes of data throughout the season.

5. Say ‘no!’ to no results.

All that is achieved with a “no results found” page is letting your customers know you’ve failed to give them what they want.

Error tolerance decreases this chance significantly by making it more likely that the engine will recognize what the shopper is looking for, but not even a lack of suitable products should be presented as a blank page.

Remember the Amazon Prime Day puppies? It might be best to choose something other than puppies for your own brand — but this is a great example of using results, options, or visuals to turn your “no results” pages into something meaningful.

For instance, you can update content on your “no results” page to feature holiday gift guides. Essentially, you want EVERY page on your site to have a clear purpose that will give shoppers a positive moment with your brand.

6. Holiday banners.

Feature banners right in the search bar, so your customers are presented with promotions, deals, and messages that are relevant to them.Holiday banners

You don’t need us to tell you how much competition there is leading up to the winter festivities. Having the opportunity to present relevant promotions to customers in a place where they are already engaging with you is a great way to incentivize or encourage them to spend more with your brand.

While we briefly touched on it earlier, it’s very important to remember that the features we’ve listed in this chapter, and more besides, are all driven by AI. The technology’s ability to draw conclusions about large pieces of data means it learns and improves over time, offering a depth of insight and accuracy that could not be reached in the past.

When it’s used to deliver site search, you can expect a shopping experience that is a joy for your customers to use. Clever features that reduce friction get shoppers to the checkout quickly, turning them into paying customers.

And when customers have a wonderful, stress-free experience with a brand around the holidays, guess who they’ll return to next year?

Meet The Author

Kollectify are a team of Content Marketing Consultants for e-commerce solutions. Brimming with knowledge and expertise in data driven content marketing strategies, we want to make the e-commerce world a better place for merchants and shoppers alike by promoting the smartest e-commerce solutions.

Expect the Best: Packaging Guidelines For Holiday 2019

The holiday season is an online retailer’s Superbowl — the season you’ve been getting ready for all year.

In some industries, up to 30% of an entire year’s sales are generated in November and December. Getting ready for “game day” means prepping your site, polishing your fulfillment operations, stocking up on inventory, hiring, investing in marketing initiatives, and…buying packaging.

Don’t make the mistake of leaving your packaging strategy and purchasing to the last minute! Here we share tips on how to design and execute an exceptional holiday packaging experience.

Build a Great Packaging Experience

The holidays are the perfect time to revamp your packaging experience to strengthen your brand, build customer loyalty, and manage your operations and shipping costs. During the holidays, online shoppers are taking the time to discover new companies — including yours — and the shipped package is the first physical touchpoint they have with your brand and story. And, since holiday shoppers are typically buying gifts for their loved ones, it means you have the chance to delight not one, but two customers with one purchase.

What makes packaging design exceptional for an ecommerce brand?

1. Choose the right type of outer packaging.

Are you going with boxes or mailers? Paper or poly mailers? This decision should be based on your brand and values, what you sell, how heavy and bulky your products are, your fulfillment operations, and the importance of managing your shipping costs.

Shipping box:

Shipping boxes make for an excellent customer experience. Boxes are great at protecting products, can be beautifully branded, and allow you to offer a unique and memorable unboxing experience by wrapping your items in tissue paper, stickers, and ribbons or twine.

But boxes are the most expensive packaging solution, and bulky — making them more expensive to ship to your warehouse, harder to store, and often result in a higher cost of shipping your products to customers.

For example, a sweatshirt could be shipped in a tab locking shipping box that is likely to cost $0.50 to $0.70 each. Shipping the boxes to your warehouse might cost about 15% of the price of the packaging, depending on where its shipping from. Then, shipping your product from a Colorado warehouse to a New Jersey customer in the box would be about $13.

Cool Two Color Print

Source: EcoEnclose

Poly mailer:

Poly mailers are made with thin, flexible plastic and are a popular way to ship apparel. These mailers are inexpensive, strong and durable, and are so lightweight, making them easy and cost-efficient to ship and store. While poly mailers can be custom branded, they typically don’t provide the “wow” factor that a gorgeous shipping box brings. Additionally, the flimsy nature of a poly mailer makes it a great solution for apparel, but not functional for rigid products (like jewelry or perfumes).

