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holiday ecommerce guide

Chapter 2: Connecting with Customers through the Holiday Season

Can you get customers into the holiday shopping spirit if they’re sitting at their computer in their bathrobe or tapping away at their tablets while stuck in traffic?

As it turns out – yes, you can.

Especially if your website, email and social media posts contain visual cues that remind them the clock is ticking – and the hunt is on to find the perfect gift at the perfect price.

In this chapter, we’ll talk about ways to beat the holiday rush and create a festive design that’s still user-friendly and easy to navigate. We’ll also review some email marketing strategies that will make sure people read and respond to your holiday messages.

It’s Time to Leverage the Holiday Spirit

From the first trickle of snowflakes, an amazing transformation happens. People become more cheerful, more giving and more aware of the spirit of the season.  And business owners, both online and offline, have always looked for ways to capitalize on that sensation – from playing Christmas carols in the store to offering free gift wrapping.

Online, things should be no different. Since your website is your showroom, now’s your chance to give it a festive wintery glow by adding some traditional, quirky or fun graphics.  Santa Claus, snowflakes, reindeer and wreaths all find their place among logos, but why not take things a step further?

Find ways to put visual holiday cues in all your marketing

1. Try switching out price seals for ornaments, navigation bars for scarves or any other number of festive ideas.


Hickory Farms’ website uses a snowy backdrop and
beautiful product photos to entice its customers

2. Make a holiday avatar. It’s not just product-selling sites that can get in on the action. A holiday-themed avatar for your blog commenters or forum posters is a simple way to delight visitors.

3. Update your social media backgrounds with holiday graphics. (Feature your holiday specials while you’re at it.)

Make sure it’s accessible from any device

No matter which selection of holiday elements you decide to incorporate into your website design, you definitely want that design to be responsive and mobile-friendly.

Many people will leave a site if it doesn’t perform or load well on their mobile device.  And with the myriad of responsive design options and flexible themes available, there’s no excuse not to make sure your site works flawlessly on all major devices.

Email Frequency over the Holidays

We’ve come to expect that our inboxes will be inundated with deals and offers over the holiday shopping season – but how many emails are too many?

That was the issue plaguing UncommonGoods, a unique gift website selling everything from handmade crafts to upcycled furniture.  Previously, they sent as many as five emails a week throughout December – and got a lot of unsubscribes as a result.  They’re not looking to make the same mistake twice.


UncommonGoods’ previous holiday email schedule
was costing them customers

So this year, they teamed up with email analytics provider AgilOne to determine if they could boost their customer engagement without losing customers.  By looking at their email marketing analytics, they were able to successfully segment customers based on their previous level of email opens and click-through rates, and then dynamically adjust how many emails those subscribers received.

As a result of its testing, UncommonGoods learned that their most enthusiastic participants responded best to two emails per week, whereas the less engaged customers tended to prefer only one email per week.

Using their email marketing provider SilverPop, UncommonGoods plans to further zero in on its email marketing capabilities by basing messages on what customers looked at previously when shopping.  So, for example, if they looked at home décor, the next email they received might feature new home décor items.

Tip 1: Find the email frequency that works best for your customers, then plan an email marketing strategy that keeps them engaged throughout the holidays.

Tip 2: If possible, give subscribers a choice. Here at The Daily Egg, subscribers can pick a Daily Alert or Weekly Digest. Perry Marshall recently sent an email to subscribers offering to let them change email frequency: 2-3 per day for super-engaged followers or once per week for the less engaged.

Polishing Off That List

Can you get more sales with fewer subscribers?  As it turns out, you don’t have to wait until spring to get some cleaning done – on your mailing list.  That’s what online jewelry retailer Limoges did during one of its busiest shopping seasons:


Limoges’ email list dazzled sales numbers and conversions
when it trimmed unresponsive customers

According to an in-depth article on Internet Retailer, Limoges first identified unresponsive customers as those who hadn’t opened an email in six months.  It then sent them a series of emails with three goals in mind:

  1. Encourage more interaction with emails
  1. Trim back the number of emails the customer received
  2. Remove the customer from the list entirely

Limoges started the campaign off by sending unresponsive subscribers a generous 25% off coupon via email. If the subscriber took the coupon bait, they were left on the typical engagement list (which sends out several emails each month).

For subscribers who clicked within a three-day time period, Limoges followed up with another email – but this one wasn’t promotional.  Instead, it asked them to choose which of two rings they preferred, a more traditional style or a more “fashion-forward” look.

No matter which style they clicked, these customers were also bumped back up to receiving email at regular intervals, since they had clearly demonstrated that they were interested in interacting with the company.

Customers who didn’t respond were added to an email list that sent out mails with less frequency. Six months later, the campaign was re-launched in a similar way.

Customers who didn’t interact with the messages were notified that they had been opted out of the email communications, although it also included instructions on how to sign back up again if they desired.

The Results

The results were pretty spectacular – trimming unresponsive subscribers and letting customers choose the frequency with which they received emails boosted clicks by 71% and conversion rates by an impressive 25%.

The bottom line is this: Particularly over the holidays, people’s email inboxes are going to be full of competing offers. Why not let them decide how often they’d like to hear from you, or let them express their opinion on a new product in your store by clicking through an email?

Either way, you gain valuable data on what your subscribers really want – rather than just throwing a bunch of emails at them and hoping something sticks!


Helpful Holiday Checklist…

►  Have you added a dash of festive cheer to your site through holiday graphics, avatars and logo updates?

►  Have you looked at your mailing list segments to determine ways that you can increase engagement without increasing email frequency?

►  Have you asked your customers how often they’d prefer hearing from you – if they want to hear from you at all?  Trimming the “dead weight” can boost response rates and get you more sales from the people who truly want to do business with you.


Now that you have a plan in place for getting customers into the holiday spirit, it’s time to plan a unique shopping experience for them.

In the next chapter, we’ll look at ways that you can make your customer’s shopping hassle-free and convenient. Everyone has at least one person on their gift list that’s a challenge to buy for – so following these next steps will eliminate frustration and turn your site into every shopper’s favorite destination.


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