Refinery Blog banner ecommerce holiday

10 Ecommerce Holiday Planning Tips for 2020

Joe Bencar headshot
Joe Bencar
Marketing Director

The year 2020 has been a crazy one to say the least. Covid-19, masks, social distancing, businesses closing, and the list goes on. Many businesses have been hit hard this year, especially ones that traditionally sell their products in physical stores. This has made the need for user-friendly ecommerce stores even more important.

As retailers know so well, the holiday season can make the difference between hitting your goals for the year and taking a loss. Black Friday sales are especially critical. With Covid-19 relapsing in waves and different countries, states and even cities handling the level of quarantine differently. Black Friday 2020 will be unlike any we’ve ever seen before. Many shoppers will be hesitant to pack tightly into stores as the tradition has always been, and will turn to e-commerce to get their Black Friday deals from the comfort and safety of their couch. For many traditional retailers, this can bring new challenges from customer support, shipping/receiving, online advertising, optimizing checkout processes and more. With the uncertainty of what the future holds, now is the time to start planning for the upcoming holiday season. It may seem like a long time away, but it will be here before you know it.

In 2019, it’s estimated that 174 million Americans shopped for holiday deals during the 5 day Black Friday weekend. On average they spent $335 per person (millennials spent the most, $419/each). (source: The Washington Post)

But most relevant to 2020, 58 million people shopped online only, while 51 million shopped exclusively in stores. That won’t be the case this year, with millions more people shopping exclusively online. (source: Forbes).

Here are 10 ecommerce holiday tips to consider as you prep for the changes this year.

1. Step Up Your Mobile Game

By this point, we all know the significance of a mobile responsive website. A study showed that 63% of traffic to retailers and 53% of sales happen via mobile devices. Although desktop versions of websites still get a majority of the focus from sales and marketing teams, it’s vital that companies create a user friendly experience for their customers using mobile devices. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Fast loading pages
  • Ease of browsing
  • Easy to read content
  • Clear CTAs
  • Quick and painless checkout process
  • Optimized experience for tablet, iPad, or any size smartphone

Another way to enhance your ecommerce user experience is by implementing AMP, or accelerated mobile pages. Google states:

Accelerated Mobile Pages is a natural fit for e-commerce retailers because faster site speed converts more browsers into buyers. And the results are remarkable. Our customers see revenue increases, higher conversion rates and better performance across all user-engagement metrics.”

If you have questions regarding AMP, check out Google’s Developer Guide on AMP.

To hammer this point home, a study done earlier this year showed that shoppers completing purchases on their mobile devices spent an average of $197 per order during the 2019 Holiday season, which is a 17% increase from 2018. Shoppers also downloaded 106% more retail apps compared to 2018, and we project that these numbers will continue to increase.

2. Start Discussing Sales / Promotions to Run

Start planning how you will attract customers now, and how your plan will change if different scenarios occur. We recommend that you start by using data you’ve gathered so you can create your plan with more accuracy.

Instead of creating generalized promotions, try targeting each of your customer personas with direct and focused ads and content. By utilizing personas and customer information, you’ll be able to emotionally connect with your customers. Tapping into your customers’ emotions will not only allow you to increase your sales, but also will create a stronger bond with them and increase the amount of repeat purchases in the future.

3. Optimize Your Checkout Process

A cumbersome or slow checkout process will likely cost you sales and also clog up your customer service channels with customer issues. Before your website’s traffic peaks this holiday season, you’re going to want to test and optimize how you customers make purchases. Start by testing the checkout process on different devices (desktop, mobile, tablet) and work to minimize the process so it’s easier and quicker for customers to check out.

One very important step, If you’re not currently doing so, is to allow users to checkout as a guest (meaning they don’t need to create an account in order to make a purchase). Many shoppers during this time period are buying gifts for someone else and may not be interested in creating an account and receiving future communications. In addition to guest checkouts, you should consider allowing multiple payment options like credit card, PayPal and Stripe.

If your products are frequently-purchased consumable goods, offer subscription and auto-renew options. Last, if you're planning on running promotions that use coupon codes, test and retest that they work as they should. A faulty promo code will turn away customers, and they may not return in the future.

4. Draft Ideas for Graphics, Videos and Other Visuals

Remember what our teachers used to say about trying to cram in studying or work right before an exam or project due date? The same goes for your company's marketing plan for the holidays. What you put in is what you’ll get out, so avoid trying to whip up graphics, visuals and videos last minute. This time of year is huge for most ecommerce stores, so make sure your marketing materials are top notch.

This leads to my next point - Don’t be generic! Your target audience will see plenty of ads and promotions every time they check their email, visit social channels and conduct searches on Google. You need to grab their attention quickly.

Videos are very useful marketing assets to have, but they usually take a lot of time, energy and planning to create. If you try and throw a video together, it will most likely be evident.

