The holiday season is a critical time for retailers, with some making a good chunk of their yearly revenue in just a couple of months.
And while 2020 has been a proverbial “lump of coal” for small business owners, with many having to pivot to curbside pickup or go digital with their services, there’s good reason to believe that we’re on the cusp of a [insert your holiday of choice] miracle.
As we covered in our 2020 Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping guide, consumers are very eager to spend money on some holiday cheer this December. And you should use that to your advantage!
Below, we’ve outlined 25 tried-and-tested tips for boosting your online sales this winter. Our advice falls into three main categories:
So are you ready to tie a bow around 2020? If so, read on to find out how your online store can get more traffic, increase sales, and improve customer experience this month.
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1. Optimize your copy
This applies to every page of your site — from your homepage to your About Us page, and of course, your all-important product pages:
- Detailed product information
- Persuasive copy
- Trust factors
These are all things that can boost conversion rates, sales, and revenue. Plus, they’ll help you all year round — not just during the holidays.
Not convinced? Think of it this way.
When you’re in a shop, you can look, touch, and feel a product. Depending on the product type, you can often try it on or play around with it.
What’s more, a store’s physical presence creates trust, while sales staff are on-hand to assist customers and encourage them to buy.
All this is lost when shopping online.
Use your online copy to recreate the in-store environment online.
Related: How to Write Product Descriptions That Really Sell: 8 Simple Tips
2. Streamline your checkout process
Long, fiddly online checkouts can be a massive barrier to sales. Especially since more than half of internet shopping now takes place on mobile.
If your checkout process asks for too much information or offers a poor user experience, you’re going to lose sales — period.
A good place to start with streamlining your checkout is to test, test, and test again.
Ask friends or family who are unfamiliar with the ins-and-outs of e-commerce and internet marketing to do a test purchase (you can either ask them to complete a purchase and then cancel it or simply not go past the entering-your-payment-details stage).
Then, ask for their feedback:
- How simple was the process?
- What, if any, problems did they run into?
- How does your checkout process compare with other sites they shop from? Ask for specifics — not just “compares well” or “doesn’t compare well.”
Also, consider the following:
- Do not ask people to register before buying. Give them the option to register, but don’t make it mandatory.
- Only ask for essential details.
- Offer multiple ways to pay. Check out our guide to payment gateways for ideas.
- Make delivery costs clear (and don’t leave it until the last moment to state them).
Related: How to Prepare Your Website for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
3. Optimize your site for speed
Site speed, or on a more granular basis, page load speed, is important for two reasons:
- SEO: Google has stated that all things being equal, page load speed is a ranking factor.
- UX: Longer page load speed = higher bounce rates and fewer sales.
cGoogle’s own PageSpeed Insights will score any page of your site on how quickly (or slowly) it loads and tell you what you can do to improve it. We’ve also written a guide on what you can do to optimize a WordPress site for speed.
4. Get into CRO
CRO (or conversion rate optimization) is the practice of testing and optimizing your site — not to drive more traffic, but to convert more of that traffic into sales.
It is, sadly, a frequently overlooked element of digital marketing. Ideally, it should go hand-in-hand with other digital marketing channels. But this is often not the case.
Priority is typically placed on boosting traffic. And that’s understandable. Why invest in CRO when you have no traffic to convert?
But once you do have a decent stream of traffic coming to your site? Start testing. Start tweaking. And start turning more of your visitors into customers.
5. Upgrade your product visuals and videos
Remember our first point?
Online shopping eliminates the ability for people to see, touch, and try products. The more you can do to replicate the in-store experience, the more money you’re likely to make.
One way to do this is to improve your product photos. Better yet, use videos, too.
Take ASOS. All their product pages feature high-resolution photos from different angles that you can zoom in on. Alongside these are short “catwalk” style videos, enabling shoppers to see how the clothing fits and moves in real life.
There’s no doubt that the effort ASOS puts into their imagery and video is part of the reason they’re one of the world’s leading online fashion retailers.
