The 11 Point Holiday Checklist: so you don’t forget anything when prepping your e-commerce store for the holidays

The 11 Point Holiday Checklist: so you don’t forget anything when prepping your e-commerce store for the holidays

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The holidays might begin only from the last week of November, but the holiday shopping begins from the beginning of November, if not earlier. Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year – some of the biggest revenue generating festivals of the year, and they’re all around the corner! As a Shopify store owner you have probably begun to prepare for the holiday load. But with the hustle and bustle of the season, there is a chance you could forget something important. That’s where our holiday season checklist comes in – a guide to help you remember everything you need to do to prepare your Shopify store for the holiday onslaught!

  1. Do good research and get smart with stocking inventory.
    1. Know what people want to buy if you want to help yourself sell.
    2. Find out what sold or sells well in your store to have an estimate of what will sell again.
    3. Prioritise your flagship products; they are the ones that will sell more and you anyway haven’t the time/resources to plump and fluff up all your products.
    4. Use your inventory to see what’s left, what sold out and which ones are trending.
    5. Use all the data to estimate the expected number of orders you will receive. (Extra stock can be cleared in January.)
    6. Make sure your suppliers understand your increased demand and can deliver it on time. (Consider drop-shipping)
  2. Strategize your marketing efforts.
    1. Create the holiday’s marketing calendar, mapping everything to it – content, e-mail campaigns, social media posts, blogs, graphics, promotions, who’s doing what…
    2. In the quiet before the holidays hit, chalk out all your messaging content – ads, graphics, content that can be repurposed etc.
    3. Research and invest in video marketing to engage customers in a scalable way.
    4. Make sure the content – from blogs to videos – are relevant, and published in coordination with your e-mail and social media campaigns.
    5. Choose advertising options that align with your customers and don’t blow the budget.
    6. Hunker down to your old-gold channel of e-mail marketing – it accounts for 23% of the sales.
    7. In the lead-up to the holidays, build you mailing list.
    8. To take advantage of the keyword Black Friday 2018 (which is predicted to dominate in paid search ads), create specific landing pages for Black Friday / Cyber Monday featuring flagship products.
    9. Use Facebook’s analytics tool, Pixel, to measure the effectiveness of your advertising.
    10. Consider selling on a well-known high-traffic marketplace, like Amazon, to meet customers where they already shop.
    11. Host a holiday pop-up shop instead of having a brick-and-mortar channel for your online store.
    12. Create sponsored content, like product reviews and curated gift guides, to drive shoppers to your store during holidays.
    13. Create gift guides based on your product, and content that is practical yet attractive, to help shoppers with gifting ideas.
    14. Connect with journalists to feature your store in niche publications.
    15. Offer gift cards for purchases above a certain AOV, to make shopping easy, encourage repeat business, and increase average AOV.
    16. Use package inserts to increase loyalty and revenue.
    17. Use your automated Thank You page to encourage them to come back, by adding a discount code etc.
  3. Check and prepare before anything is made public.
    1. If you don’t want your site to crash, ensure it can handle the holiday traffic pressure.
    2. Upgrade your hosting plan to increase your bandwidth limit.
    3. Ensure the mobile experience. Test it on your native apps, mobile responsive website, and on multiple mobile devices.
    4. Test the speed of your website to know if it is loading slowly or if images are slowing it down.
    5. Use free or cost effective Shopify plugins to enhance the store experience and generate revenue.
    6. Check the expiration date of your domain name.
    7. Have creative 404 (Page Not Found) and 500 (Internal Server Error) pages so that customers don’t leave feeling put-off.
    8. Set-up a script that notifies you when such errors occur.
    9. Run a broken link check to minimize the 404s.
    10. Test your promo codes etc. beforehand as well as unusual cart combinations to ensure it’s working and applying the right discounts.
  4. The site design is like a shop window.
    1. Festive banners and pop-ups can help bring in the holiday spirit.
    2. Emphasise selling points in the header to grab attention.
    3. Reorganise your product navigation to suit holiday shoppers, e.g. by price or by recipient (like child, spouse, colleague etc.)
    4. Instead of paginating search results, use scrolling or load more buttons for a seamless experience.
    5. Improve your on-site search –have a prominent search box, let it be suggestive, predictive, and support abbreviations.
    6. Get an amateur to test your site for usability – how they browse or complete common tasks – and use that input to reduce friction on the site.
    7. Highlighting featured collections, like Recommended or Top-selling, it grabs attention and makes it easier for shoppers.
    8. Instead of using the manufacturer’s product descriptions, write your own unique ones.
    9. Keep content precise and brief, utilizing bulleted formats or a View More button for tidiness.
    10. Check for grammatical errors, typos and inaccuracies.
    11. Spruce up your product photos if they are low-res or poorly lit. Take new ones if you must.
    12. Provide product shots from multiple angles, with the option to zoom the pictures, to give customers the feel of it.
    13. Product-specific videos are popular and have sharing potential.
    14. Apart from advertising discounts, show off the savings – either percentage or dollar value – and reinforce the discount value.
    15. Cross-sell and up-sell: offer Similar Products, Recommended or People Also Bought to increase the AOV and conversion rates.
    16. Include wish-lists or Save for Later These help with personalising, remarketing, and to let them share lists on social media.
    17. The aim is to get them to checkout; make the cart and checkout button obvious on every page, at the top and bottom and after each product.
    18. Clearly display stock, availability, estimated shipping dates and restocking time for products out of stock so you can still accept orders and convert customers when you don’t have stock.
