2014 Holiday Marketing Guide: Lessons From the Big Wigs

by Chelsea Baldwin

Last updated on December 29th, 2017

Halloween is just around the corner, and before the jack-o-lanterns come down, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations go up.

Merchants open themselves for business to rake in the holiday profits earlier every year—but the planning starts long before the decoration and themed ads.

E-commerce sites are no different from brick-and-mortar stores in holiday preparations: they’ve got to decorate their stores, put out themed ads, feature special products, and offer deals that give them an edge above their competitors.

So what if you’re a B2C site manager who just realized you’ve got less than three months until Christmas and not a single thing planned? Don’t lose heart—you can still get your fair share of the $82 billion in online sales expected to happen this holiday season.

Since so many e-commerce giants do holiday marketing so well, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to making this season’s marketing plan. All you need to do is follow their lead for inspiration, mixing in a heavy dose of your own creativity.

Promotional Calendar: The Base of It All

Your promotional calendar is where it all starts. Start with special consumer-based days like Cyber Monday, Black Friday, Free Shipping Day, and end-of-year sales, and structure your ad promotions, sale items, coupons, and social media pushes to build up to these days.

Depending on your bandwidth to get work done, choose at least two holidays: Cyber Monday and Christmas, adding in more if your team can handle it.

Beyond that, take a look at last year’s holiday sales data to find out which products sold the best when, what advertising methods and promotions worked best, and which types of coupons were redeemed the most. Pencil this into your calendar to figure out which product discounts to give, packages you can sell, and where to allocate your advertising budget.

From this rough skeleton of a calendar, take each of the below sections and work them into your calendar according to your marketing team’s bandwidth. With a little planning and time dedication now, you’ll see the payoff by the end of the season.

Holiday planning calendar

Bestsellers & Loyal Customers

Especially if you’ve never planned a holiday campaign before, using your best selling products and loyal customers as a springboard for planning is a non-intimidating place to start.

According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of your business comes from 20% of your total customer base, and this is unlikely to skew much during the holidays.

To increase your holiday sales, focus first and foremost on increasing your sales to your most loyal fans and of your top-selling items. Chances are you already know what you’re doing in that area, so you just need to ramp it up a bit with a holiday-focused twist.

Try offering specials on items people like to purchase together. Or offer them deadline-sensitive coupons for discounts on products or shipping as a thank-you for being loyal to you in the past.

Pre-order if necessary to make sure you’ll have a readily available stock of your best-selling items ready to ship.

Even though people buy more products than they normally would in their daily lives during the holiday season, it won’t make the demand for your regular best sellers go down. If anything, they’ll increase at least as much as your expected sales will—and this year it’s expected to be around a 15% increase in online shopping.

Update Your Logo, Landing Pages & Plan Ad Designs

Change your logo so it’s holiday-themed and puts your customers in the holiday spirit.

If you can, also update your landing page to a holiday design that inspires gift-giving and holiday feelings and promotes product exploration.

Volusion suggests even branding your action buttons, and to create a sense of urgency with a visible countdown.

Doing this may or may not have a direct impact on your sales, but the holiday spirit is contagious and something people look forward to each year, so every step you can take to put people in the right mood will work in your favor.

Amazon holiday design

Ebay holiday logo

Barnes and Noble holiday website design

Product Education & Gift Ideas Sections

Start publishing product education now and don’t stop.

It’s a good idea to produce this year-round, but if you’re just starting now, focus on your bestsellers.

Product education includes detailed product descriptions, testimonials, and product comparison posts for savvy shoppers who want the best value.

People want to know that they’re buying the best for their loved ones, or, at the very least, they want to know that someone else who bought the product was happy with it.

Beyond product-based education, cater to the hoards of shoppers who have a lot to buy but no idea where to start. Create gift-buying and shopping guides to send in your emails, along with gift idea lists and blog posts to help your customers find the perfect gifts for their loved ones.

holiday shopping list suggestions

Holiday Packages & Creative Promotions

Beyond ads, special package offers and creative promotions can prove quite useful in boosting your holiday sales.

For holiday packages, offer products that go together in bundles of two or three at discounted rates. Someone who wanted to give their dad a new watch for Christmas might also be happy to buy him a nice watch cleaning and repair kit if you offer it at $20 or $30 off the total price.

Another popular trend that helps you increase your sales and marketing efforts with little extra work is doing creative cross-promotions with other brands. In this way, you can sell product bundles that make gifts even more complete, even if you don’t have those products in your own inventory.

For example, an electronics retailer could boost their television sales by offering a free month of service from the local cable provider for every new television purchased. Beyond boosting the sale of TVs, the cable company also cashes in with new subscribers at the beginning of the year.

Free Shipping

Around the holiday season, people expect free shipping, but that doesn’t mean you have to give it away for free. After all, if enough people order a $5 item that costs $3 to ship, you’re going to be in the hole.

Setting a dollar amount that customers have to spend to qualify for free shipping is a great strategy to increase your sales. In fact, 70% of online shoppers will add items to their carts just so they can qualify for it.

To boost this number, add non-annoying popup reminders of how much more the customer has to spend in order to qualify for free shipping. For better results, suggest similar or complementary items close to the price they have to match to qualify.

Holiday free shipping guidelines

Participate in the Rush: Up Your Email Output

This is a big one.

The holiday rush gets bigger every year, and while doing things differently from the rest of the crowd can sometimes work in your favor, this isn’t one of those times.

Sending out regular email updates with increased frequency during the holiday season can actually boost your sales.

As long as the emails are tasteful, benefit the customer, feature products and promotions they’re interested in, and aren’t ridden with spammy language, you’ll notice a significant boost in your holiday sales by upping your email sending.

Holiday email marketing

Added Value Services

Added value services probably won’t become your main boost for holiday sales income—most people won’t opt for them. However, even if only a small percentage of your shoppers spend a few dollars on gift wrapping one item, to send an accompanying greeting card, or a higher premium for rushed shipping, that money adds up quickly in increasing your bottom line.

Offering services like gift wrapping or adding a greeting card if you’re delivering to a different address is an easy option to update on your end, simply adding a mandatory “yes” or “no” check box to your checkout process or adding a popup before the sale becomes final.

Holiday value added services

Once you start brainstorming with your team, looking over last year’s data, and filling in your holiday promotional calendar, you’ll start seeing your offers and promotions coming together in a promising way.

Oh, and don’t forget to optimize your shopping cart to minimize shopping cart abandonment. This guide will tell you how.

What were your most successful e-commerce holiday sales tactics last year? Will you do anything differently this year? Any advice for newbies planning their first strategy?

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Chelsea Baldwin.

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Chelsea Baldwin

Chelsea Baldwin is a web marketing consultant and business writer. She specializes in creating strategy-based content and marketing plans for better ROI and more sales. You can get in touch with her at chelsea@carolinafreelancewriter.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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