Ultimate Guide to Holiday Planning for DTC Brands

Sep 26 2022 | Debutify Guides
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For many of us, the holiday season is a long-awaited chance to slow down, spend more time with our loved ones, and enjoy a festive meal.

But for eCommerce brand owners, the holidays find a new meaning. It's an opportunity to strike big, ramp up sales, and cap off the year on a merry note. It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also the busiest and craziest.

Some of the big players in the eCommerce industry are already working on their holiday campaigns. Meanwhile, consumers are already preparing their Christmas shopping lists. This is why it's important to start planning your holiday marketing campaigns as early as now to ensure that you reach your prospects and customers before your competitors do.

 

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Impact of COVID on eCommerce and Predictions for Holiday 2022

For most consumers, hands-on experience is what makes shopping fun. They get to try on clothes before buying them. Try food samples in the grocery store. Or try out a lipstick at the beauty counter. All these changed when the pandemic hit.

eCommerce sales surged in 2020. Despite a global pandemic, holiday sales grew by 32.2% from 2019, reaching a whopping $188.2 billion. In 2021, eCommerce holiday sales were up by 9%, surpassing the $200 billion mark for the first time.

Holiday Season Statistics

But now that people are starting to return to 'pre-pandemic normalcy' and going back to in-store shopping, the question is... Is it still possible to achieve record-breaking eCommerce sales in 2022?

 

The answer is YES!

We've seen a steady rise over the last two years, and 2022 is shaping up to be no different. This year, eCommerce holiday sales are expected to reach $236 billion, a 15.5% increase from 2021 sales.

While brick-and-mortar stores have reopened, the ease and convenience of shopping from anywhere, at any time, has captured the hearts of consumers. Some shop while commuting to work, from bed, or even in the bathroom. That said, we can confidently say that eCommerce is here to stay.

With this tremendous opportunity to boost sales during the busiest shopping season, how can you ensure that your brand is geared up for the holidays?

This guide will give you a step-by-step guide on creating a solid holiday sales plan and getting your campaign up and running in no time. Follow the steps below to prepare your eCommerce store for the holidays and make this your most profitable season yet. 

 

Step 1: Map out your holiday marketing calendar

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Let's face it. When you're running a business, staying on top of every holiday and event can be challenging. Mapping your marketing calendar ahead of time can help you stay agile, so the holidays don't pass you by.

It might seem too early to talk about the holiday season, but it's essential to start now if you want to take advantage of the biggest shopping season of the year.

With skyrocketing interest rates, rising petrol prices, and record-high inflation, experts predict consumers will start their holiday shopping early before prices increase too much.

True enough, Salesforce's research suggests that 42% of consumers said they'd begin shopping by October so they won't end up paying higher prices or scrambling to find the perfect gift for their loved ones.

The most significant advantage you have right now is time. The earlier you plan and get your promotions in front of your audience, the higher your sales will be.

 

If you want to crush your holiday sales, prioritize these dates in your marketing calendar.

  • Halloween - October 31, 2022
  • Black Friday - November 25, 2022
  • Small Business Saturday - November 26, 2022
  • Cyber Monday - November 28, 2022
  • Green Monday - December 12, 2022
  • Super Saturday - December 17, 2022
  • Christmas - December 25, 2022
  • Boxing Day - December 26, 2022
  • New Year - January 1, 2023

 

That's a long list, but those are just the major holidays. Depending on where you and your target audience live, we can still add several shopping holidays to this list for Q4. But there's no need to go overboard and create a campaign for each holiday. The key is to select events and occasions that align with your brand and target audience.

 

Step 2: Identify your goals

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Define what makes your campaign successful

Before you start planning for your holiday sales campaign, you need to determine what it is you're looking to achieve. Ask yourself, "What's the primary purpose of this campaign?"

Is it to increase sales? Improve brand awareness and build trust? Or is it to build customer loyalty? Whatever you decide, you need to make sure they're SMART goals.

