Credit where it’s due

This article was written by Julia Gifford at Printful–we thought the contents of this holiday preparations checklist article would be beneficial to our readers, so we posted it here. The guide is actively updated at Printful’s website.

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Last year Black Friday and Cyber Monday generated $7.9 billion in sales and became the biggest online shopping day in US history. Note that those were only two days in November. With a handful of other spending occasions in December, online retailers stand a chance to make Q4 their most profitable time of the year.

While the holiday season holds a lot of opportunities for businesses to grow, it’s also extremely competitive as everyone tries to get a piece of the holiday shopping pie. To be ahead of the rest, you need a clear action plan for the months to come.

The last thing you want is to pull an all-nighter to make something work right before the Black Friday and Cyber Monday craze. Not only will it be stressful, but it’ll also cost you lost sales. To make sure this doesn’t happen, in this article we’ll outline some of the key things you should do to have the smoothest holiday season yet.

1. Plan your marketing campaigns

When: September

First things first, mark down the important dates so you can plan your marketing campaigns later.

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the stars of the season, there are other shopping occasions that shouldn’t slip your mind. Here are a few you can research and put on your calendar:

October

  1. 14 – Thanksgiving (Canada)
  2. 31 – Halloween

November

  1. 28 – Thanksgiving
  2. 29 – Black Friday
  3. 30 – Small Business Saturday

December

  1. 2 – Cyber Monday
  2. 9 – Green Monday
  3. 14 – Free Shipping Day
  4. 22-30 – Hanukkah
  5. 24 – Christmas Even
  6. 25 – Christmas Day
  7. 26 – Boxing Day
  8. 26-1 – Kwanzaa
  9. 31 – New Year’s Eve

Before finalizing your marketing plan for the holidays, get in touch with your suppliers asking them to specify the shipping deadlines. Those are the days by which your customers should place their orders to receive them in time for the festivities.

Use these dates as a part of your promotions, just make sure your customers understand what they mean.

2. Decide on your holiday specials

When: September

Next on your to-do list–deciding what types of deals you will offer this holiday season. Pick one, or mix and match to find what works for your audience:

% or $ discount
Free shipping
Next-day shipping
Flash sale
Giveaway or contest
Promo code
Loyal customer discount
Extra loyalty credit

Once you’ve made your mind about the deals, think about the products to put on the pedestal. Are you going to promote your best-sellers, or will you try to get customers interested in slower selling pieces?

If you’re looking to add holiday-themes products to your store, consider these trending products of the season:

Sweaters
Beanies
Socks
Mugs
Posters
Canvas Prints

3. Set up the tech in your store

When: September

Extra functionality on your store could really help you sell more this holiday season. Research and try:

Abandoned cart recovery emails
Retargeting pixels
Exit pop-ups
Web push notifications
Customer loyalty program
Coupon codes
Chatbots

Whichever tool you decide to experiment with, set it up ahead of time. You want to have some wiggle room to test it so everything works when shoppers rush to your store in a couple of months.

4. Run store maintenance

When: September

Your email campaigns, social media posts, blogs, and videos will direct your audience to one place–your website. To make it smooth sailing for your customers from there, run store maintenance now.

Here’s what you should pay extra attention to:

Website speed. A single second delay in your website loading time can result in a 7% loss in conversion. Use GTMetrix to test how fast your website appears in all its glory–it shouldn’t take longer than 3 seconds.
Navigation. Well-thought-out website navigation lets customers find what they need and find it fast. Ask your friends and family to browse your store to check how user-friendly it is. Use their feedback to improve navigation or the layout of the website.
Checkout process. The most important part of your website is your checkout page because it’s where your store visitors become customers. Go through the checkout process yourself to make sure it’s short and intuitive.

If after running technical maintenance you notice that something needs imrpovement, make any necessary  changes right away to avoid updating your site during the holiday season.

You’ll also want to double-check:

Product description and care instructions
Store policies (privacy, shipping, returns)
Contact and subscriptiotion forms
About us page

Pro tip: Find time to go over the tools and plugins you’re currently using on your website. If you stumble upon something that you haven’t used in a while–uninstall it. Any implemeneted software, even when it’s not in use, can slow down your website or cause downtime.