Related: 12 of the Best Holiday Marketing Campaigns (And What You Can Learn from Them)
6. Simplify your site structure
Simple navigation = more sales. Complicated navigation = fewer sales.
Why? If customers can’t find what they’re looking for, they’re not going to buy it (for obvious reasons).
Your site structure can make or break your user experience. But what does a simple site structure look like?
Something like this.
You have your homepage. Which leads to your top-level categories. Which leads to sub-categories. Which then include your products.
Of course, this will vary depending on the type of site, your product range, and whether you have products in multiple categories — but this is a pretty typical example, and a solid structure to aim for.
A couple of additional tips on this point:
- Use breadcrumbs. They help users retrace their steps and easily return to a parent page or category.
- Make sure your search function works properly.
- Include filters. They enable users to refine categories and make the online shopping experience easier, faster, and more enjoyable.
7. Give landing pages a festive makeover
This one’s simple, really — you’re preparing your site for the festive season, so why not give it a temporary makeover in celebration?
We’ve got plenty of inspiration for you here.
8. Make sure your hosting can handle a holiday traffic surge
E-commerce sites naturally see a boost in traffic during the holiday season. This is likely to be far more apparent in 2020 — especially in places where non-essential stores are closed due to COVID-19.
Can your site handle that extra traffic? Does it have a limited bandwidth?
An unexpected (or unplanned for) surge in traffic can slow sites down (in turn losing you sales) or break a site altogether.
Consider upgrading your website’s hosting to ensure it can handle the extra demand. This guide can help you determine when to upgrade your site’s hosting.
For online stores, we recommend looking at our WooCommerce hosting services. Starting at $16.95 per month, these plans come with an uptime guarantee, powerful caching, on-demand backups, and 24/7 support from WordPress experts.
9. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
This is essential whatever time of year. We already know that more than half of online purchases take place on mobile. And now we have mobile-first indexing to consider too.
Basically, if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, the result is most likely going to be lower rankings, less traffic, and fewer conversions.
You can find out if your site makes the grade with Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool.
Another handy tool is Responsive Viewer — a free Chrome plugin that shows how sites look on various mobile devices.
10. Borrow ideas from national brands
Big brands mean big budgets, which in turn, mean (generally) big ideas. And many brands go all out for the holidays.
While financial restrictions may prevent you from creating campaigns on that scale, there’s often a lot you can learn from looking at the marketing strategies of big brands (both inside and outside of your industry).
Related: Make Your Website Merry and Bright with These 10 Holiday Marketing Ideas
11. Create bundled promotions
Bundles — a form of upselling — are a big win for both the brand and the customer. The brand sells more stock, and the customer gets more for their money.
What’s not to like?
The only thing to consider is this: What should you include in your bundles?
You shouldn’t try to palm your customers off with a bundle of completely unrelated products. Some companies do this to try to get rid of old stock, but interest will be minimal (if you get any at all).
Instead, create bundles that are going to help customers, and save them time. For example, a “gifts for the whole family” bundle or a “most popular Xbox games of the year” bundle — ideal for lazy customers who just want to get their holiday shopping over and done with!
Too much work?
Here are a few alternatives to try.
- Offer a discount when a customer buys X number of products or spends X amount.
- Do a “buy X products, get the cheapest free” offer.
- Allow customers to create their own bundles.
12. Offer samples with purchases
This isn’t ideal for all industries, but it’s perfect for companies that distribute consumable products (think beauty products and toiletries, sweets, foods, drinks — anything that can be produced and given away in miniature form).
Simply offer a free sample pack with a customer’s first purchase. Not only is this an incentive to buy, but it can boost your customer return rates, too.
13. Boost traffic with a giveaway
Online competitions are a simple, effective, and (depending on the prize) cheap way to drive traffic and (hopefully) customers to your site. They’re also a great way to expand your email marketing list.
