The holiday season is a critical period for any ecommerce business. With shoppers in a buying mood, brands have the opportunity to boost sales and increase customer engagement. However, this time of year also brings a surge in online traffic, creating potential challenges for your ecommerce platform. To fully capitalize on these ecommerce holidays, ecommerce businesses need a robust strategy in place. This guide will break down the key elements of a successful holiday ecommerce strategy, providing you with a roadmap to ecommerce holiday readiness.
Why the Holiday Season Matters for Ecommerce Businesses
Ecommerce holidays represent a significant opportunity for businesses to tap into the increased consumer spending happening during this time of year. Holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the December festive season see consumers flocking to online stores in search of deals, making this period a golden opportunity for ecommerce businesses to boost sales and engage new customers. From a business perspective, it’s essential to understand the potential of these key ecommerce holidays and to prepare your online store accordingly.
Why is the end of the year buzzing with activity? Simply put, the retail and e-commerce landscape experiences its highs and lows during the first half of the year. Before the year’s close, we are facing a whirlwind of major festivities. These are great opportunities for businesses to move and sell off merchandise and prep for the new year. As a results from October to the end of December, online business see a spike in sales, a flurry of shipments, and a rush of returns. Mark these significant dates on your calendar in 2023:
- Halloween: October 31, 2023
- Black Friday: November 24, 2023
- Cyber Monday: November 27, 2023
- Christmas: December 25, 2023
- Hanukkah: December 7 – 15, 2023
These dates are good to prepare for. Consider the Black Friday phenomenon in 2022. Anticipated to be a landmark in U.S. online shopping, it shattered expectations. The day witnessed a whopping 9.12 billion in online sales.
For your brand, these figures translate into an unmissable message: gear up, because the e-commerce high tide is rolling in. Now is the moment to brace for, and capitalize on, the peak season ahead.
Recognizing the Challenges of Ecommerce Holidays
The holiday season is not without its challenges for ecommerce businesses. Three key obstacles often stand in the way of holiday ecommerce success:
- Uncertain Consumer Spending: The economic climate can significantly influence consumers’ willingness to spend. A downturn in the economy, for instance, could lead to reduced holiday spending. 2023 has seen a lot of economic volatily and rising inflation, for example.
- Inventory Management Issues: The increased demand during the holiday season can put a strain on your inventory. Managing stock levels to avoid sell-outs while preventing overstocking can be a delicate balancing act.
- Increased Operational Costs: The holiday season often means increased operational costs for businesses. These could be due to higher wages for temporary staff, increased shipping costs due to higher volumes, or increased marketing spend.
Key Projections for Ecommerce Holidays in 2023
Despite these challenges, the outlook for ecommerce holidays in 2023 is positive. Here are some key trends to keep an eye on:
- Back-to-School Spending Boom: Back-to-school spending often signals the start of the holiday shopping season. In 2023, this spending is projected to increase, indicating a potentially strong holiday shopping season.
- Discount-Driven Purchases: With the economic uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, consumers are expected to be more price-sensitive. Discounts and deals will likely drive many purchases.
- Return of In-Store Shopping: 2023 could see an even greater number of shoppers returning to brick-and-mortar stores, driven by the desire for a tangible shopping experience. This trend could affect online stores, making it essential to offer a seamless online shopping experience.
- Emphasis on Smooth Shopping and Return Experiences: Customers are expected to prioritize smooth shopping and easy return experiences. Ecommerce stores that offer these are likely to attract more customers.
Actionable Strategies to Master the Festive Frenzy
We have a list of 10+ proven techniques and tactics that you can try during the 2023 holiday season. We saw these ones work historically, so we are confident they will do well this year too.
Data is your best friend when it comes to planning for the holiday season. Look at your past sales data, current market trends, and customer behavior to forecast your holiday sales. Use this data to make informed decisions about your ecommerce holiday strategy. Look back at the creative that worked, messaging that resonated, products that sold well. These data points should enrich and drive your strategy this year.
In 2023, a significant portion of online shopping is expected to take place on mobile devices. Ensure your ecommerce platform is optimized for mobile shopping, offering a seamless and user-friendly experience. Test your mobile user experience before launching any major campaigns on your site.