A poly mailer that could ship a sweatshirt would likely cost about $0.10 to $0.20 each, and shipping it to your warehouse would likely cost about 5% of the total price of the packaging itself. Shipping your product in the mailer from a Colorado warehouse to a New Jersey customer would cost about $11.

100RPM Cust1

Source: EcoEnclose

Poly bubble mailers are becoming more popular as well, because they offer some of the benefits of a poly mailer (lightweight packaging solution that is more affordable than a box or a paper mailer) but have the cushion and rigidity to be used as a packaging solution for more irregular items like jewelry or essential oils.

Paper mailer:

With the onset of the plastic-free movement, paper-based mailers are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to poly mailers. They tend to be a more expensive solution than poly mailers but are still more affordable than a shipping box.

A paper mailer designed to hold a sweatshirt is likely to cost $0.35 to $0.45 each, and shipping this packaging to your warehouse might be about 10% of the total packaging price. Shipping the product from a Colorado warehouse to a New Jersey customer in the paper mailer would be about $12.

RepYourWater Custom Mailer min

Source: RepYourWater

2. Consider branding your outer packaging.

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.

And, at a time of year when your customers are likely to come home to a myriad of generic large RSC boxes from mass marketplaces that contain more air than product, you can truly set your company apart with a thoughtful packaging experience that elevates your direct customer connection.

Package branding can be as simple as adding your logo and tagline to your shipping box, to something more ornate (the other day, I got an awesome shipping box in the mail with a company’s entire domestic and independent supply chain illustrated!). The following images show a simple logo print, a box printed with a company’s core values and sustainability commitment, and then a box that is an integral part of the customer experience.

yournnonce

A simple printed name on your packaging can make all the different to a customer’s experience.

Source: Your Nonce

Alluvian FlexoInk Photoshoot 2 1718 1

Use your packaging as a reminder of your resourcefulness and sustainability.

Source: Livingink Technologies

Bedrock Box

Use your packaging to show your brand imagery.

Source: Bedrock Sandals

3. Don’t forget about inner packaging.

Packaging often needs void fill for dunnage and to add protection. But beyond that, unique packaging (you know, the kind that prompts social media posts), exhibits incredible attention to detail when it comes to inner packaging.

Wrap products so they are beautiful and “gift-giving-ready” for your customer. The joy you can bring to a customer by saving them the burden of some last-minute gift wrapping can go a long way in creating a loyal customer for life!

Add a branded card your customers can use to write a note with their gift. Include branded stickers for your customer or their gift recipient…everyone loves stickers!

KEG 3752 1

Source: Joone Creative

4. Returnability can make or break the sale.

In some categories, such as apparel, up to 30% of online purchases are returned. And 96% of consumers will go back to companies who made returns and exchanges as seamless as possible.

Making returns painless not only strengthens customer loyalty, it also benefits your operations — fielding those return requests takes customer service a lot of time! How can you build the dream return process during the holiday season?

  • Use resealable mailers (mailers with a “dual peel and seal”) or add an extra poly mailer to each shipment.
  • 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.
  • Include a short note that can be given to the recipient, detailing how to make a return or exchange.

5. The easily forgotten things.

You’ll need shipping labels. You may need packaging tape. You might want to stock up on manual and automated tape dispensers. You may need labels and label dispensers. Don’t forget about these more mundane packaging necessities.

6. Consider sustainability best practices.

As you develop the optimal packaging strategy, be sure to consider the ecological impact of your decisions. Americans generate about 25% more trash during the holiday season — an extra one million tons of garbage each week! Clearly, this is a huge problem for the planet.

Consumers are more aware of this waste than ever, both the impact of the waste on our environment and that it makes people feel bad to dispose of mounds of packaging garbage. By focusing on sustainability (and telling your customers you are doing so!), you can stand out from the crowd of other brands.