    19. Emphasize urgency and FOMO when stock is low, products are limited, or a sale is near its end. Embed a countdown timer.
  5. Offering security and building trust inspires confidence in the shopper.
    1. Use a secure and reliable hosting platform so that buyers’ personal information online isn’t compromised.
    2. Gain the customer’s confidence by offering testimonials and highlighting positive reviews.
    3. Let new customers feel safe about buying from you by adding these testimonials to the product and checkout pages.
    4. Publish positive press (from newspapers, magazines or blogs) on your news or media page to add credibility and prove trustworthiness.
    5. Keep you About Page, Privacy Policy, Return Policy and Delivery Information pages up to date.
    6. Make sure the language you use in the copy throughout the site assuages any suspicion and builds trust in the customers.
    7. Display logos wherever you can – trust seals, security badges, logos of payment methods or suppliers – to prove authenticity and reassure visitors.
    8. Show customers that you’re using an SSL so their payment data is protected.
    9. Let customers know that the padlock icon next to the URL shows that their session on your site is secure.
    10. Offering a satisfaction guarantee puts the buyer at peace and gives you a second chance to satisfy should something go wrong.
    11. Strengthen your website by getting a professional to audit it for security vulnerabilities.
  6. Integrate social media solidly into your marketing and sales strategies.
    1. Engage customers on social media to put a human spin on an impassive brand name.
    2. Utilize the loyal band of social media followers to share content and to encourage purchases.
    3. Contests have a lot of traction during holidays and can get you more exposure when rallied around a charity drive.
    4. Enable satisfied shoppers to share your store content, posts or product pages on the social media that see most engagement.
    5. Use customer reviews in your social media posts and encourage customers to leave comments there as well.
    6. Make use of the lucrative Facebook Shop that lets merchants create bonafide storefronts, and lets customers purchase directly through FB.
    7. Pinterest’s buyable pins lets people buy/sell rather than just pinning pictures to boards. And Pinterest has 110+ million active users! Do the maths!
    8. Since the AOV from Instagram is 15% more than from FB, integrate Instagram campaigns and use stories to feature your product photos and make them available to buy.
  7. Take a look to see what can improve your SEO.
    1. Improve your search ranking using simple, targeted and relevant keywords in headers and optimising alt tags on images.
    2. Include seasonal keywords, like thanksgiving gift, and prioritise them based on current trends.
    3. Have a neat and tidy URL with targeted keywords.
    4. Promote user generated content, like testimonials, as it has SEO benefits and costs nothing.
    5. Use robots to stop duplicate content from being indexed as duplicate content cause sites to suffer ranking and traffic loss.
  8. The payment page is where the imperative action takes place and the checkout page can fast track your profitability.
    1. Declutter this page. The CTA and navigation here must lead them to make the purchase without distraction.
    2. Springing a hidden cost at the end will cause you to lose the sale. Be transparent and show all fees before the checkout.
    3. Offer several payment options – cards, digital payment modes like PayPal, a wallet with your company, cash, or payment-on-delivery – to make it easy for shoppers to give you the money.
    4. Allow gift receipts which hide the price but let the receiver exchange the item.
    5. A clear confirmation page puts customers at ease and provides the opportunity to ask them to sign up.
    6. Use the built-in cart recovery system and recover lost sales from abandoned carts by sending reminder e-mails or notifications if they are on offer.
  9. Be realistic and honest with your shipping and delivery practices.
    1. Be realistic about your shipping timelines, and be transparent with customers about shipping costs and delivery dates.
    2. Try to offer free shipping or discounted shipping on orders above a certain value, to reduce abandoned cart rates.
    3. Offer same-day delivery or shipping; holiday shoppers need it and you can benefit from a premium.
    4. The gift-wrapping option is one of the fundamentals for e-commerce shipping. Offer it free or at an added charge to deliver the unboxing experience.
    5. Review your fulfilment strategy for the holidays – it you can’t cope either hire seasonal help or (if you use a third party) see how you can automate orders.
  10. Ensure your analytics and tracking are installed properly and working.
    1. Set up Google Analytics (GA) correctly to benefit from insightful metrics and analytics.
    2. GA will generate all the actionable reports, but you must be able to read the analytics especially for audience, acquisition, behaviour and conversions.
    3. Invest in some advanced GA user tracking tools, like heat maps and tracking pixels, for more details on holiday customers.
    4. Keep an eye out on your rivals by using Google Alerts for keyword notifications and to monitor changes on their website.
    5. Enable cross-device tracking to understand consumer behaviour in the multi-screen world.
  11. The real test for your customer support, and thereby your brand name, is during the holidays.
    1. Think up the worst case scenarios – site down, shipment missing, employees down with the viral – and develop contingency plans for them.
    2. A monitoring service detects issues and alerts you, so you can take action before the site goes down.
    3. Offering live chat can quickly and efficiently resolve issues while keeping customers focused on the purchase, without involving navigation away to e-mail or social media to communicate.
    4. Scale up beforehand on staff, resources and manpower to handle the holiday traffic influx.
    5. Have a clear and transparent return policy that tells customers about the process, who pays for shipping, cut off dates etc.
    6. Listen to customer feedback, incorporate it into your strategies, and implement it immediately (if you can) for positive impact.

That’s a pretty exhaustive list but if you can check-off most of this before the holidays, you’re going to have a good season!

And in the midst of it all, don’t forget to take a breather!

Next move, understand the rudimentary steps to bring your e-commerce store out of a saturated market.