A Dozen Tips & Tricks To Boost Your Holiday Revenue
For retailers online and off, sales during the holiday season usually outweigh the rest of the year combined.
A strong Christmas launch with momentum into the new year means the difference between success and failure for eCommerce startups.
If you’re looking for last-minute tweaks to squeeze more sales from your online store during the holidays, don’t worry: There are plenty of steps you can take right now to stop the Grinch from stealing your Christmas.
In fact, this holiday season marks the first year of real empowerment for small online store owners.
We’re no longer trapped on blind marketplaces like eBay that don’t allow sellers to have direct access to buyers’ contact information.
That’s because Shopify, BigCommerce and other independent eCommerce platforms have finally leveled the playing field for small online sellers like us.
Let’s take a deep dive into the 12 best holiday hacks to boost your eCommerce sales throughout the season and beyond.
#1 – Put some jinglebells on Santa’s shopping cart
The quickest and easiest way to sell more is to spruce up your online store and add some holiday decorations and ornaments in the form of special graphics.
Like it or not, jingle bells make the cash registers ring. People complain about Christmas fatigue, yet they always buy more when they’re reminded of the holiday spirit early and often.
The best long-term strategy is to revamp your store each year beginning around November 15th, or within a few weeks after Halloween.
Cut and paste the Christmas spirit
Here’s a caveman-simple way to add holiday decorations to your web pages, emails and ads: Just find clip art and graphics from open sources online, then copy and paste it into your web page templates.
- Santas & elves
- Christmas trees & wreathes
- Presents & packages with bows and ribbons
- Blinking light strings & stars
You can also link video clips showing your “elves” working under holiday conditions, or featuring niche-themed decorations.
If you’re willing to be more personal with customers, you can post a year-end photo or record your family-style holiday message in video or audio format.
#2 – Create a Christmas logo
You’ve probably noticed that all major brands have a special Xmas logo, and your store should have one too.
The best strategy is to use a holiday logo that highlights your main product or other unique value within the graphic itself.
An offbeat or edgy logo is best, but make sure you don’t blow past the cultural norms in your online niche.
The holiday logo needs to jump off the web page and grab visitors. That’s the only way to distinguish your brand during the holiday rush.
For example, if your online store sells surfing gear, the holiday logo might show a sporty Santa wearing red Speedos atop a reindeer-themed bodyboard.
If you can’t make a holiday logo yourself, hire a freelancer to complete the task. Post the job on gig boards such as Upwork.
#3 – Send handwritten cards or notes before the holidays
Handwritten communications are a great way to build customer loyalty and show your personality.
Write a brief message of thanking them for their loyalty, and hinting at exciting new developments which are upcoming soon.
To form the strongest personal bond with customers, be sure to include your signature in cursive form at the end of each message.
Thank-you notes show customers you’re a real person instead of a faceless entity.
As early as possible during pre-holiday preparations, you should start putting handwritten thank-you cards or notes into each order that you ship out.
This is a good tip for building sales year-round. But it becomes a matter of life and death during the holiday season when every advertiser is howling for attention.
When your time and order fulfillment process allows it, you should send handwritten and personalized notes or cards to customers year-round, not just during the holiday season.
If the business is small and you’re only packing a few orders daily or weekly, then the best solution is a handwritten note on a card printed with your store’s name.
Or, if you’re shipping out lots of small orders every day, just use a rubber-stamp graphic to ink these thank-you notes onto a paper packing slip included with each order package.
But how can you personalize the message if your eCommerce business sells software apps or other services that don’t arrive in a shipping box?!?
If you can’t send a physical piece of paper to thank the customer, the next best solution is to create a special holiday message graphic.
Include your personal greeting with text content in order confirmations and messages. This personal touch is the best marketing tool to exceed buyers’ expectations.
#4 – Offer more than just free shipping
It’s come to a point where buyers expect free shipping from every online store, at least during the Christmas season.
Just to survive in most eCommerce niches, you’ll need to offer at least free shipping.
However, to stand out from the herd of competitors and sell more, you should offer something even better than free shipping.