  • Make your shipping packages fit your products. Shoppers will be sick of opening up large boxes only to find one or two tiny items inside. Get packaging that snuggly fits your products.
  • Use recycled content in your packaging.
  • Use packaging that is easy to recycle.
  • Encourage your customers to recycle their holiday packaging.
  • Consider reusability when possible, such as reusable gift wrap and ribbon.

Order Smart, Order Early

Forecast your packaging needs

Once you’ve detailed your packaging strategy, list out all of the items and different sizes you’ll need, and use your holiday forecast to estimate quantities of each. Here’s an example of a packaging forecast:

Poly Mailer, Branded: 6×10

1000

Poly Mailer, Branded: 9×12

300

Shipping Boxes, Non Branded, 6x4x2

1200

Water Activated Packaging Tape

20 rolls

Shipping Labels

15 rolls

Kraft Paper For Gift Wrap

1 roll

Branded Notecards

2500

Order on time (i.e., early)

Find your packaging partner and order earlier than you think you need to!

If possible, get your holiday packaging ordered by mid-September.

Once October hits, you want to be spending your company’s time on marketing, sales, customer service, and fulfillment — not worrying about packaging! Ordering these supplies by September means you aren’t nervously waiting for packaging to ship, reloading tracking information every hour. Running a business is stressful enough without wondering if your packaging will arrive in time.

By ordering early, you also get ahead of potential out-of-stock issues. Just like you, packaging suppliers are forecasting their needs. If their demand outstrips their forecast, they may run out of stock on items later in the season.

Here are a few hard dates and tips to keep in mind:

Lead times: If you anticipate using non-branded packaging, you’re likely looking at a short one to three day lead time to get your packaging shipped out, and then another two to four days of transit time.

Lead times for custom packaging and marketing materials are typically a minimum of about two weeks up to twelve weeks (and even more with overseas manufacturers!).

These custom packaging lead times kick in after proofs are final and approved, so when backwards-planning your ordering timeline, you’ll want to bake in a cushion, as you may find you want some iterations on artwork before your design is finalized.

40% of people start their holiday shopping before Halloween.

If you want to be ready with all of your shipping supplies by Halloween:

  • Order branded packaging by September 10 to give you a buffer of a six-week lead time and one week for shipping.
  • Order stock packaging by October 21.

Cyber 5 kicks off on Thanksgiving — November 28.

  • Order branded packaging by October 1 to give you a buffer of a seven-week lead time and one week for shipping.
  • Order stock packaging by November 15.

Prep Your Operations

Do you have space to store and organize your packaging when it arrives? Know in advance how much space you’ll need? Shipping boxes in particular are always bigger and bulkier than companies anticipate.

Do you have a good setup and process to conduct your entire packaging workflow (including any holiday-specific additions such as gift wrapping or adding material for returns)?

Is your shipping software ready? For example, if you are adding an option for customers to tell you they are ordering gifts, do you have a way to get that information on your picklists or packing slips so you can wrap their products accordingly?

Do you have a reliable process, such as cycle counting or kanban cards, to flag when you are running low on your shipping supplies or are at a run rate to outpace your forecast?

Have a packaging backup plan

Have a Plan B, just in case you do run out of supplies. If you use custom branded packaging with long lead times, you may decide that you’ll move to stock packaging if you outpace your forecast and run out. You could add a branded sticker (which typically has lower lead times than custom printed packaging) to maintain some element of personalization to the experience.