That said, it’s easy to run a competition and see little to no ROI.
Many brands just create a competition page containing a simple question (or no question at all) and an entry form.
Some brands will even host a competition on an external site. This should increase visibility and entrants — which is fine if your only intention is to get more names and addresses on your email list.
But you’re trying to get people to your site, and more importantly, interacting with it. So how do you go about doing that?
You include a question or task that requires entrants to explore your site.
Let’s give you an example.
Since we’re talking about a holiday promotion, you might ask entrants to complete a “wishlist” task. So say your prize was a $100 voucher for the site, you’d ask entrants how they would spend it/what items on your site they would put on their Christmas wish list.
This forces entrants to actually browse through your products, meaning the competition is more likely to drive sales.
14. Partner with micro-influencers
You’ve probably heard about influencer marketing. You’ve probably thought it’s a tactic that’s beyond your reach. But have you heard of micro-influencer marketing?
The name kind of gives it away. Micro-influencers have much smaller social networks than typical, big-name influencers. And that’s a good thing.
Some of the benefits to partnering with a micro-influencer include:
- More affordable fees.
- A more niche following — meaning it’s easier to find an influencer with an audience that aligns with your product/s.
- Less competition with products from other brands (and in turn, higher conversion rates).
15. Create social media ads to promote your deals across all channels
This is an obvious one, but it’s all-the-more important leading up to the holidays. Retailers must maximize the one time of year when consumers everywhere loosen the purse strings. One very effective way to do that is to advertise on social media — especially to promote offers or deals.
Oh, and those competitions we just mentioned.
Just beware that while social media advertising might appear simple, you could lose a lot of money if you get it wrong.
For maximum ROI, you want to ensure you’re targeting exactly the right people. If you don’t know how to do this, either learn or pay an expert to create and manage the ads for you.
Just bear in mind: If you want to teach yourself, you need to check the date on the resources you’re learning from. Social media advertising is in constant flux. Out-of-date resources are largely worthless.
16. Plan your marketing emails
This is another obvious one, and it’s likely something you’re already doing. However, any retailer that fails to make the most of the holiday season is making a big mistake. So plan to send a number of emails, and plan ahead.
- Learn how to send marketing emails and newsletters (if you don’t know already).
- Build or grow your email list (there are lots of tips here on how to do that).
- Plan what you’re going to send and when. Focus on your offers.
- Make a point of how you’re going to capture people’s attention. Remember that most retailers go above and beyond for the holiday season, so to stand out, you need to be sending awesome emails with equally awesome subject lines.
- Create your emails.
- Schedule them in.
17. Create “abandoned cart” email campaigns
Cart abandonment sits at approximately 69%.
There are many reasons why this happens — from hidden delivery charges to a customer simply changing their mind. However, often the customer just gets distracted and forgets or decides they’re going to sit on it before clicking “buy” (another situation that inevitably results in the customer forgetting about their basket altogether).
This is where abandoned cart emails come in.
Odds are you’ve received them yourself in the past. They’re simply a friendly reminder that you’ve got items sitting in your basket.
Most e-commerce content management systems offer plugins to automate this process. If you’re working with a bespoke system, talk to your developer.
18. Write holiday gift guides and “Best of” blog posts
When it comes to buying gifts, consumers are always in need of inspiration. Even when it’s someone you’ve known and loved for years, deciding what to buy them can be tough.
As a result, searches for “gift guides” peak a lot every December.
Want to get in on some of that?
Promote your own products by writing themed, targeted gift guides. By this, we don’t mean writing generic “Christmas gift guide” posts. Write posts that are specific to a particular audience — i.e., for grandparents, siblings, partners, and so on.
19. Add your offers to coupon sites
Who doesn’t love a good deal? Especially when we’re on a holiday shopping spending spree!
Drive extra traffic and business by promoting your offers on coupon sites.
There’s a big list of coupon sites to sift through here — though there’s always going to be more, so you should do your own research too.