- Fast, free shipping
- Swag or free gift with each purchase
- Generous warranty
Here’s a potent stocking-stuffer to offer buyers in highly competitive eCommerce niches: Give them free shipping enhanced with promotional swag plus a customer-rewards program.
Use A/B testing to fine-tune your store’s free shipping policy iterations for maximum sales with minimum returns.
#5 – Choose the right swag for customers
One of the best ways to sell more during the holidays is by building customer loyalty.
And, the best way to say “thanks” for the previous year’s purchases is with gifts in the form of year-end promotional swag for loyal customers.
Of course sellers have been giving Christmas gifts to buyers for a long time. So instead of giving away the usual stuff, try to find something that perfectly fits your niche.
The key to success is finding a gift that stands out for its thoughtfulness or size, yet is still inexpensive.
You’re looking for something that people will use every day, so your store’s name will constantly be in their faces.
But the gift needs to be cheap enough that it doesn’t hurt your bottom line. Unless your eCommerce niche is ultra-high-end merchandise, there’s no reason to spend more than a maximum of $20 to $50 per long-time loyal customer.
Ideally you should find gifts for much less.
- Promotional pens or notebooks
- Promotional T-shirts
- Reusable water bottles
- Unusual coffee mugs
- USB adapters & chargers
Pens & notebooks
These classic giveaways are so common and ho-hum that they’ll only work if you give an item that’s truly attention-grabbing.
Since you can’t afford to grab attention with costly gifts for each customer, you’ll have to rely on other features to be noticed.
You can get the best of both worlds by giving common items such as pens and notepads printed with your store’s name, but ordered in extra-large sizes or outlandish designs and colors.
The best strategy is to order – long before Christmas – plenty of promotional swag. In addition to giving it to online customers, you can also use it in brick and mortar locations including retail stores, trade shows and events.
Promotional T-shirts, water bottles & coffee mugs
The same as with all promotional materials, your gifts should be inexpensive yet highly distinct.
Try shirts and caps featuring your store’s name or logo, or even water bottles and coffee mugs, so long as you’re sure the swag will be available in time for pre-holiday shipping with customer orders.
#6 – Bundling can warm up the scrooges
Bundle up for warmth
Bundling is a good way to sell more during the holiday season. It’s a hybrid between up-selling and cross-selling described below.
You can bundle together one main product with one or more supporting products, with a total price which is higher than the main product alone. You can also use discounts to raise the perceived value of the bundle.
The best way to use bundling during the holiday season is to set a minimum order amount to qualify for free shipping.
That way you’ll encourage shoppers to reach the free shipping threshold by loading up on related items they may need to buy later anyway.
Shoppers love good deals, and they tend to try new products when they’re bundled as a “bargain” together with a familiar product.
Even if a scrooge had planned to buy only one item, a burning desire for free shipping may overcome the stinginess.
If you have some dead-end merchandise that hasn’t moved during the previous year, a Christmas feeding frenzy is the best (perhaps only) time to sell it off.
In fact, bundling can clear out stagnant inventory and increase your revenue faster than “2 for 1” offers and other gimmicks.
How to bundle
First identify some smaller items that don’t sell well. Then combine each of them together with one or more larger, better-selling items into a bundle with a single price.
For example, let’s say your online store sells camping equipment and outdoor supplies. So, you’re likely to sell more tents and sleeping bags if you offer a special holiday bundle including a set of slow-selling cooking utensils for campers.
Price your bundles as if the weaker elements were normally priced, and the appeal of more popular items will drive total sales upward.
For example, if your online store sells computers to small business owners, you might create a “Home Office Special” bundle for entrepreneurs.
That bundle could be a fast-selling computer matched with a printer and flat screen and perhaps a couple of other components too.
Bundling is a powerful year-end tool, especially when you leverage it with up-selling and cross-selling.
#7 – Up-selling & cross-selling
Cross-selling means offering related items from different product categories.