HOLIDAY PACKAGING READINESS: A HANDY CHECKLIST

  • Design your packaging experience.
    • Does it align with and strengthen your brand?
    • Are you gift wrapping or adding other unique elements to the packaging experience?
    • Have you made it easy for your customer / gift recipient to return or exchange?
    • Have you considered the sustainability of your packaging strategy?
  • Create your supplies list and forecast.
    • Do you have your sales forecast?
    • Have you created a full shipping supplies forecast?
    • Does your forecast include essential (but easy to forget) items like tape and shipping labels?
    • Do you have a backup strategy if you unexpectedly run out of supplies?
  • Establish your packaging partner(s).
    • Do you know their lead times?
    • Do you have a reliable way to connect with your packaging partner with questions or issues?
  • Place your order(s).
    • Do you know your deadline for ordering custom branded packaging?
    • Do you know your deadline for ordering stock packaging?
  • Prep your operations.
    • Do you know where your shipping supplies will be stored?
    • Do you have your workflow and setup established to package and ship out orders?
    • Is your order, packing and shipping software ready?
    • Do you have a process and an owner for tracking your shipping supplies and reordering if needed?

Meet The Author

Saloni is the CEO and Chief Eco Geek at EcoEnclose, a leading provider of sustainable shipping solutions for ecommerce brands. She is passionate about helping conscious companies launch, grow, and thrive. In the last three years, EcoEnclose has helped over 20,000 companies ship their products in ways that strengthen their brand and support the planet.

Discover the Right Shopping Channel: BOPIS and Your Customers

For most consumers, the holiday season is the most wonderful — but also the busiest — time of the year. That’s why retailers are increasingly looking for ways to make it easier than ever for shoppers to check things off their list and go on their merry way as fast as possible.

In order to meet customers’ time constraints, retailers can implement buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) in order to save shoppers time. The practice of offering BOPIS has grown as shoppers become too busy to browse items in-store and more comfortable buying online. It allows retailers to blend the online and in-store experience to engage with customers while still offering a more convenient way to shop.

BOPIS is key to delivering convenience by enabling customers to select which items they want to purchase immediately, and which items are worth waiting for.

In fact, according to a recent study by The National Retail Federation:

  • 70% of consumers opted to use BOPIS to avoid paying for shipping fees.
  • 83% of consumers who utilized BOPIS opted to pick up their merchandise at the cash register within the physical store.
  • 63% of consumers sought the ability to utilize curbside pickup.
  • 50% of consumers asked to retrieve their purchases from a locker.

This holiday season, retailers can enable BOPIS to eliminate the pains of shipping and processing while delivering a convenient shopping experience.

Dashing Through the Consumer’s BOPIS Journey

Remember that the holidays can be an extremely stressful time for consumers with parties, family get-togethers, decorating, and of course, shopping.

Many often scramble to finalize their gift lists and find themselves running against tight deadlines to complete all their shopping, with no time to wait around for a package to be delivered.

In order to help consumers throughout the season’s chaos, retailers should first create an enhanced in-store mobile experience that delivers real-time inventory visibility from the consumer’s local store through the mobile app.

Providing accurate and real-time inventory visibility through the store’s mobile app will not only help to improve the consumer’s experience, but it will also establish the expectation that the retailer can provide a reliable and enhanced level of convenience.

The last thing a consumer wants is to purchase a gift through the app selecting a BOPIS fulfillment option, only to arrive at the store and find out the product is not available or has been substituted for something else.

With real-time local inventory visibility at hand, the consumer can choose when and where to pick up their products. Retailers can also go one step further, giving the consumer the ability to split the order for pickup at different locations.

Once purchased, the consumer should be easily guided through next steps for picking up their purchased products. This can include receiving a text message or push notification with the receipt or QR code for the order, as well as quick and easy instructions about where their product will be waiting in the store.

Retailers can also proactively communicate with customers using push notifications throughout all steps of the shopping journey — letting them know when the order has been received, notifying them the order is being prepared, and confirming when the order is ready for pickup — all on the customer’s mobile device.

This makes it easy for retailers to focus on end-to-end communication with their customers by maintaining customers’ satisfaction at every stage.

Fully Build Out BOPIS Capabilities

To make consumers’ BOPIS necessities come to life, retailers need to consider the following:

1. Real-time inventory capabilities.

Retailers need to analyze and implement the right technology components in order to deliver the most up-to-date inventory available to the consumer.

This can be done by easily connecting all components of the retailer’s fulfillment system, even old systems that only do batch ordering, to create real-time analytics on order statuses, workflows, overall cycle time, locations handling, and customer engagement.