A sudden surge in traffic can cause your website to crash, leading to lost sales and a poor customer experience. Invest in improving your website’s load times and ensure your server can handle the increased traffic during the holiday season.
Test Your Strategy
The holiday season is not the time to experiment with new marketing strategies. Instead, use the months leading up to the holidays to test different approaches, identify what works, and refine your marketing plan.
Top-Converting Marketing Channels
Identify which marketing channels drive the most conversions for your business and focus your efforts there. Email marketing, for instance, is often a top-converting channel for ecommerce businesses. But SEM (shopping ads or video ads) as well as social ads may be the channels to consider and invest in too.
Partnering with a reliable fulfillment provider can help you manage the increased demand during the holiday season. A good fulfillment partner will ensure your products are packed and shipped efficiently, maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.
Having the right team in place is crucial for handling the holiday rush. Consider hiring additional team members or providing extra training to your existing staff to ensure they can handle the increased workload.
Fast, Free Shipping
Free and fast shipping can be a major drawcard for online shoppers. Consider offering free shipping during the holiday season to attract more customers and boost sales.
If you’re targeting customers in different countries, ensure you cater to their needs. This could involve offering international shipping, translating your website content, or accepting different currencies. Since we’re located in Canada, we know it too well when we shop across the border. Even if we like buying stuff in the US, a lot of US-based online stores don’t ship to Canada (even if we’re just next door).
A smooth returns process can increase customer satisfaction and drive repeat business. Make sure your returns policy is clear and straightforward, and consider offering free returns to further enhance the customer experience.
Case Study: Driving 5x ROAS for a Leading Waxing Brand
In the highly competitive skincare sector, a prominent waxing brand was eager to optimize its holiday sales. With over 200 SKUs ranging from individual products to specialized bundles all revolving around body and skincare, the brand was uniquely positioned to capture a significant market share. However, they needed the right advertising strategy to harness this potential, and for that, they worked with us to manage their SEM campaigns.
With the holiday season approaching, the waxing brand sought to ensure its online store could handle the surge in traffic and sales without any hiccups. Moreover, they aimed to outperform their usual sales metrics, a tall order for any brand during a saturated shopping season.
Even if our mandate was limited to managing their SEM campaigns, we provided several valuable recommendations to their team. With that, the brand’s team did the following:
Technical Preparedness: Recognizing the importance of a seamless shopping experience, they bolstered their server capacity, ensuring uninterrupted service even with surging holiday traffic.
Strategic Planning: We helped their team curate a calendar of initiatives. From scheduling discount codes to pinpointing promotional and ad channels, every move was meticulously planned.
Focused Advertising: A bold decision was made to increase the ad budget by 100% and allocate 60% of that budget to Google ads (distributed across search, shopping ads, YouTube ads, and Performance Max), casting a wide but precise net to capture the target audience.
Sales Strategy: Between November 1st and December 31st, five strategically timed sales were initiated. These included an exclusive pre-sale via email, launching the Black Friday sale 5 days in advance, transitioning Black Friday into a Cyber Monday sale, offering free shipping in mid-December, and capping off with an end-of-year sale.
Aggressive Ad Spending: During the Black Friday weekend, ad spending was quadrupled, showcasing the brand prominently amidst the shopping frenzy.
The results were great! Over the Black Friday weekend alone, the brand saw a 12x Return On Ad Spend (ROAS), while the overall holiday season witnessed a 6x ROAS. This was a significant leap from their regular annual ROAS which hovered between 3x-3.2x.
So our methodical and forward-thinking contribution to the brand’s strategy empowered their team to achieve 5x their typical sales. Through technical readiness, strategic advertising, and timely promotions, the brand not only weathered the holiday season but thrived beyond expectations.
The holiday season represents a significant opportunity for ecommerce businesses. You can set your business up for success when you understand the challenges and opportunities that come with ecommerce holidays. Remember, it’s never too early to start planning for the holiday season. The sooner you start, the better prepared you’ll be to make the most of the opportunities that come your way.
Now get your ecommerce holiday calendar ready, and start preparing your winning holiday ecommerce strategy!