5. Write those emails

When: October

In the next couple of months, you’ll send a lot of emails to your customers. Write a good chunk of them now and you won’t have to worry about the catchy subject line the night before.

You also don’t want to risk rushing through your emails and forgetting something important. Writing them in advance will also help you keep your voice and tone consistent.

A few ideas for your holiday emails:

Order deadlines announcement and reminder
Product/offer of the week
Sale preview
Free shipping campaign announcement and reminders
Gift guide
New product launch

6. Craft social media copies

When: October

The most popular social media channels for e-commerce businesses are:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest

When creating copy for your holiday social media posts, remember that each channel is used for slightly different purposes.

For example, Twitter is a platform where people voice their opinions, discuss public events, or let off some steam. Pinterest, on the other hand, is purely visual and is used for design or lifestyle inspiration.

Althought the two social media platforms are similar, their user demographic doesn’t exactly match. So, it’s fair to say that what’s popular on Pinterest, won’t be as engaging on Twitter and vice versa.

To get an even better picture of what content will get more attention on your social media accounts, examine your audience’s behavior on each channel paying extra attention to user activity peaks and top performing content.

Pro tip: Don’t spread yourself thin trying to be visible on all platforms. Instead, pick your target audience’s favorite and focus all of your energy on it.

7. Prepare the visuals

When: October

People remember 80% of what they see, and only about 20% of what they read. So if you want to stand out from the crowd this holiday season, invest some time into creating eye-catching imagery for your marketing campaigns.

Depending on what you have planned for the holiday season, you might need to create visuals for:

Product showcases
Email campaigns
Social media posts
Social media covers
Blog headers
Email headers
Email content
Pop-ups
Ads

The great thing is, you don’t have to take all the photos yourself. Find high quality, royalty-free imagery from websites like Pexels, Unplash, and Pixabay.

8. Announce order deadlines

When: October

Before holiday shopping is in full swing, make sure your customers know about the most important dates–order deadlines:

Create an order deadlines landing page
Send an announcement email and schedule reminders
Incorporate deadlines in your marketing copy
Add the deadlines to your social media profiles or cover photos

Pro tip: Segment your customers based on their location and only inform them of their specific deadline. For example, customers in Europe should only receive an email reminder about the European order deadlines.

9. Schedule your campaigns

When: November

You did a great job creating content for your holiday marketing campaigns, it’s now time to let your customers see it. For the best results, don’t just share your content, schedule it to go live at the time your audience is most likely to read and interact with it.

Best time to send emails

Based on the data of 14 different studies about the best email sending times, you shoudl prioritize your send days in this order:

Tuesday
Thursday
Wednesday

As for the send times, schedule your campaigns around:

10 AM
8 PM to midnight
2 PM
6 AM

Don’t worry about overloading your subscribers with emails because most people don’t mind receiving emails from brands they trust.

Best time to post social media updates

We did some digging and found that the best times to schedule B2C content on social media are:

Facebook: Monday to Wednesday at 12 PM
Twitter: Monday to Wednesday at 12 PM or 1 PM
Instagram: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday at 12 PM
LinkedIn: Monday and Wednesday at 7:45 AM, 10:45 AM, 12:45 PM, and 5:45 PM

10. Block out time in your day to communicate with customers

When: November

Once your social media posts and emails start reaching your audience, you’ll have another task on your to-do list–keeping up with all the comments and replies.

Fun fact: 63% of online shoppers expect companies to answer their questions via social media, and 62% of customers prefer solving customer support related issues via email.

Instead of handling customer questions sporadically, block out time in your calendar to answer them once you get them. Doing so will boost your productivity and reduce stress.

11. Give a warm welcome to your new customers

When: November

End-of-the-year holidays are likely to bring quite a few new customers for your business. To turn them into loyal brand supporters you need to welcome and treat them with respect and appreciation right from the start.

We’ve all heard how important it is to make a good first impression, make your memorable by:

Sending a personalized welcome email
Writing a thoughtful About Us page
Introducing yourself and/or sharing your brand story on social media

You’re off to a great start

There’s a lot to do in the months to come, so we recommend that you start now.