2. Competing in the “Age of Amazon.”

With Amazon and additional big box retailers enticing consumers with same-day shipping, retailers can utilize BOPIS to more effectively compete.

By utilizing their current in-store network as a fulfillment hub, retailers can instantly offer consumers the product they are in search of at the location nearest to them, without succumbing to the cost of shipping charges.

3. Layout of the store.

Retailers should consider how customerswill pick up their products — i.e., should the consumer walk toward the cash register or pick up the items from a locker?

This is an opportunity for retailers to utilize the increased foot traffic to maximize their customer experience, and the layout will be key.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like ROPIS

ROPIS, also known as “reserve online and pick up in-store,” is another fulfillment option that retailers should take advantage of to drive sales and customer loyalty during the holiday season.

For example, retailers can utilize ROPIS to drive more in-store traffic by allowing the customer to feel assured about the product or gift they are purchasing given that they will have the ability to “try it before they buy it.”

As well, if used correctly, retailers gain the ability to drive additional product purchases by taking advantage of the customer’s presence at the store.

According to First Insight, 71% of surveyed consumers answered that they typically spend more than $50 when shopping in-store, compared to only 54% of respondents who answered that they spend more than $50 when shopping online.

Although most retailers have been slow to provide this option to shoppers, there are many benefits of ROPIS that should be integrated into a store’s omnichannel offerings, presenting even more choices for how customers want to shop.

For instance, when it comes to big-ticket items such as household appliances and designer products — including jewelry, handbags and sunglasses — giving consumers the ability to see and test the item before completing the purchase can lead to increased conversions as consumers can take the time to ‘test’ the item before buying.

According to a recent consumer survey by PushOn, 82% of consumers believed in-store purchasing gave them more security when shopping for expensive items because they could see exactly what a product looked like before committing to the purchase.

This can be especially beneficial for customers looking to purchase high-end gifts for the holidays.

For example, let’s say Richard is looking to buy a new diamond necklace for his wife’s Christmas present. While she’s not looking, he browses her favorite jeweler’s ecommerce website to find the perfect necklace. Once reserved, he zips into the store after work to inspect the jewelry before making his final purchase decision — all without skipping a beat.

Going Beyond BOPIS With ROPIS

Allowing customers to really see, feel, and experience the item before completing the purchase has all the benefits of a BOPIS strategy while creating an even more hassle-free checkout process that minimizes the chance of returns.

As retailers deal with an average of $351B in returns annually due to ill-fitting sizes or the wrong product, ROPIS gives retailers the opportunity to offer their customers advanced omnichannel offerings. These options make it easier than ever for shoppers to purchase the right product the first time, decreasing return rates and increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Meet The Author

Casey Gannon is an experienced tech marketer, driven to develop marketing strategies that blend traditional techniques with emerging technology. With over ten years of experience in mobile, she believes that mobile apps are the modern solution in helping retailers directly connect with and impact consumers. When she’s not looking ahead to the next opportunity, Casey is a busy mom, soccer player and adjunct professor at her alma mater, St. Edward’s University.

Go Global for the Holidays: Steps to International Expansion Before December

While world domination may sound like a menacing plan straight out of a spy movie, securing your global expansion plans should be a large part of your strategy as you’re planning ahead of the holiday season.

Before you decide to jump in and tackle the global marketplace during your busiest and biggest selling period, you’ll need to take certain steps during this critical planning period to make sure everything works correctly and you avoid any large-scale disasters come the holidays.

Keep in mind that selling internationally isn’t just for larger brands. Businesses of all sizes can plan to go global for the holidays as long as they use the right methods and plan effectively.

Research Your Markets

Knowledge is power.

Before taking your products international, you will need a better understanding of the taxes, customs, duties, and any other requirements of the countries you are looking to sell in. This will ensure you position your business and your products more effectively and keep your customers informed of any charges they may incur on their end.