 

Here are some examples of SMART holiday campaign goals:

  • Sell 500 of your new product in the next three months
  • Increase sales by 10% from last year's holiday campaign within four months
  • Increase sales and AOV by 10% by selling bundled products within three months

 

Identify eCommerce metrics to track

Once you're done setting up your campaign goals, it's time to define the key metrics that will be used to benchmark your campaign's performance. This will help you determine whether or not your holiday campaign was successful.

The obvious answer might be revenue, but that's not enough to measure your campaign's success.

 

Here are some essential metrics that can help you effectively track and optimize your holiday sales strategy:

  • Traffic - This will give you an idea of how many visitors visited your site, as well as the traffic sources that brought in the most conversions.
  • Conversion rate - Your conversion rate shows the percentage of visitors that convert into customers. A low conversion rate can be caused by various reasons, including poor web design, boring copy, or slow loading page.
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) - This measure the performance of your advertising campaigns. It gives you an idea of which strategies work and which ones need improvement.
  • Cart abandonment rate - This tells you the number of customers who added products to their shopping carts but didn't complete their purchases. A high cart abandonment rate could mean something wrong with your checkout process.
  • Average order value (AOV) - This is the average amount customers spend when purchasing your eCommerce store. Keep an eye out for this metric when deciding on discounts and ad budgets.

 

Audit your previous holiday marketing campaign 

If you're hoping to outperform last year's sales, then you should first take a look at last year's results. It doesn't matter if your sales weren't that good. What's important is that you learn from your past mistakes and use them to create a more solid holiday campaign strategy.

Your historical data will show how much traffic to expect over the holidays, when to expect a spike in traffic, which pages are getting the most views, etc. It will also help you find out the changing behaviors of your customers and predict the outcomes of your future efforts. 

From here, you'll be able to see how realistic your goals are and what improvements you need to make to ensure you hit your goals this year. Plus, it will get your creative juices flowing and help you develop new holiday marketing campaign ideas.

 

Create an irresistible offer

Let's face it. Your customers will be receiving tons of promotions this holiday season. So if you want to stand out from the holiday avalanche, you need to create an offer that makes the most sense for your intended audience. 

Your offer will serve as the center point of your holiday marketing campaign. It should be something that will capture the attention of your audience and get them to take action. Put yourself in your customers' shoes and identify which products they are looking for.

 

Consider the following when creating an offer for your holiday campaign:

  • Bestsellers: Your bestsellers earned that title because customers love them. Including them in your holiday campaign will attract more customers and bolster your holiday sales.
  • Trending Products: Tapping into a trending product can be a goldmine for any eCommerce site. People are talking about it, and you know there's a demand for it. Offering these to your visitors during the holidays will help you stand out above your competitors and ensure the success of your holiday campaigns.
  • Offer gift cards: Gift cards are a popular choice for holiday shoppers. They provide an easy solution for shoppers who don't know what to get for their loved ones. Plus, they’re a lifesaver for last-minute shoppers, especially when buying traditional gifts is already out of the question.

 

Stock up on inventory

During the holidays, inventory moves fast. Running out of stock could send your business on a downward spiral.

Don't leave your inventory up to guesswork. If you've been in business for the past couple of years, your historical and sales data can help determine how many stocks you'll need. You want to have enough inventory to accommodate the order surge but not so much that you'll end up with a surplus of stocks after the holidays.

Once you've determined the quantity you need, reach out to your supplier and place an order ahead of the holiday season. Remember that most of your competitors are also preparing for this busy season, and on-trend products will be exceptionally high in demand. Ordering in advance will ensure you get the most popular products for your holiday campaign.

 

Step 3: Prepare your website

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Give your site a holiday look

The holiday season may be the busiest time of the year, but that doesn't mean you can't have some fun. Give your eCommerce store a quick makeover and add some holiday cheer to it.

You can incorporate some festive graphics or add some holiday colors to your site. There are many holiday colors, so you don't have to stick with green and red. Keep your brand in mind while decorating your eCommerce store, and consider what's appropriate for your brand and your target audience.

Of course, it's not enough to have a visually-appealing website; you also need to enhance the overall customer experience.