Here’s an example of the difference (and relationship) between up-selling and cross-selling. Using the same computer store example, your up-selling might mean offering buyers a top-of-the-line model after they’ve looked at the cheapies.
An example of cross-selling would be to offer a compatible printer to anyone interested in a computer.
Benefits of up-selling & cross-selling during the holiday season
- Improve customer retention
- Increase order size
Up-selling and cross-selling illustrate the situation described by Steve Jobs when he said that people don’t know what they really want until you show them.
If customers want a bigger, more expensive product, sell it to them. That’s what up-selling is all about.
Cross-selling and up-selling both improve your profitability. Various studies have shown that the statistical probability of selling something to an already-existing customer can reach as high as 60 to 70%, while the chances of selling to a new customer are much lower, generally between 5 to 20%.
That means if you have any success at all with up-selling or cross-selling, you’ll automatically boost the long-term value (LTV) of your customers and fatten your ROI.
How to up-sell
- Suggest the next larger or more expensive model
- Promote most-reviewed or most-sold products
- Keep the price of up-sells no more than 25% higher than the original product
- Set all the add-on features as automatically preselected on your order pages
- If you have customer personas, use them to make on-target product suggestions
- Make sure you only suggest products which are logically connected
How to cross-sell
- Map out logical product choices and timing first
- Keep your offers simple, don’t offer too many products
- Survey your customers or ask questions to learn about needs
- Use cross-selling with your customer rewards program
- Reach impulse buyers by using cross-selling methods on your ordering and checkout pages
- Make sure cross-sell products are priced at least 50% lower than the original product added to shopping cart
- Highlight accessories and accompanying products that are easily forgotten
#8 – Make sure your discount prices are “ho ho” instead of ho-hum
Most online sellers offer discounts to encourage shoppers to try new products. That’s why bundles work so well. Discounts can also be used to introduce a new product line and build brand loyalty.
But when every seller has a “special price” you’ll need something really fifferent to stand out at Christmastime.
You can’t compete by offering lowest pricing on every product, because discountswilln quickly eat up your profit margins.
The best overall strategy is to negotiate with your suppliers during the summer months for merchandise you’ll need over the holiday season.
Then focus on promoting a few core top-selling products and offer killer discounts on them. This is especially important if you’re selling toys, electronics or clothing.
#9 – Assign your elves to live chat
Adding live chat to your store is one of the easiest ways to increase holiday sales.
Even if you think live chat costs too much, now is definitely the time to add staff to your customer service and shipping departments.
During the holiday season buyers are feverishly looking for the gifts they plan to buy, and their attention span is shorter than usual.
The customer-service clocks starts ticking as soon as a visitor arrives at your site. Without some sort of fast interactive response, they may bounce quickly.
Even though you could use old-school callback apps to respond to inquiries, live chat is still the best way to ensure good customer service in real time.
Shoppers will buy from the first store that answers their questions. Live chat lets you be first in answering those last-minute questions.
If you’re selling in a highly competitive niche, plan on having a live chat representative available during peak contact times.
You can limit the time ranges for chat operations in order to maximize their impact on sales while minimizing the expense of outside chat operators.
To avoid taking on extra labor costs, you could use seasonal help from friends-and-family “elves” for off-peak coverage of live chat, with minimal training.
#10 – Gift cards are a fire-and-forget revenue booster
Just like in brick and mortar stores, gift cards are a great way to sell more through eCommerce. And the Christmas holiday season is the perfect time to launch cards in your store.
Gift cards make it easy for shoppers to fulfill their obligation to provide a gift for someone, yet without having to choose one. It’s the ideal fire-and-forget gift for everyone – You, your customers, and the intended recipient.
Open loop gift cards are offered by the big card companies like Mastercard, Visa and AmEx.
They’re directly linked to the banking network, which means they’re only available to big retail chains.
Closed loop gift cards are available for smaller retailers, whether online or brick and mortar. Buyers love closed-loop gift cards, and they can be a gold mine during the holiday season.
It’s a great way to build brand awareness and reach the friends and family of existing customers during the holiday season and beyond.