Your customers and their purchasing habits should also be a key part of your research and planning. Just because you have a clear understanding of your buyer personas and sales trends in your current market, doesn’t mean this will translate well in another country.

Using tools like PayPal’s PassPort Site will you provide you with more information on global buying trends. Learn what products are in demand in your targeted sales region so you can make the best decisions when it comes to positioning your business on a global scale.

Test Those Markets Early

Take a look at your current data and see where customers are already buying from. If specific countries are more popular than others, use this time to test those markets with your global selling strategy.

Look to expand your reach by investing a little more in these markets. You could start small by using other sales channels such as eBay and Amazon to gain a greater presence in new countries and test demand before committing fully.

Seeing how these geographies perform prior to the holiday season will give you a better indication of where you may want to invest more in the future, such as setting up a web presence specific to those locations.

Payment Methods are Key to Securing Customers

When selling globally, a huge portion of abandoned carts come from customers not being able to use their preferred payment method when shopping online.

Buyers want to feel secure and protected in making a purchase, which is why using a payment gateway they recognize can help to increase those conversions.

Consider using a payment method that already has a strong global reputation, such as PayPal. Already built in to BigCommerce so it’s easy to set up, PayPal is used worldwide and is known for its security and purchase protection.

Remember, it is all about familiarity. Going global necessitates building trust, so doing what you can to make the buying process as familiar and native to specific markets as possible will increase your sales and improve your international presence.

Optimize Your Website

Making sure your website is fully optimized for international visitors prior to the festive season will ensure you are on the right path to boosting your global sales.

Optimizing your website can mean many things. From making sure to clearly display relevant shipping and delivery information per country, to installing a multi-language toggle for your website — you should be thinking about your customers all over the world and their experience of using your website.

You might also want to consider building a targeted website specific to a region. For example, you already have a U.S. site but find online shoppers from Germany have a particular interest in your products. How can you cater to this market more effectively? Setting up a website in a local domain name for the German market, along with currency conversion, text translation, and delivery costs all specific to the region, will provide you with more flexibility and provide your German customers with a better shopping experience.

It’s also important to recognize that different cultures may perceive images and content differently. Colors are a prime example of this. In South Africa, the color red can symbolize mourning whereas, in Chinese culture, red represents a celebration. Think about your promotional materials and how you can tailor your content to suit each sales region.

Showing your customers around the globe that you care about their purchases and strengthening your relationship with them will help you to increase their lifetime value.

Take Your Discounts International

The U.S. is set to see record-breaking sales this holiday season, likely reaching the $124 billion mark — and it’s not just in the U.S. Ecommerce growth surges globally over the festive period, which is why you should consider how you can capitalize on those international markets.

When establishing your holiday promotions, think beyond the Black Friday and Cyber Monday mayhem. Change up your messaging by looking at the global promotional calendar, increasing your sales with international shoppers in the quiet space before your regular promotions begin.

A prime example of this is Single’s Day on November 11, a day of massive sales by Chinese retailer Alibaba. In 2018, Single’s Day generated $30.8 billion in product sales, making it a huge source of revenue for the ecommerce giant.

A Note on Fulfillment

Do you need multiple distribution centers?

Fulfillment can be a stressful process over an already busy holiday season, so when adding international orders into the mix, you better make sure you’ve got a plan.

You might want to start out by integrating a tool like Global-e into your store. Designed specifically to help ecommerce businesses grow their international sales, Global-e aims to create a seamless localized shopping experience for your customers and make fulfillment a much smoother process in the backend.

Global-e can provide multiple shipping options and local returns solutions, and it can handle the customs and regulations relating to whichever country you are selling in. It’s a no-brainer if you want to take your business global for the holidays.

Meet The Author

Passionate about the written word and all things digital, Michelle Rooker works for Birmingham-based agency 5874 as their resident Content Specialist. With experience working across a broad spectrum of industries, including the ecommerce and property sectors, Michelle has produced content for the likes of Yumi, Want That Trend and Chickidee.