 

Prepare for high-volume traffic

Believe it or not, even some industry giants like Walmart, J. Crew, and Lowe's were caught off guard by the exceptionally heavy traffic.

In 2017, home improvement chain Lowe's site went down temporarily on Black Friday due to a massive traffic surge. The website was down for about 20 minutes.

Frustrated shoppers trying to take advantage of the Black Friday deals took to Twitter to complain. Others said they went to Lowe's competitors, Home Depot and Sears. It's an eCommerce brand's worse nightmare on Black Friday.

Lowe's website crashed during Black Friday sales.

Lowe's website crashed during Black Friday sales.

 

People are already in a shopping mood, and the last thing you want is for your site to crash while customers are completing the checkout process.

To maximize sales, you want to ensure your eCommerce site is ready to handle more visitors than the rest of the year. The key is to determine how many visitors you're expecting versus how much traffic your site can handle.

Do your assignment and go back to your analytics. If you've been in business for a couple of years now, check last year's data and see how many visitors you've got during the holidays. If you're a startup, check your data over the last three months. Peak holiday traffic can be five times bigger than your daily average.

Another thing you should focus on is your site speed. In the eCommerce world, time is money. As people's attention span gets increasingly shortened, site speed is vital.

According to KissMetrics, 47% of site visitors expect pages to load within two seconds. A 1-second delay in page response can reduce your conversion rate by 7%. That means if your store makes $100,000, a 1-second delay in load time will cost you $7,000.

Improving your site speed is one of the best things you can do to improve your bounce and conversion rates. Check your site speed before a big campaign to ensure potential customers stay on your site and complete their purchases.

With the spike in holiday shoppers comes a significant increase in security threats. If possible, use a reliable third-party payment processor to limit your risk in case your eCommerce site becomes compromised. Also, enable encryption and SSL to add an extra layer of security to your eCommerce site.

 

Create a hassle-free customer experience

With over 20 million eCommerce stores worldwide, there is no doubt that the competition is tougher than ever. To thrive and survive in the eCommerce world, you can't just stop delivering good quality products.

Providing a smooth and hassle-free customer experience can be a crucial differentiator over your competitors. Plus, it can help you win over new customers and retain existing ones.

 

Here are four simple ways to improve your customer experience:

  1. Optimize site for mobile users - Mobile shopping is on the rise. In 2020, mobile eCommerce sales soared to $10.8 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone. Optimizing your eCommerce store for mobile users is the next big step if you want a slice of the holiday sales pie.
  2. Simplify the checkout process - Customers have already decided to buy from you. It is your job to get them to checkout as quickly as possible. Eliminate any unnecessary steps and only collect the information you require.
  3. Offer several payment options - Limited payment options are one of the main reasons customers abandon their carts. By offering multiple payment methods, you'll position yourself as a forward-thinking brand that takes its customers' needs at heart.
  4. Have a clear refund policy - According to a recent Harris Poll, 91% of consumers read a store's refund policy before making a purchasing decision. A clear refund policy can create trust and ensure no misunderstandings between parties.

 

Step 4: Execute holiday marketing plan

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Now that almost everything is set, it's time to choose your marketing channels. Based on your previous sales data, note which channels were the most successful in driving traffic and conversions, and double down on that.

 

Email marketing

Despite the popularity of messaging apps like Slack, email remains to be the most popular communication of choice. In fact, studies suggest that 17% of adults check their emails as soon as they wake up. In 2021, a research conducted by a global tech care company, Asurion, Americans check their phones 96 times daily. That's once every 10 minutes!

Since the majority of the adult population is glued to their smartphones and checking their emails, the best thing you can do is to reach your audience where they are – in their inbox.

Start by segmenting your list so you can tailor your messaging to your subscribers. The more relevant your content is to your subscribers, the easier it will be to convert them to buyers.

 

Social media marketing

There are dozens of social media platforms out there. The best way to get your brand noticed is to leverage platforms where your brand already has a presence. If you do have a presence on multiple social media channels, we suggest narrowing it down to two. This will allow you to focus your efforts and get the best return on your investment.