Just bear in mind that many coupon sites operate as affiliate sites. This means they take a cut of the revenue when they refer a customer that converts and that you’ll need to start an affiliate scheme to get featured.
Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing
20. Create a holiday-themed lead magnet
Lead magnets are incentives from marketers or site owners to their customers or potential customers, meant to capture their email address and (usually) a few other details.
Think free eBooks, cheat sheets, tools, printables — the options are pretty much endless.
The only real rules are that you need to be offering real, high-quality content, and payment should only be in the form of a user’s details.
They’re worth having on your website all year round, but why not dress them up for the party season and create an extra incentive for your visitors by designing a festive lead magnet or two?
Customer Support Ideas
21. Provide really excellent customer service
So you should be doing this all year round, but the (massive) uptick in shoppers leading up to the holidays means you need to be even more on the ball when it comes to customer service.
Consider things like:
- A likely increase in customer inquiries: Do you have the resources to deal with them? And if not, how can you increase your customer support capacity?
- Extending your returns policy — ideally well into January. Better yet, include a slip with purchases that their loved ones can use to discreetly and easily return them. This gives shoppers extra peace of mind that an unwanted gift (or the money spent on it) won’t go to waste.
- Your customers’ most common questions: What are they? Drafting replies to these questions can be a huge timesaver and speed up how long it takes to respond to them.
Related: Keep Customer Satisfaction High with These Support Tips
22. Update your processes to help stressed shoppers
Continuing with the topic of customer service, remember that at this time of year, shoppers are going to be extra stressed. Especially if they’ve made the classic mistake of leaving gift buying to the very last minute.
Be prepared for a surge in orders as the big day draws closer. Make your final order date for guaranteed Christmas delivery (or any other holiday) crystal clear. And upgrade yours and your staff’s knowledge of products and processes so you can assist stressed shoppers as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Loosening up your processes a little is a very good idea too.
Whether a customer urgently wants something that’s out of stock or needs an item to arrive earlier than it typically would, do your best to go out of your way and accommodate their needs.
You’ll be thanked later in the form of customer loyalty.
23. Reward loyal customers with a gift or special offer
Want to build on the customer loyalty you’re creating by going above and beyond for them? Then why not reward them with a special gift or an offer they just can’t refuse?
For bonus points, personalize the gift or offer. This may not always be possible, especially during extra-busy periods, but use it if you have the capacity.
Valued customers are far more likely to return than customers who feel like a number in a machine.
Related: How to Create a Loyalty Program for Your Website (And Why You Should)
24. Review and adapt your shipping policies
Thanks to a certain big e-commerce site, online shoppers have become increasingly accustomed to the idea of fast, free shipping.
If your average delivery time exceeds two days, and you’re charging delivery fees, you could be losing sales. Especially if you’re shipping small, lightweight items.
Multiple tests have been carried out on the impact of free shipping, with the average uptick in conversions being between 25–40%.
Yep — charging for shipping could be slashing your sales by up to 40%.
This is even more apt during the holiday season when shoppers are (often) strapped for cash. Slap them with an unexpected shipping charge, and a big order could quickly become no order.
“But what about revenue?” We hear you say.
“Our margins are tight anyway.”
There isn’t a perfect solution, but if your products are hard to find elsewhere, simply increase your prices slightly and absorb the shipping cost into them.
Related: 11 Ways Your Online Store Can Compete with Mega-Retailers and Win
25. Increase the ways your customers can contact you
How can customers reach you? Not everyone wants to pick up the phone or wait for a response to an email. If you don’t already, consider offering support via live chat and social media.
Just make sure to manage your support channels so that when a customer contacts you via live chat or social, someone’s there to answer them.
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Holiday Shoppers Are Waiting
There you have it: 25 ways to boost your sales throughout the holiday period (and in many ways, beyond). Choose and implement as many relevant suggestions as you can, and we’ll cross our fingers and toes that you’ll have your most successful winter ever!