The Technical Bits: Site Preparedness Before the Holidays

Just like any brick-and-mortar store, your website must be ready to shepherd a crowd of shoppers through your front door, down the aisles, and to the register.

On the front end, that means quick-loading pages, intuitive navigation, and secure checkout.

It also means making sure that your integrations and data are syncing across your organization as planned, and that your site’s back end is cleaned up to prevent any downtime-related incidents.

Here are a few items to check off your site readiness list:

1. Test your infrastructure.

Do a round of load testing to ensure servers can handle increases in traffic and transactions. Reach out to your technology provider like BigCommerce. These companies can help you perform load testing to determine visit numbers and traffic patterns.

2. Keep a clean house.

Do a survey of your website to ensure there are no broken images or hyperlinks. Purge old data, set object retentions, and be cognizant of system quotas. Check the health of your site and review 404 errors in webmaster tools. Use 301s to redirect any 404s.

3. Check your site load speed.

Use a free online tool like GTmetrix. Your page load time should be under three seconds — any longer than that and you’ll be looking at very high bounce rates. If your load speed isn’t optimal, GTmetrix will provide you with a detailed list of recommendations on what to change, such as optimizing your image sizes for web or reducing redirects. Having too many plugins and apps that need to load can also slow down your site speed.

4. Add trusted payment methods.

Make sure your PayPal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, and any other payment options are functional and working properly across your funnel.

5. Test your third-party integrations.

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. This is exactly what happened to GymShark in 2015 when an app integration caused their site to go down for eight hours straight on Black Friday. Unless something is broken, put a “code freeze” in place a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

6. Back up your store data.

You’ve spent months prepping your website with new content, products, and collections for the holiday season. You don’t want all of that work to be lost during crunch time and to disappoint your customers. Learn from GymShark’s disaster — having regular backups of your website is like an insurance policy against downtime. Tools like Rewind can automate backups of your store so you can just set it and forget it.

For digital brands, your online store is the heartbeat of the business. So don’t skip over the technical bits that will keep your store in good health.

Meet The Author

Rally Stanoeva is a Marketing Manager at Rewind, a backup and recovery company dedicated to saving business owners from data loss. She specializes in working with technology startups to understand their customers, define their brand, and manage strategic partnerships.

Conclusion

The holidays are an exciting time for shoppers and retailers alike — and it’s the perfect season to remind us how good it feels to give. Excited holiday shoppers are seeking the perfect gifts for everyone from spouses, friends, and family, to neighbors and office mates — even their kids’ teachers and coaches.

And these shoppers are willing to spend. In 2018, NRF found that consumers plan to spend a total of $1,007 on average during the holidays. Figures like this sometimes lead to discussions about commercialism, but research shows that gift-giving is an important part of human interaction, and builds strong bonds with the recipients.

The joy and buzz of gift-giving — and the camaraderie is creates — translate into important revenue for just about every kind of merchant. Whether you’re a one-person shop or a fully stacked ecommerce team, there are a number of ways you can prepare for the holiday season.

By planning ahead to attract more eyes, provide a frictionless buyer’s journey and experience, and make sure your technical ducks are all in a row, you set yourself up to bring some of those dollars your way.

In this guide, we’ve walked you through insights from industry experts that will help you position your marketing, logistics, web presence, and last-mile shipping & packaging above your competitors. You can follow these strategies to have your most successful holiday season yet.

Do you have a tip for the holidays? Feel free to leave it in the comments!

Want more insights like this?

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    Corinne Watson

    Corinne Watson

    Corinne is a writer and researcher at BigCommerce, where she works directly with agency and technology partners to bring their tools, services and ideas to the commerce industry at large. Before BigCommerce, she was an education specialist at Skills Fund, where she built resources and ran trainings to give students access to life-changing skills. Corinne holds degrees in graphic design and psychology. After college, she transitioned into the marketing and research space through a self-taught mindset – and works to bring the value of that skill and mindset to others. When she’s not writing, she’s volunteering with nonprofit organizations, traveling the world, or digging into a new book.

    View all posts by Corinne Watson

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