Once that's settled, think about how to use those channels to achieve your goals. If your goal is to generate more sales, social media can help drive traffic to your store. If you're launching new products, you can use social media to build buzz around your product.

Remember that social media is mainly about generating buzz around your campaigns. Write your content ahead of time and start teasing your offer around two weeks before the event to ensure the success of your social media holiday campaign.

 

Influencer marketing

The cost of advertising increases during the holiday season. Interestingly, influencer fees do not fluctuate no matter the time of the year.

Instead of competing with every eCommerce brand and adding noise to the marketplace, consider tapping into influencers and getting them to talk about your products. This strategy can help you get your products in front of a wider audience for a fraction of the cost. But be sure to find influencers who resonate with your brand's message and fit into your niche.

 

Paid ads

With the rising popularity of online shopping, making sure your business is visible online is a no-brainer. This can help you stand out from the competition and attract new customers.

But let's face it. Holiday advertising can be tricky, especially for small brands. During this time of the year, big brands spend twice as much on their holiday advertising compared to the rest of the year. That said, you need to spend more money on your advertising, so you don't get lost in the big ocean of ads.

Don't just rely on paid ads. For best results, supplement your paid efforts with organic content.

 

Step 5: Beef up customer support

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A survey revealed that more than half of consumers would stop doing business with a brand with poor customer service. That said, your customer support team should be ready to respond to any question potential customers may have and address issues that arise promptly.

 

Contact information should be easy to find

Trust is the most important currency in eCommerce. To turn visitors into customers, you need to gain their trust. For many customers, getting in touch quickly and easily is the main requirement.

Adding your contact information to your eCommerce site assures customers that they can reach you if something goes wrong.

Different people prefer different methods of communication, so be sure to list as much information as possible -- your business address, phone number, email address, and links to your social media pages. Place them in your store's footer or on the "Contact Us" page for easier access. There's no point in adding your contact information if no one can find them. 

 

Create an FAQ page

No matter how thorough your explainer videos, copy, or return and refund policies are, your customers will inevitably have questions. It would be easier for both parties if customers could find answers to their questions in your eCommerce store. This is precisely why FAQ pages are valuable.

Dive deep into your customer data and identify the most common problems your customers are facing. Anticipate customers' objections and turn them into questions.

Since most customers are worried about the delivery time during the holiday season, it is best to include this in your FAQs. Providing customers with information about when they can expect their orders to be shipped and estimated delivery time can help reduce customers' anxiety.

 

Offer 24/7 support or live chat

Given that your eCommerce website runs 24/7, your customer expects you to pick up their call or answer their inquiries 247/7.

Review your historical data to determine how many customers you expect to deal with this holiday season. Make sure you have dedicated support for emails, social media, and phone. You want to ensure that all concerns and inquiries are handled as soon as possible.

Believe it or not, live chats are a huge conversion optimizer. According to an Invesp survey, 44% of online shoppers said that having their questions answered in the middle of online purchases has helped them make their decisions easier. Even better, customers who used live chat spent 60% more than those who didn't.

 

Step 6: Prepare for Shipping Demands

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Prepping for a significant influx of orders is no joke. But by preparing well in advance, you'll be able to fulfill and ship orders more smoothly and seamlessly than you realize.

 

Optimize your order and fulfillment workflows

If you still haven't mapped out your shipping and delivery process, now is the best time. Getting the process written down will ensure that you and your team members are on the same page. Plus, this will make it easier for "volunteer" family members who'd be happy to help you fulfill your holiday orders.

While outlining the process, take note of how long each step takes. See if there's anything you can do to make the process more efficient. Shaving 30 to 45 seconds off each package might not seem much. But if you're shipping 100 packages daily, you've already freed up 1.5 hours of your day.

 

Anticipate customers' questions

In today's eCommerce-driven world, customers demand fast, hassle-free delivery. Managing your customer expectations is crucial to ensure efficient operation this holiday season. You must communicate the expected delivery time, delivery options, and prices to your customers at checkout.

Sometimes, no matter how clearly you've communicated the estimated delivery time, customers will likely ask when they'll receive their order. This is why it's important to set up order tracking for every order as soon as possible.

