holiday ecommerceWhy on earth would you start planning for the winter holidays when Halloween isn’t even here yet? If that thought has crossed your mind in the last few seconds, be prepared for a shock: You’re already behind a majority of ecommerce companies. Believe it or not, consumers start their Christmas shopping around August, even if they’re only browsing at that point. If you’re not already thinking about how to handle the holiday rush, you might just get trampled.

So, how can you prepare your ecommerce business for the coming season? Here’s a little checklist that might just get you through.

Strategy

You need to start your strategy right away. By “strategy,” we mean everything, from inventory and staffing to marketing and shipping. Without at least one holiday season under your belt, you have no idea what to expect. Prepare for the best, brightest, busiest season and you should be able to handle anything that comes your way.

Start with projections. How much do you want to sell? How much do you think you’ll sell? What would give you the boost you need to reach your goals? From there, you can begin your marketing plans for the season.

Marketing Materials

You should have your marketing plans set, including the graphics you want to use and the emails you want to send. Will you offer special discounts, bundled items, or holiday products? You can’t decide the day before Black Friday or Cyber Monday and hope to get everything ready, can you? By preparing now, you can focus on other things later in the season.

Marketing Schedule

Once you know your special offers for the season, schedule them on your calendars. You can’t miss the first day of your own holiday sale, now, can you? The deadline for each offer should be clearly defined, too, or you could end up offering discounts and free items for months after the special promotions end.

You can also use this time to start segmenting your contact lists into groups for specific sales and items. Waiting until the last minute virtually guarantees your whole list will receive every single blast email you send. Multiple emails may irritate your buyers enough that they delete everything—including messages that just might have been tailored to their wish list.

The more you automate your process during the months leading up to the holidays, the more time you’ll have to spend on the unexpected. You want time to interact with your customers during the busiest season of the year, don’t you? Creating your marketing schedule early will allow you to do so.

Policy Audit

During the holiday season, you may want to change some of your stricter policies. After all, this is the season for giving gifts. If your return and exchange policies are too tough, buyers might just go elsewhere.

Changing your policies may not apply only to returns and customer service. Have you examined the different payment types you can accept? For the holiday season, you may want to include PayPal and other online wallets in addition to credit cards. If you really want to open up the possibilities, look into offering Bitcoin payments, too. The more options your buyers have, the more likely they’ll be to stick around and shop.

Create Your Landing Pages 

Nothing turns a buyer off more quickly than a shoddy landing page. You need time to create pages that will offer plenty of information while gently guiding visitors to the buy button. Those landing pages should have high-quality images, original text, item numbers, and suggested cross-sell and upsell items. Once they’re created, they should be linked to the correct PPC ads, emails, social media posts, and blog items. No one wants to search twice for the gifts they need.

This is only the beginning of your holiday season ecommerce planning. In the coming days, we’ll look at even more tasks you should complete, including staffing, shipping, and creating those PPC and retargeted ads. If you have something you’d like us to cover, let us know in the comments!  

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Originally published Oct 10, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016