It helps to use the same “look and feel” for your graphics and visuals so people who see a multitude of your ads will associate that style with your company and products. Last, pay attention to the details and customize different visual assets so they connect with the proper audience.

5. Create a Social Calendar Specifically for the Holidays

Social media content calendars are commonly used by many marketing professionals because they really help the post planning process. A good organizational tip is to continue planning your normal social content as you would and use a separate calendar for holiday-related ads, promotions and posts. This will make things much easier during busy times, especially if changes need to be made due to Covid related closings, delays or other issues.

6. Plan Out Your New Holiday Content

Just like the visuals mentioned above, start outlining new holiday content now. It doesn’t need to be finalized yet, but you should get a general idea of what you want to say and to whom you're speaking to with each piece of content. This new content includes landing pages, updates to existing pages on your website and holiday emails. When you have an idea of the new content that needs to be published, it will make implementation, editing and revisions much smoother in the future. Don’t forget to include the drafted visuals mentioned above so you can get an accurate understanding of how everything lays out and flows together.

7. Build a Strategy Around How You Will Reach Your Audience

Now that you’re planning out your content, social media and visuals, what are the best ways to reach your target audience (or those buying gifts for your target audience)? Depending on where your followers are, the most common methods to consider are:

  1. Email Campaigns - Do you have an email list you actively send to, and do those emails get viewed often?
  2. Social Posts & Ads - Concentrate on a few channels that you have the largest following on, or that customers tend to engage with. Don’t worry about trying to hit them all.
  3. Online Ads - Do you currently have Google Ads running? If so, what budget can you allocate to holiday promotions, and what will those new ads say? If not, would it be worthwhile to create some promotional ads?
  4. Landing Pages - If you plan on running any special online or social media ads focused around holiday promotions, be sure you have a page that’s relevant to those ads which you can send visitors too. Avoid just sending them to your homepage or a generic category page.
  5. Retargeting - Since people tend to do a bit of browsing before the holiday season, retargeting is a great way to stay in front of those users. These kinds of ads are relatively inexpensive and do a nice job with brand recognition.

8. Run Social Ads Now to Build Up Your Fans & Email Lists

Build your audience as much as you can now! There’s still some time left to do this, but there definitely won’t be any in a month or so. The more people you can reach out to, connect with, and get your brand in front of, the more people you’ll be able to reach during the holidays. A few ideas to do this include using teasers for future discounts or promotions, using coupon codes to get more people to sign up for your newsletter, and running boosted posts on social channels to build up your page’s followers.

Also, you’re planning to launch any new products, let people know that people who sign up or follow will be the first ones to be updated on the launch date, any discounts, or any other useful info.

9. Tune Up Your Internal Site Search

Although this is a good practice for any time of the year, it’s especially important during the holiday season. The reason is that there will be many people buying gifts for others who may not be familiar with your products or exactly what they’re buying. If they use your internal site search function to see if you have an item they’re looking for, you want to be sure the correct results are being displayed. Otherwise, they will probably assume you don’t have it, even if you do! Start by using your search logs and Google Analytics data to see what types of queries users are typing. Then just optimize the results for those queries.

10. Test the Technical Aspects of Your Site

The last task you’re going to want to complete before the holiday season rolls in is to test the major technical aspects of your website. Technical website issues can take some troubleshooting to find out what’s wrong, so you definitely don’t want to have to do this when people are trying to buy your products.

There are obviously many technical functions you can test, but these are the primary ones you should concentrate on first.

  1. Page Speed - This is important year round for both user experience and for ranking purposes. It’s especially important during time periods when you have higher than average traffic coming to your website. There are many different free tools that test various elements that can negatively affect page speed, but the most common is image size. If your pages are slow to load, it might be because images on the page are being resized by the browser instead of being the size intended.
  2. Server Capacity - This is really important because if your server reaches capacity, users will not be able to access your website. If your server is close to capacity on an average day, you’re definitely going to want to upgrade before the holidays.
  3. Links - Be sure to check and even double check that the links on your pages and emails are pointed to the correct url and that the url still exists. You don’t want to frustrate potential customers by sending them to an error page!
  4. Navigation - Similar to Links above, be sure your navigation menu is displaying properly and that all the links work as they should.
  5. CTAs - CTAs (call to action) are the button or links that grab the attention of the users. Be sure they’re directing people to the correct pages and they’re placed in prominent positions so they can be seen easily.
  6. 404 Errors - Crawl your website or check Google Search Console for any 404 error pages. Be sure and redirect these errors to the correct urls.

Although it seems a bit odd to be discussing the holidays right after school starts, it’s necessary in order to properly prepare your ecommerce website and strategy. This is especially true for 2020, because if this year has taught us anything, you never know what to expect!

If you have questions about your 2020 ecommerce holiday planning and marketing, we’d love to chat with you. Just send our team a message and we’ll be in touch soon!