The holiday season is always the busiest (and most profitable) time of the year when it comes to both retail and ecommerce sales. 2021 won’t be any different — this year’s holiday sales are forecasted to grow between 7% and 9% from 2020, with ecommerce holiday sales expected to grow as much as 15%.
Clearly, the holidays are an important time for businesses of all sizes and industries. But what if you have newer merchants who haven’t sold over the holidays, or they’ve tried holiday selling before and haven’t been as successful as they’d like? Or maybe they’re new to ecommerce and don’t have much online selling experience at all?
As an ecommerce platform provider, the short answer is: you help them. But what’s a good way to help your merchants succeed at holiday season selling? By encouraging them to launch holiday sales events.
It may sound cliche, but the sooner your merchants can begin this process, the better. Setting up sales events, particularly among your more inexperienced merchants, takes a fair amount of planning and you’ll want to encourage your merchants to get started early so that they’ll have plenty of time to put things in place.
Ideally, merchants will want to have their holiday sales events planned out by October or even September, if possible. Data shows that U.S. consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier and earlier: 52% of shoppers said they’ll start their 2021 holiday shopping in October or earlier, which is up from 39% of U.S. consumers who said they’d start their 2019 holiday shopping before the end of October of that year.
So, as the old saying goes: The early bird gets the worm.
Prepare the online stores in advance
The whole point of a holiday sales event is to drive more traffic to merchant stores during the holiday season.
But how can you ensure that your merchants — and perhaps more importantly, their websites and online stores — will be able to handle greater traffic?
With that in mind, there are a few steps your merchants can take to ensure that their online store can both manage increased shopper traffic and encourage shoppers to make purchases:
- Create a promo calendar
- Make sure merchant websites are available
- Pump up the social media presence
- Utilize promotion tools
Create a promo calendar
There is a lot going on during the holiday season for shoppers and merchants alike, and likewise there is a lot to keep straight. What were the details of that promo? When is the shipping deadline for a certain carrier? What size of that shirt you like is selling out the fastest?
To help give your merchants a little peace of mind, encourage them to create a holiday promotional calendar so that they’ll have an easy reference of where and when they’re going to run their promotions. To make one, your merchants will need two things: a list of targeted promos, and a list of promotion materials.
For the list of targeted promos, have your merchants review both what items they sell the most (or earn the most revenue on) as well as when they make most of their sales. They can then use this information to determine which products to use to drive their promo sales and when to schedule the actual promos.
For example, if their leading products are expensive impulse buys, their sales will likely come either early in the shopping season or at the very last minute before the holidays themselves. On the other hand, if their leading products are expensive,
By the way, while Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the holiday season’s biggest and most
Now, for the list of promotion materials, have your merchants gather all of the things they have on hand for their promos, such as ads, graphics, banners, emails, and so on. Are they missing anything? If so, where are the gaps?
Once that information is known, your merchants will have time to create this collateral in advance of their actual promotions and won’t have to rush working on them right up until their deadline, which should help reduce their holiday selling season stress.
Make sure merchant websites are available
We’ve all been there — you type in a URL or click a link expecting to go to a shopping website, but instead all you see is an error message: the website is down.
As a shopper, this is both frustrating and annoying, but it doesn’t really impact your life all that much: you can try again the next day, or see if you can find the product you want with another website or retailer. But as a merchant, this can be devastating, especially if this website downtime ends up costing you many shoppers’ business.
As such, if your merchants have had issues with their stores crashing from traffic bumps or other reasons, you may want to urge your merchants to reach out to their web hosting companies to make sure that they can handle a big spike of holiday traffic. If they can’t or your merchant still has reservations, it may be time for them to switch hosting companies.
You’ll also definitely want to encourage merchants to review how
And these figures will only continue to rise in the future, so give your merchants a little nudge to shop their own businesses through their mobile phones to see what the experience is like — and what could stand improving — as it will only continue to pay off as more of the world uses their phones for everything.