 

Create a memorable unboxing experience

Custom packaging can do wonders for both your branding and conversion rate. It can get your brand noticed and get people excited to open their packages.

According to Dotcom Distribution, 40% of online shoppers would share an image of their purchase on social media if it came in branded packaging. Choose colors that reflect your brand to tie the unboxing experience together.

No matter what unboxing experience you're trying to achieve, you first need to ensure that you have enough shipping supplies, such as boxes, tape, bubble wrap, and padded mailers, to make it happen.

 

Offer priority shipping

Nothing is worse than a gift arriving the day after the big day. Alleviate those holiday shopping jitters by offering expedited delivery.

Offering same-day or next-day delivery can help you gain a competitive edge over the competition. Studies suggest that 88% of customers are willing to pay more for same-day or faster delivery services. If you can offer priority shipping this holiday season, you will likely reap big sales. Make sure, though, that you find a reliable courier that can meet your needs.

 

Step 7: Record and Reflect

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Just because the holiday sale is over doesn't mean your job is done. All the steps above would be useless if you don't track and monitor your results.

Use this time to look at your data to determine how successful your campaign was. Also, audit your campaign's performance to see what worked, what didn't, and what you can do to create better marketing campaigns.

Remember, analytics are incredibly insightful tools that can differentiate between a high-converting eCommerce store and one that remains stagnant. Everything you do in the next few months will create the analytics you use to repeat this process next year.

Whether you're planning to set up your holiday promotions for Halloween, Black Friday, or other major holidays, we have already outlined the essential steps you need to take to prepare your eCommerce store for the holiday season.

When done right, holiday marketing can bring in some serious sales. But with so much competition, it can be challenging to stand out. To make your holiday campaign shine, you must create one that delights customers instead of adding to the noise.

We've rounded up some holiday campaign ideas to give you a definitive edge over the competition.

 

Holiday marketing campaign ideas

Offer free shipping

Higher than expected shipping cost is one of the main reasons why customers abandon their shopping cart. Offering free shipping is one of the simplest ways to convince shoppers to buy from you.

You can also offer free shipping with a minimum order amount. Or use it to incentivize first time This simple trick can help boost your conversion rate, increase your average order value, and reduce your cart abandonment rate. 

 

Holiday bundles

Product bundles work because customers get more products for less. Dig into your data to see your best-selling products, and offer them as a bundle with slow-moving products. This can help with inventory clearance while increasing customer AOV. It's a win-win!

 

Special offer for VIPs and existing customers

The holiday season is the perfect time to reward loyal customers who have helped you grow your business and encourage them to return to your eCommerce store. Show your appreciation by offering free gift wrapping, giving them gifts, or providing early access to new products or seasonal sales.

 

Flash deals

Flash deals work because they create a sense of urgency or FOMO to encourage hesitant prospects to finally click the "Buy Now" button.

A well-executed flash sale can help you attract new customers and boost your holiday revenue. Make the deal so good it will be hard to resist. You want to offer enough discounts to excite people, but not so much that you'll lose money.

 

Buy now, pay later

Buy now, pay later allows customers to buy the products they want without paying for the entire purchase upfront. They can make a small down payment and then pay the remaining amount in installments. This helps eCommerce businesses attract new customers, provide a better customer experience, and maximize sales. 

 

Now is the time to prepare for the upcoming holidays

 

The holiday season has always been a golden opportunity for eCommerce brands to double their sales through the end of the year. Most brands rely on that boost to make up for the slow season and maximize profits.

But here's the thing... Holiday marketing campaigns require a lot of work and careful planning to get right. Now that consumers are planning to start shopping by October, you have a time crunch on your hands. So if you want to get ahead of the holiday frenzy, it is best to start planning now.

Planning will help you set a realistic timeline for your next campaign and get through the holiday season without a hitch.

Those Black Friday and Christmas ads raking in tons of sales were probably prepared while many of us were out on the beach this summer. If you wait until the last minute, you'll miss out on a lot of potential sales.

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