While many consumers worry about “Christmas creep,” in which holiday season advertising and displays begin to appear in October, it’s never too early for small businesses, particularly retailers, to prepare, even online merchants.
All signs point to a happy and healthy holiday season. According to eMarketer’s Christmas sales projection, sales will jump 2.7 percent to $1.093 trillion in 2021, with e-commerce revenues rising 11.3 percent to $206.88 billion. They also claim that e-commerce will account for an all-time high of 18.9% of overall holiday retail sales. This projection is from February, so the figures could change—and we’re still waiting for the NRF (National Retail Foundation) to release their holiday sales forecast, which was raised in May.
In other positive news for in-store shops, many of the big box stores that have been open on Thanksgiving Day in the past will be closed this year, dampening in-store shopping on Black Friday and influencing sales at surrounding local companies. This is likely to boost internet sales this Thanksgiving, so make sure you’re ready.
How else can you prepare now that you know the terrain? The Complete 2021 Guide to Preparing Your Ecommerce Store for Holiday Magic, published by BigCommerce, is a good and thorough guide for small online retailers. BigCommerce lays forth a detailed 5-step plan for preparing for the next Christmas season in the report:
- Make preparations for approaching traffic.
- Create a hassle-free shopping experience for your customers.
- With shipping and fulfillment choices, you may surprise and amaze your customers.
- Create holiday marketing and promotions that are strategic.
- Customer service and assistance should be improved.
Preparation for the Holiday Season Sale
Prepare for the Cyber 5 ahead of time
If you want to be fully prepared for incoming traffic, make sure your equipment is up to date and capable of handling the increased holiday shopping traffic, especially between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday (referred to as the Cyber 5). You don’t want your website to fall down in the middle of a vital sales period.
You should also make sure that your site loads quickly—for e-commerce sites, two seconds is optimal.
Your Merchandise Should Be Highlighted
For both online and in-store businesses, emphasizing the things you want to sell is a wise strategy. Make gift idea bundles make the task of the shopper easier. Assemble a variety of gift baskets.
Make suggestions, such as “teacher ideas,” etc. Customers should be able to create their own baskets.
Consider adding a holiday section to your website to make it even easier for customers to find what they need.
Customers feel “seen,” “valued,” and “welcome” when they get a personalized purchasing experience. “Nearly 89 percent of marketers claim that adopting customization results in greater revenue,” according to BigCommerce.
According to the BigCommerce report, you may achieve this by asking consumers who they’re shopping for ahead of time (through surveys and pop-ups). “When it’s time to send promotional information, tag their profile so you can send content that’s related to purchasing for a certain person (e.g., cousin, uncle, daughter, etc.). This will boost revenue and conversion rates.”
There are various strategies to increase Christmas sales if you own a local physical business, whether it’s a store, a restaurant, a salon, or a gym, for example. Consider collaborating with other local companies to arrange a holiday shopping event, such as sidewalk sales, and offer each other’s consumers discounts.
Do you have any holiday-themed events in your neighborhood? Then participate in the fun by purchasing a booth, becoming a sponsor, donating money or merchandise, or volunteering.
Consider arranging an event for VICs (extremely important customers). Previously, business owners would invite their most valuable consumers to these gatherings. However, these days, you need to think about your customer demographics. Would older individuals or mothers with children, for example, prefer to shop when the store isn’t crowded?
Making it Simple to Pay
You should instantly increase your payment options if you haven’t already done so. eMarketer reports that:
- In 2021, the number of Americans aged 14 and up who use in-store mobile payment apps will reach 101.2 million.
- This follows a year-over-year increase of 29.0 percent in 2020.
- By 2025, half of all smartphone users will have used the device.
Today, there are a variety of payment choices to consider, including digital wallets like PayPal, Venmo, Google Pay Send (formerly Google Wallet), and Apple Pay.
Increase the Number of Sales Channels
Where are you selling right now? If you have a physical store, you most likely also have a successful e-commerce site. If you don’t already have one, start now! We don’t have time to waste. You should offer your products on mega-marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Etsy, and others, even if you already have a website or the web is your main sales outlet.
Social commerce, or selling through social media, is also on the rise; according to eMarketer, the number of social commerce purchasers will increase by 13% to 90.4 million this year.
Customers are looking for convenience
If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught in-store businesses, it’s that convenience is vital to satisfied customers. So they want shops to provide them with a smooth shopping experience by providing curbside pickup and BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store). They’re referred to as “click & collect” as a group.
And the number-one element motivating buyers to buy hasn’t changed in years: free shipping. Online shoppers cite free shipping as the number-one factor enticing them to buy. Customers want to track their purchases all year, but especially during the holidays, to know when they will be delivered.
According to BigCommerce, 96 percent of customers will return to merchants who “made returns and exchanges as simple as possible.” That includes having a clear return policy that is visible both on your website and in your store. If you usually have a limited return policy, you should reconsider. Consider extending it till the 31st of January. It’s also a good idea to include gift receipts with the order.
Make a Holiday Promotions
The goal is to start planning your Christmas marketing now and be ready to begin on November 1st, according to the BigCommerce guide.
According to the BigCommerce report, you can’t sell anything these days without a solid SEO plan, and if you want to “create new, organic traffic,” you should get started right away.
Don’t forget to include gift cards in your retail mix, whether you’re selling online or in person. Free gift-wrapping services are another perk that makes customers desire to buy with you. Consider gift wrapping packages with above a specific quantity of sales for online customers.
Customers shop where they feel appreciated, and rewarding them is one way to do so. Make sure you’ve set up a loyalty program that tracks both online and in-store transactions.
Make it Festive
Remember that the holidays are a time to rejoice. As a result, adequately adorn your business and website. If you have a store, put on some festive music and some refreshments.
Consumers are pressed for time. Also, because internet retailers are constantly open, consider expanding your business hours or operations. Make sure your new holiday hours are advertised in your store, online, and in your Google My Business listing.
Finally, make it a top priority. Everyone is on a tight schedule when it comes to shopping. Hanukkah begins this year on November 28, just three days after Thanksgiving. All season long, run time-sensitive promos.
It’s all about the customers
Your inventory should be adequately stocked whether you sell online or in-store (or both). Customers will go somewhere else if they can’t obtain what they want.
Your website should be simple to navigate and have a modern design and feel. It should be consistent with your brand, and the checkout procedure should be simple and speedy. According to a poll conducted by BigCommerce, 21% of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts owing to a lengthy and confusing checkout process.
However, those clients aren’t necessarily lost. Emails sent to customers who have abandoned their carts usually have high conversion rates, especially if they are personalized for the holidays.