Pump up the social media presence
According to recent data, 36% of internet users in the United States are expected to make at least one purchase through social media in 2021. While this might not seem like much on its own, keep in mind that total retail sales through social media (or social commerce, as it’s known) in the U.S. hit $19.42 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $79.64 billion by 2025.
Obviously, that amount of money and growth is nothing to sneeze at. Yet data shows that 82% of small businesses don’t have social media accounts.
So whether or not your merchants use the platforms in their personal lives, it’s important to encourage them to set up business profiles on each of the five largest social media platforms: TikTok, Facebook/Meta, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. (Savvy merchants may also want to consider setting up business accounts on apps like WhatsApp, too.)
From there, merchants can do things like:
- put links on their social media profiles back to
holiday-themedsite landing pages with active promotions or deals;
- spruce up their profiles with
holiday-themedcover images and profile pictures, like snowmen, Santa Claus, and candy canes;
- put holiday deals and offers in their bios and pinned to the top of their Facebook and Twitter feeds;
- create shoppable posts so customers can check out straight from their social pages;
…and so on. But getting your merchants to do this is important, because not engaging with customers on social media is leaving money on the the table, pure and simple.
Utilize promotion tools
To help drive seasonal sales, your merchants may want to check out a handful of commonly used tools for their promotions.
Now, it’s up to your merchants to set up their own sales funnels with landing pages, emails and so on to help drive their seasonal sales. But here are a few things they may want to look into:
- Email marketing tool — Merchants can use this to send out their promo emails, newsletters and automatic responses to customers. Good options are MailChimp and Constant Contact.
- Landing page tool — Shop owners can make use of this tool to create
holiday-themedpromo pages and capture both leads and sales. Check out Instapage or Unbounce.
- Analytics software — Merchants can leverage this tool to determine where their online traffic is coming from (and, in some cases, going to) which can inform their marketing plans. Google Analytics is a good option, and free, too.
- Social media marketing tool — Shopkeepers can use this tool to scheduled and manage the social media content they’re creating. Try out HootSuite and Buffer.
- Blogging tool — Merchants may want to set up a blog to help draw in sales from search results. WordPress is well known and great for beginning bloggers.
Pop-uptool — This tool can be used to capture leads and offer deals to customers, and can help convert cart-abandoningshoppers. Check out BounceExchange and LeadPages.
Plan out a marketing strategy
Now, with this work done and these tools in place, merchants can create and leverage an effective marketing strategy to drive up their holiday sales.
These days, there are a lot of marketing channels that your merchants can utilize, so it’s important that they choose the right channels for their business stage and vertical — that is, what they’re actually selling.
As a business owner, we’d probably like to take a blanket approach and hit every marketing channel so that we can reach everyone and convert them into customers, but this would naturally be very expensive and may not attract any more customers than a targeted approach would.
So you merchants will want to consider a few things before they start using some marketing channels:
- Budget — What can they actually spend on marketing? Tools like Google AdWords can get expensive in a hurry, but they may draw in more business than other channels. On the flip side, free tools like social media are available, but they do cost your merchants their time to set up and monitor.
- Existing expertise — Do they have any experience using marketing channels or social media in the past? If so, it might make sense for them to focus on channels they already know rather than spend time learning a new one.
- Audience demographics — Where do the merchant’s ideal customers spend most of their time on the internet? If merchants are trying to sell vitamin supplements to the elderly, advertising on social media might not make sense. If they’re targeting millennials, they may want to consider Instagram; if they’re pushing
business-focusedproducts, they’ll likely want to set up marketing campaigns on LinkedIn.
- Product type — What products is the merchant selling? If they’re selling crafts, they may want to focus on Pinterest; if they’re selling skateboards, they’ll likely want to check out TikTok
We hope that these tips will be helpful for you and your merchants. The holidays are the biggest selling season of the year, so pass on this information to your merchants as soon as possible so that they can get their promotions in place in advance and just focus on selling.
Do you have any tactics for running successful holiday season promotions? Let us know in the comments!