Get paid first……
The most important reason why you should be using gift cards during the holiday season is that fact that you get paid first, long before delivering any products or services.
The sale proceeds are available immediately.
….and keep the money if your card isn’t used
When you use gift cards in eCommerce, you’ll sell more than you ship. Of course some people who receive gift cards never redeem them.
You know the scenario: Someone gives you a card. You save that little piece of plastic in a safe place, and you plan to redeem it.
But later when you’re not watching, it escapes and runs away to join the trash pile. Oops.
At the other end of the spectrum, when a buyer actually redeems a gift card they’ll often choose a more-expensive item and pay the difference themselves.
So, you can win the eCommerce game on both sides. As mentioned earlier, cards are especially effective for up-selling to buyers in niche markets.
To get the best holiday cheer, sharply focus your card-related marketing content on reaching the target users of your products and services, i.e. the “giftees” instead of the original customer.
Reduce returns and keep the costs low
Recipients look at cards differently than other gifts. Instead of trying to return unwanted merchandise, they can buy whatever they want.
These cards are great, and they can improve sales in every niche. But there must be a downside, right?
There are two potential issue to watch out for: Returns and exchanges from gift cards are more difficult, and card fraud is a possibility.
Make sure your shopping cart software and card providers have built adequate security into the system.
Your shopping cart or eCommerce platform provider may charge extra fees if you use gift cards.
So, make sure to take extra steps to avoid card-related customer service issues later. Overall the benefits of offering cards far outweigh the disadvantages.
If you’re selling in a highly competitive eCommerce niche, gift cards can give you a merrier Christmas and happier new year.
#11 – Use timeout sales to create urgency
After 2000+ years of brick and mortar commerce during the Christmas season, consumers are jaded when it comes to advertising for holiday discount sales. They’ve heard it all before – Fire sales, Santa specials and year-end closeouts.
Since ordinary “sales” are the norm, you’ll need to make a really special offer that buyers will notice.
A timeout sale is the best way to create urgency for an offer. When people see a good deal with a clock ticking on it, their “fear of loss” drives sales upward.
Make a list of your inventory items that you believe may feed this instinct, and post a timer graphic to highlight the countdown on your home page or landing pages.
Shopify offers a timer plugin, and other platforms can also provide similar functions.
Timeout offers can drive buyers back to abandoned shopping carts
Time-bound discounts are a great way to convince shoppers to return to their carts. The first step is to gather user data for your abandoned carts, then retarget those users with a series of email campaigns to highlight timeout offers for similar products.
MailChimp and other marketing platforms let you segment these shoppers according to where in the funnel they abandoned their carts.
#12 – Launch a new product during the holiday season
Beyond simply selling more products, the year-end holiday season is also the traditional time for launching new products.
Consumers are more receptive to trying new products, and total sales volume in the marketplace is enough to support a few new entrants.
Most important of all, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year are the traditional time for celebrating life and enjoying its gifts while looking forward to exciting new opportunities ahead.
What better time to launch a new product or service that makes people’s lives better while fattening your wallet?
The holiday selling season is critical for eCommerce store owners. By leveraging the power of gift cards, timeout sales, up-selling and cross-selling right now, you can outperform lesser competitors and make a strong start into the new year.
Likewise, some otherwise-costly marketing options such as live chat and super-enhanced free shipping can dramatically increase your sales during Christmas, even if they wouldn’t be economical during the rest of the year. Test your results carefully to avoid overspending.
Finally, keep Christmas in your customers’ minds all year long by sending personalized thank-you notes (handwritten if possible) included with order packages year-round.
Santa hat on dog By Kelly from Northern Virginia – Stupid Hat, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11763350
Free clipart from http://clipart-library.com/clipart/87327.htm
Reindeer and Herd of wild horses by By Dietmar Rabich, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33240002 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?sort=relevance&search=herd&title=Special%3ASearch&profile=advanced&fulltext=1&advancedSearch-current=%7B%7D&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#/media/File:Merfeld,_Wildpferdefang_–_2014_–_0639.jpg